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Child’s play: Coding booms among Chinese children

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AFP

By AFP
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Wearing a pair of black-rimmed glasses and a red T-shirt, an eight-year-old Chinese boy is logged in for an online coding lesson — as the teacher.

Vita has set up a coding tutorial channel on the Chinese video streaming site Bilibili since August and has so far garnered nearly 60,000 followers and over one million views.

He is among a growing number of children in China who are learning coding even before they enter primary school.

The trend has been fuelled by parents’ belief that coding skills will be essential for Chinese teenagers given the government’s technological drive.

“Coding’s not that easy but also not that difficult — at least not as difficult as you have imagined,” says Vita, who lives in Shanghai.

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The little boy uses his channel to patiently take his students — who are mostly children older than him and young adults — step-by-step through an Apple-designed coding app called Swift Playgrounds

Explaining as he goes, he sometimes deliberately makes mistakes to help show common errors to avoid.

“When I am teaching, I am learning new things at the same time,” adds Vita.

China has been making huge investments in robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI), with the government issuing in 2017 an AI development plan which suggested programming courses be taught in both primary and secondary schools.

China published its first AI textbook last year, while eastern Zhejiang province listed programming as one subject for its college entrance examination.

For Vita it was his father, Zhou Ziheng, who has been his main support, editing his videos and helping to run the channel.

Zhou, a freelance translator of scientific and technology books, started to teach his son how to write codes when he was five years old.

“I learnt coding when I was young, so I always believed that Vita learning coding at this age was something normal,” he said.

When Vita was four, they started off by playing some coding-related games together, which used icons to replace codes.

After seeing that Vita played these games very well, Zhou decided to help him work on some real codes.

This summer, Vita surprised his father by successfully rewriting the codes in an app which didn’t work in an updated system by himself.

“I suggested to him to record how he rewrote these codes,” said Zhou, and the idea for online classes was born.

Most comments on Vita’s online videos express amazement that he can write code and even teach others at such a young age.

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“I just learnt how to use the computer when I was eight,” wrote one.

Parents who don’t have the skills to help can send their children to coding agencies, which are booming thanks to demand from China’s middle-class families looking for the best skills for their children.

The value of China’s programming education market for children was 7.5 billion yuan (over $1 billion) in 2017, but is set to exceed to 37.7 billion yuan by 2020, according to Analysys, a Chinese internet analysis firm.

“China’s programming education in public school starts very late (compared to developed countries), so our after-school tutorial agency makes up for this shortage,” said Pan Gongbo, general manager of Beijing-based Tongcheng Tongmei, a coding education centre.

The school’s youngest student is only three years old.

For children under six, the agency offers a special programme that includes activities like Lego building, which also uses coding knowledge and skills.

According to Pan, children at six or seven are fully capable of learning coding in cognitive development.

“Don’t underestimate the learning speed of children. In some of our courses, they learn even faster than our adults,” he said.

Ten-year-old Ji Yingzhe has been studying the coding language Python for half a year at the agency — before that, he took a semester-long course on fundamental robot building, which he felt was too simple.

“The codes have already been written for you, and all you have to do is to organise these (code blocks) in order,” he told AFP.

Ji’s father sent him to learn programming because he was spending a lot of time playing video games.

There was a new rule at home: Ji could only play the games that he created himself.

Ji has almost finished writing a simple version of the popular game “Plants vs Zombies”.

In November, Vita competed in a coding competition for primary students, held by the Shanghai Computer Society.

He spent two months learning the coding language C++ for the competition, with the help of his father, going all the way to the final despite being among the youngest participants.

In terms of what the future holds, Zhou said it will depend on Vita’s interest and ability — but he wants to keep his son down-to-earth.

“I told him: ‘you haven’t done anything remarkable,'” said Zhou. “This is just one step of (his) coding learning.”

Vita says he is happy just to have fans and followers.

“Coding is a long-term challenge,” he said. “(But) download the app and you can start learning now.”

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World Bank pushes G-20 to extend debt relief to 2021

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World Bank Group President David Malpass has urged the Group of 20 rich countries to extend the time frame of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative(DSSI) through the end of 2021, calling it one of the key factors in strengthening global recovery.

