With the rate of technology developments getting increasingly faster, parents in China are hoping to prepare their kids for the future by sending them to extracurricular training at an early age. Besides the popular math training and English language courses, Chinese parents now want their children to learn coding and programming, even before their kids start school.
In July, the State Council unveiled a national artificial intelligence (AI) development plan, identifying key strategies for making China the world's premier AI innovation center by 2030.
The plan encourages the popularization of AI education and suggests setting up AI-related curriculums in primary and secondary schools.
With AI set to become the next trend in the education sector, many parents, albeit not well-versed in the technology themselves, are sending their preschool children to take courses on coding, programming and robot engineering.
"Every generation has its own basic skill to learn. For our kids, it's programming and coding," a parent told haiwainet.cn.
Currently, many private education providers offer AI-related training for children under six. However, these trainings are not necessarily teaching kids to code.
Roborobo, an education company based in Beijing, provides programming and robot engineering courses for children aged three-16. While the courses for primary and secondary school children include developing single chip robots and programming for androids, the elementary course for preschoolers is simple: building with Lego bricks.
Chen Yanmei, a mother of a three-year-old girl, sent her daughter to a similar Lego building course for 1,200 yuan (185 U.S. dollars) for 15 classes.
"I've heard the [Lego building] course is fundamental for coding, so I registered my daughter for the training. A tour to an amusement park can cost over 100 yuan, why not spend the money for education?"
While some parents are in favor of the booming coding courses, others feel unsure about the new trend.
"It's stirring up anxiety and competition," one parent reflected. "We should let our kids discover what they are interested in and then support their interests, not blindly follow the trend."
A few experts have also expressed their concerns. "Learning coding and programming requires a sound base in mathematics and logics. Children aged three to six often don't possess those cognitive abilities yet." Ren Keyan, a scholar from Beijing University of Technology said.
Others argue that the courses are only useful for the parents.
"There is nothing wrong about learning coding and programming, but the idea of sending preschoolers to these private education providers mainly serves to ease parents' anxiety. It's more like a business scheme." A leading academic Ouyang Rihui from Central University of Finance and Economics stated.