by Shu-Yu Liu
With the prevalence of technology in our daily life, computer programming has become an indispensable skill for the new generation. The Ministry of Education (MOE) in Taiwan has also incorporated the coding lessons in to school curriculum starting from the 2019 Academic Year.
Teacher introducing coding into campus with passion
Tony Lin, founder of the project Robotics in Rural Communities, brought robotic education into rural areas in 2016. Lin teaches children to create commands using Scratch, a programming language with building blocks, with which children can learn to program command blocks and make adjustments. Lin hopes the lessons can encourage creativity for building things and solving problems by themselves.
Through projects by Teach for Taiwan (TFT), a non-profit organization dedicated to creating equal educational opportunities for every child, Asiyan Karangiyan, a Paiwan teacher, meets children from Shimen Elementary School, where most students are indigenous people. In just half a year, teams from this school stood out in the 2018 MakeCode CUP and won awards for 3 projects.
Teaching programming taking off in Taiwan
Changhua County Government joins hands with Microsoft Taiwan to promote teaching programming and coding in primary and middle schools in the county. Simple programming games based on Minecraft not only makes learning more interesting but assists instructors in designing their teaching materials. In addition, there have been programming learning centers established in primary, middle, and even high schools in New Taipei City since 2011. The Preschool Programming Learning Resource Center was even established in 2020, in hopes that children can start learning Mandarin, English, and programming languages before entering elementary school.
Yilan County, on the other hand, starts lessons in programming in the fifth and sixth grade of all schools. The network center under the Education Department of Yilan County Government designs teaching materials and records teaching videos for courses at schools. The Government also assigns teachers to visit schools in remote areas to teach lessons.
Taipei City also stays ahead of the trend, as Taipei Municipal Rixin Elementary School has been teaching Scratch in computer lessons for years, which later expanded and became programming courses throughout the entire academic year. Another example is Taipei Municipal Kuangfu Elementary School, which started after-school programs on Scratch as early as in 2009.
Challenges in teacher availability, urban-rural gap in resources, and teaching materials
Currently, there have been obstacles in promoting teaching programmatic in Taiwan, which include teacher availability, urban-rural gap in resources, and teaching materials.
- Shortage in professional teachers: should the teaching in programming continue, the government should have more systems and channels in place for teacher training.
- School in rural areas lack hardware and software: problems in making up for the shortage of resources in rural communities and keeping teachers around to teach with a long-term planning remain to be solved.
- The curriculum of primary and middle schools needs to be adjusted to cater to courses in programming, and the teaching materials constantly change in accordance with the latest trends.
Additionally, parents should also see things from a different perspective. Programming languages should be used to help children develop logical thinking. This purpose cannot be fulfilled, if parents just force children to memorize the lessons without thinking, which will not only increase the burden on students.