by Jonathan Rothwell

[LINK] A look at computer science in Vietnam

Neil Fraser, a Google employee, visited Vietnam and visited a few schools to learn how computing was taught there. There some things you’d expect (Windows XP monoculture, they still teach you how to take care of your floppy disks1) but there are many surprises—in many ways, it’s better than how we teach IT in schools in Western countries.

One particular gem stands out:

By grade 5 they are writing procedures containing loops calling procedures containing loops.

At this point a quick comparison with the United States is in order. A couple of visits to San Francisco's magnet school for science and technology (Galileo Academy) revealed grade 11 and 12 students struggling with HTML's image tag. Loops and conditionals were poorly understood. Computer Science homework was banned by the school board.

Having donated enough to the school to pay another CS teacher for a year, Mr Fraser went to a high school and discovered that around half of year 11 students would pass Google’s interview process with flying colours.

What does this say? Vietnam is doing something right—and we, in the UK and the US, are doing something very wrong indeed.

  1. I’ll confess I was taught at school how to handle floppy disks, but that’s only because that was how our work was stored. I was also taught basic programming at primary school: everything took a nosedive in secondary school.