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East Japan city to open programming school to help children develop IT skills

Children work hard on programming in a trial class at Ota City Hall in Gunma Prefecture on May 10, 2022. (Mainichi/Jo Kamiuse)

OTA, Gunma -- This eastern Japan city will open a programming school for third- to sixth-grade elementary school students in an effort to develop human resources capable of solving various problems by making full use of IT.

    A total of 48 students who pass the selection process at the end of trial classes, which will be held six times in May (each time with a maximum of 24 students), will be admitted to the Ota Programming School in Ota, Gunma Prefecture.

    Programming has been made compulsory under the curriculum guidelines of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Jun Hashimoto, a subsection chief of the Ota Municipal Government's information management division, said he hopes the new school will "serve as a venue for children who have developed an interest in programming as a result of classes at elementary school."

    The school will offer "course I" every Tuesday from June 7 to Feb. 21, 2023, and every Thursday from June 9 to March 2, 2023, (both excluding the summer vacation period), with 30 lessons each in a seminar room in Ota City Hall.

    A private IT support company will join the program, and students will learn basic and advanced skills through the "Scratch" programming learning software and robots made with Lego blocks. Tuition is 30,000 yen (about $230) per year.

    In addition, although details have not yet been finalized, a "quick-learning course" will be offered for fifth and sixth graders, with lessons to run for approximately six months.

    According to the city, participants for the trial classes were recruited online for a two-week period, but the school was so popular that it reached its capacity in six days.

    Twenty-four children attended the first trial class held at city hall on May 10, where they were eagerly working on computers.

    A third-grade boy said, "I didn't learn about this topic in (my school) class, but I enjoy Scratch because I use it every day. In the future, I want to become a YouTuber and assemble various machines and share them with viewers."

    His father, 35, who works in the advanced safety technology division of an automobile company, commented, "I want to help him keep up with the trend of the times in which IT is used at will."

    (Japanese original by Jo Kamiuse, Ota Local Bureau)

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