Google engineer Neil Fraser got a bit of a surprise when he visited Vietnam recently to see how schools teach ICT: kids in 11th grade are capable of passing the Chocolate Factory’s notoriously difficult interview process.
Fraser blogged about his trip (via TNW), which ostensibly seems to have been a fact-finding mission involving him turning up unannounced at various primary and high school classes to see what the students are being taught.
Wandering into an 11th grade high school class he found kids were studying the following problem: “Given a data file describing a maze with diagonal walls, count the number of enclosed areas, and measure the size of the largest one.”
Suitably impressed, Fraser then asked a senior engineer back home how the question would rank on a Google interview. Here's what emerged:
Without knowing the source of the question, he judged that this would be in the top third. The class had 45 minutes to design a solution and implement it in Pascal. Most of them finished, a few just needed another five minutes. There is no question that half of the students in that grade 11 class could pass the Google interview process.
Vietnam exposes its kids early on to computers and programming, with schools, teachers, parents and students apparently eager for them to learn in a way that isn’t mirrored in the US, or presumably the UK.
Computer classes start with the basics in Grade Two, by the following year students are learning how to use Windows XP – apparently ubiquitous in the country – and touch typing in English, while Grade Four sees them begin programming in Logo, “starting with sequences of commands, then progressing to loops”.
By Grade Five they are “writing procedures containing loops calling procedures containing loops”, he said.
By comparison, at San Francisco's magnet school for science and technology (Galileo Academy) 11 and 12th grade students struggle with HTML's image tag, while loops and conditionals were “poorly understood”, and computer science homework is banned by the school board, said Fraser.
If nothing else, this snapshot into the Vietnamese school system shows what can be done despite limited funds.
Materials had to be burned onto CD as the school apparently couldn’t afford reliable internet, while education software doesn’t exist and there are often not enough teachers to go round, he said. ®