School is out in southern Finland for the week due to the annual ski holiday, but one classroom in the Helsinki district of Kallio is abuzz. Finnish telecom giant Elisa is teaching a room full of eager young pupils about computer programming.
“We are making an animated horror film, where three kids go somewhere and are scared out of their wits,” says two of the course’s young students Cecilia Syren and Saga Siekkinen.
Dozens of computer programming courses targeting mainly 10 to 12-year-old children are being arranged this year throughout Finland, hosted by several IT companies and tech industry organisations. Elisa alone will conduct the introductory coding courses in ten different locations.
Finland’s Ministry of Education is following this year’s instruction carefully. Coding will become a part of the primary school curriculum at the start of next year, but teachers’ ability to teach the basic of computer programming still varies. The Ministry has hence entered into cooperation with many private IT firms, a move it considers to be both natural and even mandatory.
“If we want to effect changes in our society, we need to harness the available resources of our entire community. We need to use what is available to us, and private sector holds important skills that we can utilize in the development of our teaching,” says ministry employee Jarkko Moilanen.
Moilanen says the private sector-hosted programming courses provide the Ministry of Education with an excellent example of how coding could be taught in Finland’s schools.
“We are searching for potential models that can be applied on a broader scale,” he says.
IT firms are giving back
The free programming courses for children are a good marketing opportunity for the IT companies that are involved in the project, but the firms prefer to consider them their charitable contribution to society.
“Our society is becoming increasingly digitized, at a rapid pace. We work in the front line making it happen and we see its effects. We seek to share this information with children and young people, and the wider society in general,” says Elisa’s technical director Ville Takanen.
How well Finland’s government officials take note of what the private firms suggest remains to be seen. In the meantime, pupils like Kallio's course participant Aleksi Laine are pleased with their instruction.
“I’ve wanted to make my own games for a long time and I am learning how to do it here. The teacher is very good.”