Schools in Estonia are set to have a web and mobile application development curriculum, which will be taught to students as young as seven.
The Estonian Tiger Leap Foundation has launched a programme called “ProgeTiger” this month, which will see Year One to 12 students being introduced to computer programming and the creation of web and mobile applications. The majority of children in Estonia start Year One at the age of seven and are 19 by the time they reach Year 12.
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The first to start with the programme will be primary school students, after teachers have gone through training. Next year, programming "hobby groups" for secondary schools and courses for Year 12 students will be added. There is currently no indication that the courses will be mandatory, nationwide.
The Foundation started the programme after it noticed companies were struggling to find qualified programmers. The programme aims to push Estonia ahead of other Eastern European countries in terms of IT development and growth.
With Estonia investing in its future technologists, it calls into question whether the UK government is doing enough to encourage the same kind of growth.
Stuart Silberg, vice-president of technology at online travel company Hotels.com, believes it is great to see the programme being implemented in Estonia and that the British government should follow suit.
It gives pupils the tools to turn any idea into reality
Stuart Silberg, vice-president, Hotels.com
Silberg said: “It would be great to see the British government follow a similar approach to Estonia to help make technology second nature to today’s children. By educating pupils early, they’ll not only learn how to create their own technology – from systems which work in businesses like Hotels.com to football games to share with friends – but they will also learn how to talk about it naturally and communicate with their peers.”
Silberg said schools also need to educate children on the advantages of learning those skills and how to implement them in both business and day-to-day life.
“Schools need to educate pupils that technology is much more than just Java, HTML5 and Excel – it gives them the tools to turn any idea into reality,” he added.
Estonia currently has one of the fastest growing internet connections in the world, which has contributed to the growth of some of the country’s biggest technology companies, such as Skype and Playtech. Developed and run by Estonians, Skype was recently sold to Microsoft for $8.5 billion in cash.