Japanese food company Glico uses Pocky—its brand of chocolate-covered biscuit sticks—to teach children how to code. 

Yuko Takatani, regional PR manager of Glico Asia Pacific, shared that the company is considering conducting special lessons in the Philippines at elementary schools and at places where parents and children gather. “We hope this will be a happy learning experience for them,” she said.

Children need a free edutainment app called GLICODE (a portmanteau of “Glico” and “code”), Pocky biscuit sticks, and a clean white placemat to play the game. Players line up their Pocky sticks in the right order on the placemat, then use a phone camera to take a photo of the sequence they created. They then hit the app’s play button to see their sequence’s code instruct a character named Hug Hug as it moves through the course. Players who figure out the correct sequence get to move on to the next level. There are a total of 39 stages in the mobile app. 

By arranging the Pocky sticks in varying sequences, children learn three coding fundamentals: sequences, loops, and “if” statements. An early introduction to the basics of programming and algorithmic thinking improves a child’s problem-solving ability.

Coding, said Apple CEO Tim Cook, is the best foreign language that a student in any country can learn. “This is a language you can express to seven billion people in the world. I think coding should be required in every public school in the world,” he said in an interview with French outlet Konbini.

In the Philippines, schools such as STI and AMA specialize in computer science. The Department of Education (DepEd)’s K-to-12 program also has a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math strand. Senior high school students who choose this strand typically enroll in university courses related to mathematics, engineering, computer studies, or information technology upon graduation. According to DepEd data from September 2016, 228,621 Filipino students have enrolled in this strand.

Edutainment apps such as GLICODE are educational apps that aim to make learning enjoyable. American illustrator Peter Catalanotto is credited for coining the term “edutainment” in the 1990s while teaching students about writing and illustration. Educators today engage classes by using novels, movies, interactive museums, board games, and toys to teach a specific subject. 

In the aforementioned Konbini interview, Mr. Cook said, “Creativity is the goal. Coding is just to allow that. It’s the blend of both of these that you can do such powerful things now.” — Patricia B. Mirasol