Troubling statistic is coupled with an additional one-in-four saying they’ve heard the word, but don’t know what it means.

In Japan, as in many countries, science and technology tend to be predominantly male pursuits, at both the academic and professional levels. Critics argue, though, that an educational background in those fields, and access to their associated careers, is becoming increasingly important for women in modern economies.

Those who find the lack of women in computer science concerning probably won’t be happy to hear that in a recent survey, 44.7 percent of Japanese elementary school-age girls said they’re not even familiar with “programming” as a vocabulary word, let alone what a programmer does.

Children’s magazine Chara Parfait, in conjunction with Kadokawa Ascii Research Laboratories, conducted a survey between December 1 and January 20, collecting responses from mail-in cards included with issues of the magazine. The researchers received a total of 358 responses from girls in elementary school, 249 of whom were in their first, second, or third year, and the remaining 109 in years four through six.

When asked about programming, 44.7 percent of the girls said they’d never heard of it, with another 27.4 percent saying they’d heard the word, but don’t know what it means, which combines for 72.1 percent who don’t know what programming is, even in broad, basic terms.

▼ It might as well be a discipline of magic to them.

On the other end of the spectrum, 3.1 percent said they were currently learning about programming in some sort of educational program, with another 9.8 percent saying they hoped to study programming in the future.

It’s worth pointing out that in Japanese, programming is called puroguramingu, a corrupted pronunciation of the English “programming.” Because of the pronunciation quirks of puroguramingu and its being written in katakana script, it’s instantly recognizable as a foreign loanword, which might account for why young kinds might have trouble picking up the vocabulary, especially as they’re at an age where they’re still acquiring purely indigenous words and phrases with much more relevance to the daily life of a child. One could argue that expecting six-year-old Japanese girls to know what “programming” means is sort of like expecting six-year-old girls in America to understand “laissez-faire.”

Still, as far as foreign loanwords go, puroguramingu is a pretty easy one. It’s so commonly used in Japanese that there really isn’t an indigenous Japanese substitute, and it’s pretty simple to explain the basic meaning of “making computer programs.”

Unfortunately, the researchers didn’t give any figures as to how familiar grade-school boys are with the term “programming,” likely due to Chara Parfait’s readership being heavily female, and so it’s hard to say whether the girls’ responses have been influenced by their gender, or simply reflect an overall aspect of children in Japanese society. On the plus side, though, the majority of parents in the Chara Parfait survey said they’d support programming lessons being part of their children’s grade school curriculum, so maybe in the future more girls will be made aware of programming, thus allowing them to take the first steps towards a career in the field.

Source: Rese Mom via Otakomu
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