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AI textbooks for Chinese kindergarteners released

By Cao Zinan and Guo Kai(chinadaily.com.cn) Updated: 2018-11-23

An experimental AI textbook series designed for students from kindergartens to high schools came to light recently when a photo of the textbook appeared online, sparking discussions about the possibility of kindergarten children learning AI.

The series printed by Henan People's Publishing House includes 33 textbooks, two textbooks a year for students in kindergartens and those in primary, middle and high schools, but one textbook a year for students at vocational schools.

Experts from the Institute of Automation under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Google and some universities offered opinions on the series, which was finished in three years, according to aiera.com.cn, an information exchange and think tank platform focusing on AI technology.

The textbooks rely on a cloud platform to update their embedded digital content in real time. The electronic textbooks are updated every six months, while paper versions are updated each year.

Students can also learn Scratch and Python integrated development environment (IDE) on its supporting cloud platform.

However, some internet users exclaimed that it was too early to learn AI at such a young age. "After all most of them can't even do basic arithmetic," an internet user said on Sina Weibo, China's equivalent to Twitter.

Currently, about 67.5 percent of children in the US in kindergarten through 12th grade have received online programming education.

Taking Scratch, the world's leading children's programming language as an example, its penetration rate is the highest in the US at 44.80 percent. In the UK it's 9.31 percent, while in China it is only 0.96 percent.

Significant progress is being reported in China in AI technological research and development. As early as 2016, the government had estimated that demand for AI professionals may surge to 5 million in the coming years.

Authorities have already moved to promote AI-related education. The central government last year made a plan to include AI courses in primary and secondary schools.

In June, China published its first nine-chapter AI textbook for high school students, which was produced through joint efforts by the research center for MOOC at East China Normal University and AI startup SenseTime Group.

The paper.cn reported Tuesday that a 10-volume series designed for primary and secondary school students was recently released in Shanghai, and the textbooks are to be introduced to hundreds of schools across the country next year.

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