Programming Classes for Elementary School Students in Finland

Elementary school students in Finland could be adding coding and programming to their nightly homework routine in the near future.

Potentially following in the footsteps of neighboring country Estonia, Alexander Stubb — the Finnish Minister of European Affairs and Foreign Trade — told Mashable that teaching basic programming skills to young kids in the classroom is on the country’s radar.

“It would be a great idea to have coding as a voluntary or otherwise subject in school,” Stubb says. “Kids today are growing up as natives to technology, and the sooner they get going, the better. It starts with games and familiarizing themselves with gadgets, and coding is a big part of that.”

This doesn’t necessarily mean first-graders will be developing apps. Rather, it’s part of an effort to encourage the development of tech skills at an early age.

“We have a strong education system and rank among the top countries in both primary and secondary education, and we’re always looking for new ways to innovate,” Stubb says. “Bringing coding to students is something we are very aware of, but it would probably take awhile to get it up and running.”

Estonia rolled out a similar program for elementary school students in 2012, with 20 schools across the country testing a program called ProgeTiiger. The software teaches everything from basic logic to Java and C++ for older students.

Finland is emerging as one of the hottest new startup hubs in the world, especially when it comes to mobile gaming. Thanks to the success of Rovio and its Angry Birds empire, as well as newcomer Supercell — which has two of the most popular iOS games: Clash of Clans and Hay Day — Finland has attracted tech talent from all over Europe looking to set up shop in its capital city.

As Nokia — once the hometown hero of the country, accounting for 4% of the Finnish GDP — began to shed workers over the years, executives left the company to build startups of their own. This accelerated the growth of entrepreneurship across Finland, long before Nokia sold its mobile division to Microsoft in September, and is encouraging venture capitalists from around the world to invest in the local talent.

“With the success of Nokia in the ’90s, it grew our confidence that we could really make it in the tech space,” Stubb says. “But Nokia became too big for comfort, and as leaders moved out, the startup scene started to surface. It’s a fearless generation now, and one that is much smarter than that of the past.”

The country is also embracing coding education at the university level via Aalto University’s AppCampus program outside Helsinki. The mobile app accelerator program is funded by the school, along with Nokia and Microsoft, and is set up to spur app development for Windows phones.

Startups from various countries around the globe, as well as founders of all ages, are now working with AppCampus to secure funding and become successful in the Windows Phone app store.

“Everyone knows that gaming is actually good for neurology and the brain,” Stubb says. “Long gone are the days where parents tell you to stop. We’re really excited about how the gaming community has taken off here and you can expect more from Finland very soon.”

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