Parents say no to Minecraft, but yes to learning programming through games
In a survey by Gakken Plus, English conversation and swimming top the list of the personal enrichment skills Japanese parents most want their children to learn, but recently computer programming has started to appear on the list. When Gakken Plus asked 221 mothers in their 30s and 40s about what personal skills they want their children to learn and computer programming education, 25.3% opted for English conversation and 19.9% for swimming, while 42.5% said there was nothing in particular they planned to give their children lessons in. Computer programming came in at tenth place on the list, together with soccer and dance.
Programming to be compulsory in elementary and junior high schools
A lot of Japanese parents are not in favour of having video games as part of their children’s education. On the other hand, other countries are experimenting with the use of video games to develop children’s knowledge and skills, such as using the game Minecraft to teach programming.
The mothers surveyed by Gakken Plus were not very familiar with Minecraft, but around 85% of them welcomed the suggestion that programming could be taught through gaming.
Programming will be a compulsory part of Japan's elementary and junior high school education from 2020. With technologies such as AI (artificial intelligence) and IoT (Internet of Things) set to grow, it is vital that people become familiar and comfortable with such areas from a young age.
You might think that programming is a topic for science classes, but the barriers to learning programming are likely to lower as it becomes part of the compulsory curriculum and a more necessary life skill. Free online courses for learning programming are growing year by year, and it may be that a future in which programming, like English, is taught as a core life skill is not that far off.
Programming is becoming an international language
Programming is a vital component of many of the services and things we interact with in our daily lives. Computer games may be the prime example of this, and children are more likely to acquire programming skills if it is taught through something which is so much a part of their lives and enjoyment. We commonly acknowledge that people are more likely to succeed at something they like doing, so if programming is taught through gaming, children could develop their skills while having fun.
The Gakken Plus survey reveals that most mothers put the emphasis on their children finding something they like doing and are good at, and developing their proficiency in these areas. Learning programming as a form of personal enrichment would fit with this aspiration.
Programming is also becoming a compulsory part of education in other countries. In fact, Japan is a latecomer in this area, and programming is already well embedded in the curriculum in Korea and European nations. With the focus on IT growing worldwide, global demand for programming is now huge. Having interacted with programming through smartphone apps and games from a young age, our children could gain more opportunities for experiencing the world beyond Japan by taking their study of programming to specialist level.