Programming courses for elementary school students

Turkey’s Technology Minister Fikri Isik recently announced that he would like to bring programming courses to elementary school students throughout the country. This comes 2 weeks after his trip to Silicon Valley where he visited leading tech companies, universities, and accelerator programs.

In 2010, Turkey announced the launch of the FATIH project, which had the goal of providing elementary school students throughout the country with tablets equipped with educational software. The program would also bring internet infrastructure to schools that currently don’t have it while providing teachers with smart boards to facilitate their interactions with students.

While the FATIH project was a great idea to make the country’s youth regular consumers of technology, teaching them programming skills would be even better as students would also learn how to create technology. This would make Turkey’s workforce much better equipped to capture a share of the increasing economic value being produced by technology creators.

I’m not convinced that elementary school is the right time to teach students how to program. Thinking back to my elementary school days, I likely didn’t possess the logic based reasoning skills required as a foundation to learn programming. Although I think that middle school may be a better time for students to learn programming, the Technology Minister’s vision is directionally correct.

However, the right vision also needs to be complemented by strong execution. While the FATIH project has hit its target of distributing 125K tablets to teachers, it also had the goal of delivering 10.6 million tablets to students and 450 thousand smart boards to schools by February 2016. The target for the end of 2014 was 1.2 million tablets and 100 thousand smart boards, of which 550 thousand tablets and 30 thousand smart boards have been distributed so far.

Although the FATIH project is running behind schedule, it may still be able to meet its February 2016 targets. I hope that the Technology Minister’s goal of offering programming courses for elementary (or even better yet, middle) school students is even more successful.