Whole Child Education

Just for medals? There’s much more gain than you can imagine out of the subject competitions.

On the evening of August 14, 2022, good news came out from the 34th International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI 2022) competition: after unremitting efforts, four members of Team China swept the top four gold medals again following IOI 2021, and won the first place among all teams by an absolute advantage. It is worth mentioning that all four members of Team China got full marks in the first round, and two players won the gold medal with full marks in both rounds, repeating the glorious achievement of double AK in IOI 2005, while having a new chapter written in the history of IOI!

The International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI) is an annual international Olympic competition of the information subject for competitors from all over the world. It has a history of more than 30 years: the first IOI was held in 1989 in Bravec, Bulgaria. IOI aims to popularize computer science knowledge and identify excellent computing talents. Every year, the Chinese Computer Federation organizes a team to represent China in the annual IOI.

The Chinese Computer Federation selects members of Team China to attend IOI through the national competition NOI every year. In the globally well-known IOI, Chinese competitors have consistently achieved impressive results:

They have won 50 gold medals, 17 silver medals and 12 bronze medals, surpassing the United States, Russia, Japan, South Korea and other countries, ranking first in the world as for the number of gold medals.

“In informatics competitions, both in terms of the size of the league and the number of medals won internationally, our country is in no doubt number one in the world.” Said Mr. DU Zide, President of National Olympiad in Informatics on the campus of Dipont Huayao School.

In addition to his role as President of NOI, Mr. Du is also the first President of the International Youth Informatics Olympiad (IOI), advisor to the President of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (Shenzhen), and the former Secretary General of the Chinese Computer Federation.

As he said, China is recognized as the world’s leading country in the IOI. The team members, team leaders and coaches have been warmly received and praised by the country’s leaders such as JIANG Zemin, LI Peng, LI Lanqing as well as famous scientists. In fact, NOI was founded by the China Computer Federation in 1984, earlier than IOI, which was founded in 1989.

The National Olympiad in Informatics (NOI) is a competition in information technology at the highest level participated by provincial teams in China, including Hong Kong and Macao. It is organized by the China Computer Federation in cities where computers are widely used. NOI aims to popularize computer science knowledge to middle school students, providing motivation and new ideas for schools’ information technology curriculum as well as opportunities for talented students to communicate and learn from each other, while cultivating and selecting outstanding computer talents through competitions and related activities.

Going back to February 16, 1984, at the “Microelectronics Technology and Application Exhibition” held on the first floor of the Friendship Hall of the Shanghai Exhibition Center, a 13-year-old boy skillfully demonstrated computer programs for DENG Xiaoping, who watched with a smile, and pointed out: “Computer popularization should start from children.” In the same year, the China Computer Federation launched the National Youth Computer Programming Competition, which attracted more than 8,000 participants that year. Every year since then, record numbers have been set.

This teenager is Li Jin, a well-known alumnus of the Second High School Affiliated to East China Normal University. He was recommended to Tsinghua University in his first year of high school and completed his doctorate at the age of 23. He later joined Microsoft Research Asia and became the youngest researcher at this top research institutions in the world. Over the past decades, NOI has cultivated and discovered a large number of computer enthusiasts and selected many outstanding computer talents. Many candidates have entered well-known universities at home and abroad to pursue master’s and doctor’s degrees in computer science, and some have already started scientific research in the area of computer science.

From August 20th to 27th this year, the 39th National Youth Informatics Olympic Competition (NOI2022) will be held at Dipont Huayao Collegiate School Kunshan. Sponsored by the China Computer Federation and organized by Second High School Affiliated to East China Normal University, this year’s NOI will be hosted by Kunshan Dipont Huayao School as the co-organizer. It’s the school’s honor to witness the top young informatics talents in China competing in this grand event.

We took this opportunity and invited experts in this area to lead our parents into the world of subject competition.

A high-level competition like this brings together a large number of top informatics talents in the country and from overseas, which might make many parents feel worried and afraid that their children will only be “cannon fodder” and put in a lot of time for little gains. However, NOI series of activities actually plan a clear training path for informatics programming. There are competitions and activities suitable for students from primary school, middle school and high school to participate in, and the contestants can gain more than just the results of the competition.

We invited Mr.  Jin to explain about issues that parents are most concerned about.

Mr.  Jin figuratively likened the path of informatics competition to the path of “fighting monsters to the next level”: from the CSP (Certified Software Professional), which had no threshold at the beginning, to NOIP National Olympiad in Informatics in Provinces for provincial team selection. Participants who have won the first prize will participate in the provincial team selection, and the winners will receive tickets to the NOI National Team. The top 50 NOI players are selected to the National training team to obtain the qualification of university recommendation. After two rounds of selection, the final ranking will be based on the NOI score, winter camp score, thesis and defense, homework, audition score, interviews and others.The top four competitors will form the national team and go on to the highest stage of the informatics competition — IOI.

Specific to each level, the focus of the competition differs. For example, for the most basic CSP activity, Mr.  Jin told us that “I will recommend all students to participate in it.” CSP is divided into entry level and advanced level: the entry level mainly targets at middle school students, but every year a large number of primary school students take part in it. The advanced level is for high school students, there are often junior high school students who get excellent grades.  Csp-j, as the lowest difficulty, requires at least a grasp of C++ programming language as a prerequisite, In the basic stage of learning C++, students’ logical thinking ability and patience are tested. Parents who are familiar with the use of computers can learn together with their children and guide them to get started, mainly to broaden their horizons and make them interested in computers.

