Pathlight students set to learn coding under new programme

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung trying out a game with Pathlight School student Kaeden Chan at yesterday's launch of coding programme Swift Accelerator. With them was Ms Lisa Jackson from Apple.
Education Minister Ong Ye Kung trying out a game with Pathlight School student Kaeden Chan at yesterday's launch of coding programme Swift Accelerator. With them was Ms Lisa Jackson from Apple.ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN

Pathlight School students will now learn how to code as part of a national drive to teach computational thinking in all schools.

Swift Accelerator, a coding programme based on the Everyone Can Code curriculum delivered by Apple-certified trainers, was launched on Wednesday, marking the first time coding has been made accessible to a special needs school here.

This 144-hour programme is meant for students aged 13 to 18 - who will be selected based on their aptitude and interest in coding - and is said to deepen their skills and competencies.

The Everyone Can Code curriculum allows students from kindergarten to university to learn how to code using Swift, Apple's programming language.

About 5,000 schools, technical colleges and communities around the world are said to be using the curriculum, according to Apple.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said during the launch at ArtScience Museum: "Digital literacy could well be considered a critical third form of literacy for the future."

Ms Denise Phua, co-founder of Pathlight School in Ang Mo Kio, said coding or computational thinking is an integral part of the new literacy. "We need to update our curriculum for our special needs students with these new items (coding). If we don't do that, what they learn might be incomplete or even irrelevant."

 
 
 

She said that for people with autism who have a natural inclination to learn things in a structured way and who have very good information and communications technology skills, it opens up job opportunities and an avenue for them to excel as much as possible.

Mr Ong also noted that there is a need to demystify digital technology and make learning it accessible to anyone.

Ms Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice-president of environment, policy and social initiatives, said: "I don't think we can escape the future where technology will be with us at every turn. Singapore is thoughtful about incorporating the learning that its population needs and realising that it needs to be for everyone."

She added that she is inspired by the words of Pathlight student Kaeden Chan, whom she met at the launch. The 13-year-old told her that his dream is not to be just an end user of Apple's products, but also to sell his own app on the firm's App Store. He said he prefers to create games instead of other apps as they are fun to play and sell better.

Fellow tech giant Google does not have coding programmes in any special needs schools in Singapore. But it has hosted an online safety workshop with Grace Orchard School, a special needs school in Jurong West.

It has also conducted classes at the Dyslexia Association of Singapore on how to use Google's Docs, Slides and Sheets.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2019, with the headline 'Pathlight students set to learn coding under new programme'. Print Edition | Subscribe