Korean youths are good at computer games. If not good at online games such as "League of Legend" or "Star Craft," the student can be even bullied by peers. However, less than 10 percent of the middle and high school students have learned how to build a computer program, the basis of such online games. It is a stark contrast to the U.S. or Finland, where youths can learn software programming from the elementary school or kindergarten.
The government announced to start establishment of "Software-centered Society" this year. As the first step, software programming will become the compulsory subject in elementary, middle and high schools. Starting from the 1st grade of the middle school next year, software programming education will be provided to elementary schools in 2017 and high schools in 2018. Software is a generic term to refer to programs that allow a computer to operate, meaning all invisible things on the opposite side of hardware. The government plans to provide six education materials including coding and programming.
The educational arena seems a bit tense. It is because President Park Geun-hye said Wednesday If a subject is not related to the Korean Scholastic Aptitude Test (KSAT), students tend not to study hard. Suspicions arise that software may be included to KSAT like the subject Korean History that is included in KSAT as absolute evaluation. Korean History became the KSAT compulsory subject one month after President Park said in July 2013, Important subject such as history needs to be included as the evaluation criteria. Complaints are growing that the original intention to enhance history awareness of young students is lost and only burdens of the students are increased.
Needlessly to say, software is a matter of great importance. Mercedes-Benz CEO Dieter Zetsche said that cars are now running on not gasoline but software. That is true to other areas including intelligent robots, unmanned aerial vehicles and the smart ships. However, what made the former Apple CEO Steve Jobs a great innovator who led development of the first-ever smartphone was not software programming skills. The critical factor of software development is creativity. If software is included in KSAT, students will go to private academies to get one more point. Joy of learning and creativity will be forgotten and gone. Such authoritarianism originating from the 1970s that the government or the president can force the public to do something is probably the biggest obstacle in the development of Korea into a software power in the world.