Opportunities Exist but Difficulties Remain in Children's Coding
COVID-19 and China
A future full of machines. Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

Last month, the Ministry of Education issued the "2019 Education Information Networking Security". The main points were the launching of information literacy assessment of primary and secondary school students and promoting the elaboration of relevant artificial intelligence courses, gradually promoting programming education. This caused great effects on society. Places like Chongqing immediately issued educational notices to strengthen the programming of primary and secondary schools. Private companies noticed this and believe that the industry has a promising future. 

In the global perspective, almost every developed country is stressing on children's programming education, which is a reasonable explanation of why China is accelerating the layout of programming education, and more clearly conveys that other countries already have programming courses as a compulsory part of children's education. These courses, on one hand, cultivate the student’s critical thinking ability, and on the other hand, the process of programming itself is a process of analyzing problems and solving them.

In 2019, many children's programming companies raised funds. The children's programming brand, Xiaomawang (小码王) completed a CNY 100 million B+ round of financing, and the children's programming platform, Codemao (编程猫) completed a new round of financing worth approximately CNY 600 million. Pipa coding (核桃编程) also officially announced that it completed CNY 120 million of A+ round financing a few months ago. At present, there are more than 200 children's programming entrepreneurial projects and companies on the market.

Capital betting on the children's programming sector is driven by the policies of the government. In July 2017, the State Council issued the "New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan", encouraging the implementation of the National Intelligence Education Program, and set up artificial intelligence related courses in the primary and secondary schools to gradually promote programming education. The education department of Zhejiang and Chongqing as mentioned above has made programming as a required subject. 

In the future, the impact of artificial intelligence will become greater with the years, and it will replace much human work. The support behind this is tens of thousands of talents. The emergence of future talents is in line with the existing quality education reform. Artificial intelligence is the trend of the times. In the future, all industries will be upgraded and transformed with artificial intelligence, and more industries and business models will come into existence. 

Major Obstacles 

However, the Coding sector has its limitations and currently, there are many problems. Compared with children's English learning market, the biggest problem is the lack of professional teachers. In 2016, there was a set of data that the average number of teachers engaged in computer teaching in each primary school in China was only 0.8%. Even the traditional computer education faculty is still far below the English-speaking staff.

This means that the current children's programming education is still in a state of extensive development, without the formation of quantitative standards and high-quality teacher teaching standards, which also makes it difficult to obtain parental recognition at the level of teaching results.

Even if one can recruit programmers, it is not the same as educators. Because professional-level programmers don't come to the children's programming industry, and if they do come, programmers can only write code to teach and it's completely different from teaching children. Some practitioners claim that most of the programmers in this industry are incompetent: they don't understand children's psychology, and they don't get along with each other, which leads to chaos in the industry.

Parents in first- and second-tier cities have a preliminary understanding of children's programming, but the concept of children's programming in the third and fourth-tier cities is still relatively unpopular. The unified language of children's programming institutions is basically: AI is the trend of the times, learning programming early can cultivate children's program module awareness, concentration, learning strategies, logical thinking skills, etc., but under the pressure of the college entrance examination, parents prefer projects related to teaching within the system.

The cost of programming hardware teaching aids for children is relatively high. For higher gross profit margins, many educational players choose to use less expensive software for teaching, which will lead to a significant reduction in teaching effectiveness.

Children's programming has just emerged in China. At present, there is no established and recognized textbook system. There is no authoritative and unified evaluation system. Educational institutions have not done a good job in curriculum design.

According to industry insiders, in China, many companies have prepared more than 20 class hours to sell, and in many cases, they are selling and developing R&D courses. They are typical market-driven content models, but they bring a lot of teaching failures.

Are parents more anxious about their children's future English ability or programming skills?

Of course, in the context of the future of talks about "artificial intelligence", learning programming to some extent is also suitable for parents. But the child's energy and time are limited, it needs parents to make choices. However, in the two cases, the tutoring of children's English and other subjects are more visualized to be more important and feasible. The teachers and teaching standards are more mature, and the children's English sector is the choice of more parents.

Therefore, the outbreak of children's programming requires a market education in the parent group. It is necessary to “make high-awareness and high-loyalty parents” to spread word-of-mouth.

Online education has developed for many years, but online programming is a new category that has emerged in the past two years. Although the industry is in its infancy, there has not been a clear situation in which head companies occupy most of the market. Its opportunity lies in the potential demand for education upgrades in first- and second-tier cities and the children's programming is precisely the potential demand in the context of education upgrade.

Although the children's programming project has been developed abroad for many years, it is still a new track in China. Now, the mode of a large number of players in the online programming industry is generally rough.

Despite all the above facts and reasons, with a total of CNY 782 million being raised by educational companies in 2018, coding training companies attracted 44.4% of total education investment deals last year, according to The Blue Paper of Education 2018. 

Based on the current development of the children's programming market and related objective factors, we conclude that the direction of the entire market in the future will be divided into the following aspects:

First: specialization, this differentiated market will concentrate resources on the exploration and cultivation of programming talents, and its role is to supplement the system of programming education.

Second: socialization, the age of this differentiated market audience is relatively small, the purpose is to form a learning atmosphere of programming education in the society, and then supplement the professional programming education, including talents and resources.


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