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Children participate in a robot competition in Wuzhou City, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, on April 7, 2017.
As Chinese parents are paving the way for their children's bright futures, computer programming has gone viral across China.
Miaocode, a Chinese startup offering online coding lessons for primary and high school students, has announced the closing of a pre-A round of funding of 16 million yuan (US$2.55 million).
"We have seen a 50-percent surge in user subscriptions and 85 percent of student users have finished their classes since last year. The funding will help us design more tailored courses and improve services," said Guan Chunhua, founder of Miaocode.
Coding was not well-known among Chinese children or their parents a decade ago, but now even preschoolers are starting coding classes as China is pushing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.
Since 2015, the Chinese government has been issuing guidelines encouraging schools to experiment with STEM education, including coding.
An AI development plan issued by China's State Council in March describes the setting and promoting of coding education, and encourages institutes and companies to design teaching software and other related games.
"Even Tim Cook says learning how to code is more important than English as a second language. I prefer these coding courses because they have provided my son a chance to solve problems with his own logic. And it all happened in a game," said Zhu Ming, a father of an eleven-year-old who took classes with Miaocode.
According to a report by Deloitte, the investment in Chinese startups in STEM education has made a 15-fold increase from 2014 to 2017. More and more private-education providers are eyeing the market.
CodeMao is an education company that provides online graphical programming courses for students aged 7 to 16. It also provides an online platform where children can design via programming and display their own work, including games and animation.
CodeMao has over 120,000 users and its products are available on both smartphones and PCs.
"Future high-paying jobs will require some computer programming skills. Learning how to code has a financial benefit," said Chen Mingwu, father of a five-year-old boy, and also an engineer who uses coding a lot in his daily work.
China has been pushing innovation as part of its long-term goal to shift from low-cost manufacturing and become a knowledge-based economy that produces high-value-added goods in recent years.
"Coding is in accordance with China's 'maker culture.' Starting from childhood, this curiosity-driven programming education will help China raise more talent in the future," said Li Hua, a computer scientist from San Jose State University and also a consultant for Miaocode.