According to media reports, more and more capital started to bet online on children programming sector. 10 years ago from now, coding wasn’t famous at all among the Chinese parents, but now even preschoolers are taking coding courses. Since 2015 China has been trying to push the STEM education system via policies and plans. Just last year China state council issued artificial intelligence development plan which encouraged more schools and entrepreneurs to experiment in the area.
According to Deloitte, the investment in the Chinese STEM education startups has increased 15 folds from 2014 to 2017.
Codemao is an online education company founded in 2015, which provides online coding lessons to children aged 7 to 16. Children can design their work through programming using games and animations. It also provides hardware specially designed for children which can be identified as a modernized version of Lego. With the use of coding, Children can design and construct various items. Codemao says, its purpose is not to sell hardware but rather provide tools for learning how to code at all stages.
A cursory look on the Chinese search engine TianYanCha returns more than 80 registered companies offering computer programming classes for kids, including Beijing’s VIPCODE, Hangzhou’s Ultrabear, and Shenzhen’s Codemao. Statistics show that most such companies were founded in or after 2014, and several have attracted vast amounts of financing. Codemao received an investment of CNY300 million (USD45 million) in May after getting its hands on CNY 120 million earlier in 2017.
iResearch reported that children coding training revenue is around CNY 3-4 billion in China in recent years with around 15.5 million learners. In the future with more favorable policies coming out the revenue is estimated to reach CNY30 billion in the next 5 years.
YANG Xu an education analyst said that the industry is going through a promising change. In Zhejiang and Chongqing, programming is a required subject. Though if we consider the whole market the structure is still unclear.
Pressreader reports, In 2016 US government announced USD 4 billion in funding to promote coding education. The same year Australia listed coding as a compulsory course for children above 10 years old. If seen from this prospective China lags behind. According to Jingdata, an analysis company, only 1% of Chinese students are learning to code. Countries like the United Kingdom’s education system has ensured 100% coverage of programming for children.
Difficulties and competition within the industry
The biggest problem right now for the system or for the companies using the STEM system is professional teachers. To teach children English the requirements is mostly to belong to an English speaking country, but it is not that simple for programming.
The programming education for children is still in the development stage. There aren’t many high-quality teachers. Most of the programmers have no idea about children’s education, they might be good teaching college or universities students but when it comes to children they do don’t understand their phycology.
Another challenge comes in tier 3 and 4 cities, where programming and artificial intelligence technology is relatively new. Programming at an early stage can cultivate the child’s learning strategy, logical thinking, concentration etc., but college entrance exam pressure is too high and the parents prefer project related teachings which are within the curriculum. Some parents even mentioned that they don’t want to be fooled by such companies and would want their children to study what they need to study.
Another challenge is the cost since these companies spend a lot of money developing their AI they have to keep the cost high in order to make a stay in the race, but the prices are high for parents living in smaller cities.
English teaching companies are the biggest competition for programming teaching companies.
What should the parents be more anxious about, their children learning how to speak English or learning how to do programming? Well especially in this era of artificial intelligence they should more focus on their children’s programming skills but that’s not the case. Children’s energy and time are limited and parents have to make the choice. Usually, parents choose to invest in teaching their children English or other curriculum-related subjects. The reason behind that is that programming teaching is not as mature as compared to the English teaching market.
To outbreak the children’s programming teaching market, the parents need to be educated. Creating “high awareness of loyal parents” is a necessity.