That several secondary schools will offer programming, as part of a new O-level subject called computing, should help Singapore secure a firmer foothold in the global knowledge economy. Much as the three Rs - reading, writing and arithmetic - laid the foundations of economic literacy in the Industrial Age, an era of information requires countries to grasp the next generation of possibilities being created by computing.
Indeed, an Australian leader described coding as the "literacy of the 21st century". Others have also underscored the importance of national investment in teaching children the computational thinking skills needed to keep a country competitive in the future. In Singapore, where the emphasis on science and mathematics has been a steady component of strategies of survival and success, it is imperative that schools initiate the young into the workings of an economy built around knowledge - an environment they will inhabit for the rest of their lifetime.
Of course, one would not expect every student to write code. Mastering programming is an exacting pursuit as there are different ways of coding and many layers of software. Rather, the young should be exposed to the possibilities of code in a host of fields - automating processes, creating art, making music or inventing a game. That appreciation will help them to work effectively in teams, using the concepts and vocabulary of computing to collaboratively solve problems, invent new products or services, or interact in new ways with people or things. To encourage learning, one should first reject the notion that coding is just for geeks. That assumption could be why the nation is facing a chronic shortage of IT professionals.