Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, on Friday (Nov. 19), officially launched the National Coding in Schools Programme, which will benefit 400,000 students from grades one to 13, and 15,000 teachers in public schools across the country.
This follows the successful pilot programme, which was launched by the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Information on May 7, through partnership with software firm, Amber Innovations Group Limited.
The pilot was conducted virtually in 20 schools and involved the engagement of approximately 2,000 students in grades four and nine. For this full roll out, telecommunications company, Digicel, has partnered with the Amber Group to co-sponsor the programme.
“Through the National Coding in Schools Programme, (students) will acquire basic numeracy, language, and problem-solving skills, which are the prerequisites for coding. Too many of our students are leaving school without these basic functional skills,” Mr. Holness said during the virtual event.
He noted that as Jamaica seeks to become a digital society, the need for coders is becoming increasingly evident, as the country had to quickly adapt to using technology to bring services to the population through virtual platforms.
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“It takes coders to design the business processes, to deliver the services, to write the language…the algorithms, to instruct the machines to carry out the processes and that takes a special skill…that is not widely available here. But we are developing that skill, and the more of that skill that we develop, it’s the quicker we will be able to move to a digital society,” he said.“
Jamaica already has the National Coding in Schools building blocks to become the Silicon Valley of the region, such as proximity to the largest markets in the world. We have a creative, imaginative, and a young population and we now need to turn this into an asset. We need…the coders – they are the builders of the digital society,” he stressed.
The Prime Minister pointed out that while not everyone taught coding will become a coder or have a career in information technology, being introduced to coding will help children to problem-solve and to think rationally.
“These abilities, when developed at an early stage, will enable students to be more productive in the workforce and in their future careers,” he said. He argued that in an increasingly digital world where “we are surrounded by devices controlled by computers,” it is important that Jamaicans are prepared to take advantage of the huge opportunities expected to be created.
Mr. Holness said he is pleased that through the train-the-trainer component of the National Coding in Schools programme, the Amber Group will provide master coders to educate teachers in code literacy to make them technically proficient at teaching coding.
“The programme aims to educate more than 15,000 teachers at the primary and secondary levels. I encourage our teachers to embrace this. It is part of our transitioning into the fourth industrial revolution. Your jobs will be transformed in this way, and I urge you to take advantage of this opportunity in expanding your skill base,” he said.
The Prime Minister launched the Coding Academy in January 2021, with a five-year goal of training 20,000 Jamaicans in software development to become software producers.
Housed at the Stony Hill HEART Academy in St. Andrew, the establishment of the coding academy was facilitated through a partnership among Amber Group, the HEART Trust/NSTA, the Housing Opportunity Production and Employment (HOPE) Programme and the Art of Living Foundation.
Source: 400,000 Students to Benefit From Roll-Out of National Coding in Schools Programme on the Jamaica Information Service (JIS).