Apple looks for Swift growth with deeper industry collaboration in Singapore

Singapore University of Technology and Design, RMIT Online, and Pathlight School will offer curriculum focused on Apple's Swift programming language, while a second Apple Developer Academy has been established in Indonesia, as the iPhone maker looks to expand its mobile app ecosystem.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

More education institutions in Singapore will offer curriculum based on Apple's Swift programming language, as the iPhone maker looks to expand its mobile app ecosystem and reach to app developers. The Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) and Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) Online have introduced app development courses for adult learners using Swift, while special needs education institution Pathlight School will offer a Swift Accelerator scheme for its secondary students. 

The app programming language is already available to all schools in Singapore, according to Apple. In addition, Swift curriculum at RMIT Online and SUTD are included under the country's SkillsFuture programme, which offers Singaporeans credits that can be used to offset the cost of learning courses.

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Speaking at the launch on Wednesday, Singapore's Education Minister Ong Ye Kung noted that literacy played an important part in the local education system, with the country focusing on language literacy --specifically, English, for its value as a global business and working language, as well as the languages of its ethnic groups such as Chinese and Malay. 

"Digital literacy could well be considered a critical form of literacy for the future... Digital technology is going to be ubiquitous and drive many things we do. All of us must be able to live alongside and make use of digital technology," said Ong. "With this in mind, we need to start to demystify digital technology and make its learning accessible to everyone."

He noted that some schools in Singapore had already created digital environments where students used wearable technology to make electronic payments in canteens and enabled parents to monitor their children's spending and eating habits. 

Institutes of Higher Learning also worked with industry partners to roll out fintech programmes that encompass technologies such as e-payment, and creating incubation projects that aimed to cultivate students' computational thinking skills to design and build things. These projects included the use of equipment such as 3D printers, microcontrollers, and laser cutters, the minister said. 

Apple's vice president of environment, policy, and social initiatives Lisa Jackson added: "We're thrilled that students of all ages in Singapore will now be able to tap into the language of coding, gaining the skills they need to grow and succeed in the app economy and beyond."

According to Jackson, Swift had been incorporated into major apps such as AirBNB and LinkedIn and its educational coding app, Swift Playgrounds, had clocked more than 1.8 million downloads since its launch in 2016. 

She added that the iOS app ecosystem could be lucrative for developers, noting that Apple had paid out more than US$120 billion in revenue to developers. There currently are more than 2 million apps on its App Store, with 500 million unique customers worldwide visiting it each week, she said. The app store is available in 155 countries.

Understanding the syntax of Swift

Dalton Prescott completed a six-month Swift learning programme when he was 13 and used his learnings to build MasterApp, alongside other friends, which combines cognitive and machine learning technologies to enable students to learn faster. Now 17, Prescott, who is currently studying cybersecurity at Singapore Polytechnic, was invited to the Apple event to demo his app.

An Apple WWDC Scholarship 2018 recipient, he told ZDNet the software's algorithm runs on nine cognitive concepts and aims to introduce the use of such methods in schools to help students better grasp new concepts. Using markers to highlight notes in textbooks, a common practice in schools, simply was not the most effective learning method, he noted. 

Asked if his knowledge of Swift skills were easily applicable to other app platforms, since Apple's technologies were commonly deemed closed and proprietary, he said most programming languages were similar in concept. He added that the learning curve for the Swift language was lower because its syntax was easier to read and pick up, whereas Java, for instance, was more difficult to understand.

Launched in 2014, Swift was introduced as "intuitive, easy, and approachable enough" to be a first programming language to learn, according to Apple. Its App Development with Swift curriculum is touted to provide tools, techniques, and concepts to help students build a basic iOS app from scratch, using Xcode and Playgrounds. 

The SUTD's Swift curriculum, which is modular, includes an augmented reality module and is designed for working adults interested in basic app design and development. Its president and acting provost Chong Tow Chong said a professional conversion programme also would be introduced later this year with Apple's Swift.

Pathlight Singapore, which focuses on students with autism, will offer the 144-hour Swift Accelerator programme that is conducted by Apple Certified Trainers and is targeted at pupils aged between 13 and 18. Pointing to the school's aim to enable its students to be able to contribute to Singapore's economy, Pathlight's co-founder Denise Phua said the Swift initiative was a natural progression from its IT learning programme. 

"Pathlight's work with Apple through the Swift Accelerator Programme signals the importance of training students with special needs to be future-ready for a rapidly-changing society. It is even more exciting as persons on the autism spectrum have a natural interest in and aptitude for IT," Phua said. 

Apple also announced the launch of its Developer Academy in Surabaya, Indonesia, marking the second of such facility in addition to its first in Jakarta, which had expanded from 75 to 200 students. 


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