A necessity of free programming courses in Japan


The accessibility to have a free programming courses are improved a lot. Yet, Japan doesn't have a free programming course. To approach this issue, I created a free community.


Hey! I'm Arisa, a DevRel Engineer at Storyblok.

In this blog post, you'll find the approach I took to reduce the free programming education gap in Japan.

Programming education accessibility in Japan

The accessibility to have a programming education in Japan is not free. As an example, I had to spend over 2.000 EUR in 2months and a half course to study frontend.

It was 2017. Not so long time ago. Did I have to spend so much money because the course quality was the best in the world?

The answer is no. Simply, we don't have yet any free programming courses in our country.

If you want to study programming from a scratch, here are the options we have so far.

  • Go to programming schools

  • Find mentors to teach you

  • Go back to college to gain a degree

The question is "Are there any free ways to learn programming from these options in Japan?" Well, as you already have seen from the answer above, there's no way to do that if you only speak Japanese.

Then how about the other cases? What about if you can understand English? Aren't there some free and good courses out there?

Free programming education accessibility is high if you understand English

The good news is that there's a way if you understand English. There're a lot of free & high-quality programming courses in the world.

freeCodeCamp is one of the most famous examples. I also took some and compared with the time I was taking in 2017, you can take full complete ES6 contents as well as React.js and many more languages!

As I said freeCodeCamp is just an example, there are more free and great programming courses or even Bootcamp. Front-End Foxes School is one of the great free Bootcamp and I can tell this based on my mentor experience there. I teach in the Africa cohort as a volunteer mentor.

The curriculum is well designed based on Microsoft's free course, "Web dev for beginners".

"Web dev for beginners" -

Mentees can learn with live sessions twice every week. Volunteer mentors will take responsibility for every 5 mentees to answer their questions in Slack and during office hour.

Take a look at the curriculum above. You'll be amazed how practical these sources as well as the challenges. Plus, this is a Bootcamp. If you want to drag mentors out just for you for a couple of hours every day to answer all your questions, technically, you can.

This is so great, and I strongly believe that the free programming courses will save millions of people's careers if they're struggling with the current environment like I did. But there is one criterion you must pass - understanding programming in English.

Is it hard to learn programming in English for non-native English speakers? YES, I'm nodding my head so hard like a metal band artist to perform.

It's crazily hard!

In my case, I had the experience to work in English while I was working in Emirates Airline as a cabin crew. Also, I graduated my college all in English. Even so, my English is not perfect and for others who don't have much chance to use English, it's harder than you can imagine.

Why is it problem about no free programming courses in Japan?

Japan is one of the expensive countries to live everyday life. Yet, we have a huge problem with poverty in young generations.

College students need to work so hard in part-time jobs to earn money to eat for each day. Some of them can't even spend more than 10 EUR to eat one meal.

Some of the female college students struggle to manage to buy enough amount of sanitary products. A lot of them must drop out of college and should find a job because the tuition fee is very expensive in general.

(Nowadays, up to high school education is free but this system started right after my high school graduation. It means this system just started less than 10 years ago. Until that moment, we had to pay to go to high school.)

We hear that nowadays in news. It's not like a story from the 80s or 70s. How those people who are suffering financially or environmentally can afford to take a school course that costs over 2.000 EUR?

This is not fair.

I also hesitated when I was considering purchasing a Bootcamp course that cost over 2.000 EUR.

What if I wasn't successful? What if the mentors are not helpful? What if the course materials are fooling me and they just trick me to pay such an amount of money?

In my case, it worked out.

But after I started to teach front-end, I've had some students telling me that they paid and it didn't work for them. (Of course, no refund.)

This has to be solved. In fact, there're several free programming courses and Bootcamps in English. Equal programming education accessibility must be provided in Japan too. If there's not yet, somebody can start from a grassroots movement.

Is just a free programming course enough?

Based on all these facts and thoughts, I created a free community, Lilac to help to learn programming by providing free courses.

But is it enough? No, it's not enough to help people. Why? It's already kind of mandatory to have another skill to combine with programming skills nowadays.

Video editing skills, dealing with living in foreign countries, giving talks in conferences, podcasting, creating your own services, etc...

We already have seen a lot of developers are combining those skills with programming skills. This means, eventually, everyone needs to learn their ways to adopt another skill to multiply with programming skills to be successful.

This is why I combined a free programming course with tech skill & a knowledge-sharing community💡

Concepts are here👇

Concepts in my free tech skill & knowledge-sharing community, Lilac

  • Free programming course materials created by me and volunteer devs

  • Support system with community mentors & volunteers (community mentors will provide office hours, volunteers don't)

  • Study room (Community is in Discord. Members can use voice channel for that too)

  • Experience, skills, and knowledge-sharing events hosted by senior devs with various experience, etc...

I wasn't sure whether senior devs are going to be interested in it or not, but my concern was not necessary.

In fact, we have about 10 senior devs joined and the total members are over 45 in less than a week. I created this community a few days ago.

Plus, members already had a lot of learning without my lead. Here's one of the member's blog posts after she solved a React form event behavior with a senior dev member.

Form Event Fires on Button Render : A Pesky Gotcha in React's Rendering Process - by Kaho Shibuya (@shivchan_)

This is what exactly I was expecting my community members to do!

It's my first time to run and organize a community on my own. Honestly, I thought as an organizer, I need to take a lead to make the community being active.

Wrong, without my involvement, community members are taking an initiative ✨

This is just the beginning of the result. And I need to work hard to provide free front-end courses first in order to fulfill what I promised the concept of this community.

But more than I was aware of, we already have 5 events planned to provide. And all these events couldn't happen without the community members' skills and experience!

Planned events by community members

  1. Agile development - a real-world experience sharing from the U.S., Philippines & Japan

  2. Learning from the fallthrough - building and running own services

  3. Get to know through Lightning Talk

  4. Dev interview practice in English - by a real interviewer in the U.S.

  5. GitHub Actions demo - by a Microsoft MVP award holder

I'm feeling so much possibility in my community from how we expanded our activity together.

I'm sure more things and news will come up in my future blog posts💪