“I urge you to extend the time frame of the DSSI through the end of 2021 and commit to giving the initiative as broad a scope as possible,” said Malpass.

He made these remarks at last week’s virtual G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.

The World Bank Chief said the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the deepest global recession in decades and what may turn out to be one of the most unequal in terms of impact.

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People in developing countries are particularly hard hit by capital outflows, declines in remittances, the collapse of informal labor markets, and social safety nets that are much less robust than in the advanced economies.

For the poorest countries, poverty is rising rapidly, median incomes are falling and growth is deeply negative.

Debt burdens, already unsustainable for many countries, are rising to crisis levels.

“The situation in developing countries is increasingly desperate. Time is short. We need to take action quickly on debt suspension, debt reduction, debt resolution mechanisms and debt transparency,” said Malpass.

ALSO READ:Global Economy Plunges into Worst Recession – World Bank

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Kenya’s Central Bank Drafts New Laws to Regulate Non-Bank Digital Loans

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The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) will regulate interest rates charged on mobile loans by digital lending platforms if amendments on the Central bank of Kenya Act pass to law. The amendments will require digital lenders to seek approval from CBK before launching new products or changing interest rates on loans among other charges, just like commercial banks.

“The principal objective of this bill is to amend the Central bank of Kenya Act to regulate the conduct of providers of digital financial products and services,” reads a notice on the bill. “CBK will have an obligation of ensuring that there is fair and non-discriminatory marketplace access to credit.”

According to Business Daily, the legislation will also enable the Central Bank to monitor non-performing loans, capping the limit at not twice the amount of the defaulted loan while protecting consumers from predatory lending by digital loan platforms.

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Tighter Reins on Platforms for Mobile Loans

The legislation will boost efforts to protect customers, building upon a previous gazette notice that blocked lenders from blacklisting non-performing loans below Ksh 1000. The CBK also withdrew submissions of unregulated mobile loan platforms into Credit Reference Bureau. The withdrawal came after complaints of misuse over data in the Credit Information Sharing (CIS) System available for lenders.

Last year, Kenya had over 49 platforms providing mobile loans, taking advantage of regulation gaps to charge obscene rates as high as 150% a year. While most platforms allow borrowers to prepay within a month, creditors still pay the full amount plus interest.

Amendments in the CBK Act will help shield consumers from high-interest rates as well as offer transparency on terms of digital loans.

SEE ALSO: Central Bank Unveils Measures to Tame Unregulated Digital Lenders

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Scope Markets Kenya customers to have instant access to global financial markets

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NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – Clients trading through the Scope Markets Kenya trading platform will get instant access to global financial markets and wider investment options. 

This follows the launch of a new Scope Markets app, available on both the Google PlayStore and IOS Apple Store.

The Scope Markets app offers clients over 500 investment opportunities across global financial markets.

The Scope Markets app has a brand new user interface that is very user friendly, following feedback from customers.

The application offers real-time quotes; newsfeeds; research facilities, and a chat feature which enables a customer to make direct contact with the Customer Service Team during trading days (Monday to Friday).

The platform also offers an enhanced client interface including catering for those who trade at night.

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The client will get instant access to several asset classes in the global financial markets including; Single Stocks CFDs (US, UK, EU) such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, BP, Carrefour;  Indices (Nasdaq, FTSE UK), Metals (Gold, Silver); Currencies (60+ Pairs), Commodities (Oil, Natural Gas).

The launch is part of Scope Markets Kenya strategy of enriching the customer experience while offering clients access to global trading opportunities.

Scope Markets Kenya CEO, Kevin Ng’ang’a observed, “the Sope Markets app is very easy to use especially when executing trades. Customers are at the heart of everything we do. We designed the Scope Markets app with the customer experience in mind as we seek to respond to feedback from our customers.”

He added that enhancing the client experience builds upon the robust trading platform, Meta Trader 5, unveiled in 2019, enabling Scope Markets Kenya to broaden the asset classes available on the trading platform.

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