Coding  gains  traction  in schools as  key skill

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Edtech startups are rushing to fill a spurt in demand for coding classes, believed to boost computational thinking and equip students for the digital era.

Stemrobo Technologies, for instance, has seen a 200% increase in demand for coding classes in 3-4 months. The startup had launched Tinker Coders—a platform to provide affordable online coding classes to K-12 students—during the peak of the pandemic. Tinker Coders has enrolled over 300,000 students and 600 instructors since its launch.

Its founder Rajeev Tiwari believes the primary reason for this growth “has been new policies like the National Education Policy 2020 that promote coding and AI in schools, and increased awareness and structural transformation going on in society that is making innovation, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), coding, and AI (artificial intelligence) very pervasive”.

Apart from India, its business-to-consumer (B2C) services are offered to users in 35 countries and regions, including the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia.

Demand for coding in schools increased dramatically in the last 5-10 years, corroborated a spokesperson from WhiteHat Jr—an online startup that was acquired by India’s largest edtech Byju’s in a $300-million deal in August 2020. WhiteHat Jr claims to have signed up over 500 schools across the country, representing more than 125,000 students who will learn coding through a blended curriculum.

The company aims to train one million students via the ‘physical-digital blended model’ this academic year.

“At a young age, the power to grasp and understand any subject or activity is higher than at a later stage in our lives. Teaching kids to code provides a well-structured way to introduce them to rational thinking and problem-solving skills. It also helps kids to improve their logical and analytical thinking and increases creativity and concentration—all of which are skills that can be applied far beyond the realm of computer science,” a spokesperson said.

Similarly, as part of its Superkids programme, Vedantu offers a project-driven coding course for students aged 6-12.

Early exposure to coding among students is expected to make India the world leader in coding. While the US currently has the largest population of developers, India is set to overtake it by 2023, says Evans Data Corp., a global research organization. Some students have also been able to convert academic coding projects to problem-solving apps.

For instance, Aravind, a 15-year-old from Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu, a student at WhiteHat Jr, has recently developed an agritech app named ‘Golden Crop’ to help farmers with multiple aspects, including crop selection, soil health and timely sowing.

“Golden Crop is a small attempt to aid farmers in the decision-making process so that they can earn a better yield and lead a better life. I will keep working on this app by adding more features,” said Aravind.

Not surprisingly, coding for kids is estimated to be a $14 billion market in India with a high growth potential. Coding-specific acquisitions in the edtech space point towards the same growth trajectory.

Other than the acquisition of WhiteHat Jr. by Byju’s, Unacademy acquired CodeChef, an online platform for algorithm and coding, in 2020 to help the latter launch a coding skill vertical for school kids. In 2021, Byju’s also acquired California-based Tynker—a leading coding platform for K-12 students, in an attempt to expand to international markets.

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