Is Coding as Important as Learning English for Children in China?
COVID-19 and China
Tianchi LI with his team. PHOTO: Codemao Website

Tianchi LI the founder of China's leading children's coding company, Codemao, talks about the Coding industry in an interview with iAsk Media recently. 

He started off with talking about his mentors, like many other entrepreneurs, his inspiration has been Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. People often talk about how he "abandoned his degree and started a business in China", but he doesn't consider himself a drop out or someone who gave up his studies, instead He said: "I think it's just matter of timing. I am not always proud of this. At that time, I had finished writing my thesis and learning the coursework. I didn't really need a paper diploma to prove myself. I think I could make the choice." He paid his tribute to his role models with actions.

Codemao has raised more than USD 65 million in total. As reported earlier by EqualOcean  LI Tianchi (李天驰) told that since 2017Q4, Codemao had been doubling revenue every quarter. Dated the end of 2018, Codemao’ realized revenue was 10 times the number in 2017 and made a single-day revenue record of tens of millions.

Codemao a company that focuses on giving children programming lessons was founded as early as 2015. The time when the majority of Chinese parents had very little to no idea about coding, that too for children. The industry was in its early stages and the future didn’t seem very promising. Codemao took the initiative and set off on the journey of cultivating the programming mentality in Chinese children. Some parents even thought of it as a “trap” and did not to spend extra money on something they didn’t know about. Debates arose throughout the country about the industry. The conflicts between the degree of acceptance of programming for children and the professionalism of graphical programming were difficult to reconcile, along with constant doubts from the public.

On this Tianchi LI said, "From the social point of view, I can understand their concerns, since it takes time for everyone to accept it. However, I believe that programming is essentially a social need and a backward demand for education.”

Just a few years after, the government stepped in and started to promote the industry and a number of policies released. The development of technology started to grow at an even more accelerated pace. The era of artificial intelligence started to take shape and the internet of Things became increasingly known by parents. The impression of the coding education changed in the eyes of parents and soon a huge amount of capital started to flow into the industry with new players emerging.

The current market size is of around CNY 3 to 4 billion with a customer base of around 15.5 million. According to iResearch the size is expected to grow to CNY 30 billion in the next 5 years.

When asked about the changes the children might experience through coding, Li replied, “I think no matter whether it's programming, computing mentality, or the skill to grasp information, the key is for them to see a bigger a world. At such an age, they have the possibility to do a lot of things. I believe that it's breaking through their previous life circle and boundaries.” 

He believes information technology will change the lives of people, hence the focus on programming education. He said just like the payment methods changed from cash to pay by scanning QR codes through Wechat or Alipay. In the future, AI will actually bring greater changes to our lives and work. During this process, I believe that programming will become a new essential quality.

According to LI, early in the 1990s or 1980s, if you had English speaking/writing/listening skills, you might have different resources and opportunities in an economically globalized society. Therefore, in the future AI society, grasping the language between people and the machine is actually a very significant resource.

LI further talked about that the model is similar to the English training industry with three steps: firstly economic globalization, secondly global talent needs, and thirdly fundamental disciplines. He said the coding industry right now is in the first phase, and will immediately move on to the second phase, followed by the third phase. 

Speaking of his experience learning programming from the age of 8, he said he was fortunate enough to be exposed to programming in an age when everyone was only concerned with learning foreign languages. He thanked his parents for their education and respect. He believes in education and he has the ambition to bring changes to future children.

Programming education is an ever-growing sector of the education industry. Many developed counties have already added coding as a compulsory course in schools, colleges, and universities. China still lags behind but is at least on its way. The Problem in the industry other than the trust of parents has been the lack of talents. More and more changes at the higher education level by the ministry of education will play an important role in producing such talent. 

In 2018, there have been more than 160 children's programming companies, of which about 50 have been publicly financed. As mentioned above well-known investment institutes have been active in the industry.

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