“In September every year, there may be more than 100,000 players who take the written CSP test, of which about 30,000 can enter the computer test in October, and there are about 5,000 players who pass the computer test to advance to NOIP.” Mr.  Jin said.

At the NOIP provincial competitions, the difficulty increases, and the cruelty of the competition appears. At this stage, if a contestant wants to get good results, s/he has to be very good at school work to allow sufficient time to learn advanced knowledge in his/her spare time to tackle the more advanced tests. Some of the outstanding contestants would be recommended to top universities such as Tsinghua University and Peking University by virtue of the national first prize (gold medal), while most of the contestants would retire and return to their high schools and take the college entrance examination, among which the students who won the second prize (silver medal) can obtain the special qualification of the ” Plan for strengthening basic disciplines ” and enter into good universities.

There are only 50 national gold MEDALS in informatics competition every year, which is very rare. These top domestic players may stand on the international stage and win a gold medal for the country; or they can enter the Yao Class of Tsinghua University and Turing Class of Peking University and become pillars of the computer field.

At the same time, there are still a majority of players who would stop at provincial or national competitions. Would they become unknown “cannon fodder”? Not quite so, says Mr.  Jin.

“The rewards of participating in competitions are much more than just the results. In addition to professional competencies such as thinking ability and logics, soft skills such as self-study, self-discipline, the ability to work under pressure and time management skills gained during the process of the competition are also really valuable.”

Mr. Jin shared with us the story of one of her students, Jeffery. Jeffery was introduced to informatics in sixth grade and later won the NOIP first prize several times after entering high school. But then he left the informatics group and shifted his love for programming from attending competitions to practical application and technological innovation. He attended the “App Inventor” Google youth camp and in his spare time developed a mobile App to deal with procrastination. Not only that, but he is also a master of Rubik’s cube, having broken the national record four times and ranked as high as 9th in the world.

Jeffery successfully applied for admission to Carnegie Mellon University and graduated. His story also shows how the informatics competition left a lasting impact on him — beyond the competition, he really put his passion into practice and grew into a well-rounded person.

Coincidentally, Mr. Jin Jing got on really well with Mr. Guo Yi, Dipont Huayao’s secondary math teacher and math competition coach, during the preparation for the event. Although they are from different subject areas, they often have the feeling of “great minds think alike” when talking about competitions. They all agree that among the five major competitions, mathematics and informatics are the most closely related. They also mentioned the idea that all students should be encouraged to participate in the competitions. We’re deeply moved by the two competition practitioners by their love for competitions, sciences and teaching. Mr. Guo also told us how he became acquainted with mathematical competitions and completed the transformation from a player to a coach.

Mr. Guo recalled that he became interested in math when he was a child. As a child, he had trouble remembering people’s faces, but he had a photographic memory for numbers like car license plates and phone numbers. His high sensitivity to numbers planted a seed for him to compete in math later on. When he was in the second grade of primary school, the school organized a math club. The fun of solving math problems attracted him, and the sense of accomplishment he got by overcoming difficult problems made him unable to stop. From the third grade of primary school till he finished university, Mr. Guo’s kept his passion for math and enjoyed it all along.

What prompted Guo to engage in mathematics teaching was a remark from his postgraduate tutor: “Mathematics is something that you can only understand if you teach others”, which touched Mr. Guo deeply. For him, what matters is not only to teach others and make them understand, but more importantly, to pass on his love for mathematics and the joy he gains from it. “If I can teach what I know to others so that others also understand and enjoy it, then it’s double happiness for me.” said Mr. Guo.

In his classroom, he believes that students should feel this kind of happiness to truly stimulate their interests in mathematics. For students who are not that interested in math themselves, Guo attaches great importance to creating a positive feedback mechanism.

First of all, according to students’ different level, Mr. Guo would give them different problems to solve. Whether they solve the problems independently or cooperate with others, Mr. Guo would ensure that they can get a sense of accomplishment from the process of problem-solving.

Secondly, the diversified teaching methods should be effectively combined with traditional knowledge imparting to stimulate students’ interests by engaging them in fun activities like combining bridge design, drawing, logo design and so on. For students who are interested in mathematics, Mr.  Guo will prepare more extension materials for them to meet their thirst for new knowledge, and encourage them to gain more and more happiness after overcoming one difficulty after another, so as to reach a higher level.

In terms of training for AMC and other math competitions, Dipont Huayao adopts a training method that combines Life Block with pre-competition training. Life Block offers two classes a week, focusing on school-based courses. In terms of pre-competition training, on one hand, its purpose is to help students revise for the knowledge points of the competition, and on the other hand, to train students with real competition problems over the years, aiming to improve students’ overall ability to tackle the competition in a short period of time.

As this year’s NOI will be held at Dipont Huayao, Mr. Guo cherishes the opportunity to communicate with Mr. Jin and other coaches of the informatics competition. Mr. Guo always believes that mathematics and informatics are closely linked and complementary with each other. He recalled his experience at a high school subject summer camp, “we had a roommate who was a top contestant in computer competitions and he had a copy of the Introduction to Algorithm by MIT at hand every day. I borrowed it and found that a lot of the contents were combinatorial problems at math competitions, which made me ponder about the strong links between these two subjects. ”

In addition to the connection of knowledge points between the two subjects, Guo believes that math competition and informatics competition also have a lot of similarities in developing other abilities such as logical thinking. In addition, mathematics and programming can also complement each other. Some math competition problems could be handled more efficiently by computer programming, while sometimes problems that can’t be solved by programming may be tackled easily by mathematical methods.