With every shift in the economy, parents look for a way to help their children get ahead. In China, one of the latest and most popular methods for giving kids a leg up in the world is to teach them coding. The push is a response to the view that knowing how to program could make students quite desirable in the future job market.

Many Chinese children are now getting exposed to coding by the time they reach preschool, as private coding classes for youngsters open up. Normally, youths of this age are working on mastering math and Chinese, but they may soon possess new skills in technology to go alongside these others.

In this video from 2010, Larry Wall offers a crash course in computer programming:

China’s technology sector is clearly on the rise. The country has a growing number of supercomputers that are used to perform complex calculations and queries. The rise of supercomputers correlates with China’s movement away from being solely a tech-manufacturing economy for other nations to a technical research powerhouse in of itself. Given the growing need for tech workers in China who can build and manage complex applications, learning coding at a young age might not be such a bad idea.

But China isn’t the only country putting a premium on teaching technology skills to students. In England, computer science classes are mandatory for students between the ages of 5 and 16. These classes include learning coding, among a host of related skills. Other nations are interested in tech learning also. From Italy to Singapore, leaders are figuring out how to incorporate computer work into the classroom.

As of yet, computer classes are not a requirement in the U.S. — does that mean it is falling behind? If coding is a gateway into a computer science career, then perhaps more students should be getting exposed to the topic right away, instead of having to opt for something like a coding bootcamp later in life. Should this be one of the fundamental subjects U.S. children learn growing up?

Knowing how to program could make students quite desirable in the future job market.

There are a number of private efforts in the U.S., such as Girls Who Code, that exist to help build interest in tech careers among youth. Time will tell whether schools follow suit, incorporating coding into their own curricula moving forward, and whether tech skills continue to be a sought-after resource in the economy.

Photo credit: maciek905 / Getty

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Stefani is a writer and urban planner based in Oakland, CA. She holds a master’s in City and Regional Planning from UC Berkeley and a bachelor’s in Human Biology from Stanford University. In her free time, she is often found reading diverse literature, writing stories, or enjoying the outdoors. Follow her on Twitter: @stefanicox