Tuesday, 2 December 2014

More kids to learn programming in Smart Nation push

MOE to encourage schools to join Code for Fun enrichment scheme
By Amelia Teng, The Straits Times, 1 Dec 2014

FOR most people, computer code is a foreign language - something that only geeks understand.

But a new national programme is looking to turn code into kids' play through the use of simple logical reasoning and animation.

Some 12 secondary schools and four primary schools were part of a trial this year by the Ministry of Education (MOE) to teach students simple programming.

These schools include Cedar Primary School, St Joseph's Institution Junior, Bukit View Secondary School and Springfield Secondary School.

MOE said it will encourage more schools to join the enrichment programme, known as Code for Fun, next year.

The scheme for upper primary pupils and secondary school students aims to promote interest and develop talent in computing.

Under the programme, students tinker with Scratch, a programming language developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which allows people to create their own interactive stories, video games and animations using code.

The trial is part of a national push to make Singapore a Smart Nation, which uses technology to make life better and more convenient for people.

At last week's launch of the Smart Nation vision, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had urged schools to expose students to IT and basic coding skills.

A spokesman for MOE said students currently pick up coding through elective subjects, co-curricular activities such as infocomm clubs, and enrichment classes.

Mrs Clara Lim-Tan, principal of Yu Neng Primary School, which took part in Code for Fun this year, said its objective was to "demystify the notion that coding is challenging".

It also exposed pupils to "the use of algorithms and logical reasoning to solve problems by breaking them down in a fun way", she said.

For 10 weeks from July to October, the school, which counts infocomm technology as one of its strengths, had hour- long coding lessons for the Primary 4 cohort. Pupils were given a task to write codes to create and animate a story.

Along the way, they learnt how to follow instructions in translating algorithms into programs on computing devices. They also learnt to detect and correct errors in algorithms.

"They learnt the importance of being creators, rather than just consumers of technology," said Mrs Lim-Tan.

Her school, which hopes to extend the programme to all levels eventually, will continue the lessons for pupils in Primary 4 and 5 next year.

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