Ministry of Education, Guyana

Monday, 14 January 2019 09:34

ICT programmes to expand, benefit hinterland youth

…as studies show interventions have been effective

Ministerial Adviser at the Ministry of Public Telecommunications (MoPT), Lance Hinds has said that Code Camp 2019 will be expanded to accommodate more young people across the country, since previous interventions have been proven successful.

According to Hinds, two Information and Communication Technology (ICT) programmes were facilitated by the Ministry in 2018, as part of the MoPT’s mandate to bolster ICT learning in Guyana. These were the inaugural Coding Camps and the Guyanese Girls in ICT programmes.

“The two programmes were to prove what we can do and what we can scale up,” he said. “And we can do it, just needs planning.” The adviser directed focus to the attention being placed on ICT through the ministry since its creation only a few years ago, and mentioned other projects and programmes implemented to facilitate this.news 20190115 6

“The mandate is large. How do you train as many persons as possible throughout all 10 regions of Guyana?” he questioned, and shared that to achieve this, the ministry is mandated to develop the ICT capacity of all Guyanese so that by 2035, Guyana would achieve universal computer literacy. In addition to that, he stressed that there are ICT “geniuses” within the regions and it is up to the ministry to find these persons and help their hone their skills for national benefit.

As such, these programmes will be expanded, according to him. “At a national level we have to build an ICT workforce,” he posited. During August last year, the coding camps were held in Berbice, at the University of Guyana (UG) Tain Campus; and at the Linden and Essequibo training institutes. Hinds indicated that the ministry is finalising the locations for this year, and has begun identifying preliminary centres in other regions.

Importantly, he related that the programmes will be taken to the hinterland regions. “The idea is to use Iwokrama as a focal area and start [the] training of trainers…The plan is to train the trainers and let them go back into the communities and train [the young people],”Hinds noted. He also shared that the ministry is seeking to give these trainers the requisite equipment to facilitate training.

Minister of Public Telecommunications, Cathy Hughes affirmed: “The crux of the work of the ministry is education and training.Every single citizen should become computer literate, according to Hughes.
“The goal is to reach into every single region, not only to enhance connectivity but train residents to use the internet for their daily use,” she added.

Commenting on the programmes that were implemented, the minister highlighted: “Our interventions are working and hundreds of girls and adult women are embracing it.” Following these programmes UG’s Department of Computer Science in conjunction with the MoPT and the National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD), conducted an in-depth analysis of the training programmes and their impacts. Both analyses, presented to Minister Hughes on Monday, indicated that the programmes were successes and could be further tailored to boost effectiveness.
“I feel certain that the [findings presented] will be factored into programmes we have designed for beginner and also advanced computer education across the country,” Hughes asserted.

STUDIES

Representative from the Department of Computer Science, Lenandlar Singh presented the findings of the research done on the coding camps on Monday, at the Ministry. According to Singh, 120 persons from the three areas participated in the programme. Of the amount, 40 were girls. In retrospect, Singh said that team activities, as used in the programme, are important, since they facilitated learning; engaging in practical work was also important since tangible computing appealed to students.news 20190115 7

On the downside, however, another representative Juanelle Marks highlighted that three components of the programme featured a graphical user interface that appealed to the participants. With the last component, however, learning the python coding language proved to be more of a challenge since this is largely text-based and requires more computational skills.
While the programmes aimed to foster an appreciation for the field, it also aimed to encourage continuity of learning among the young persons.

“Does fun translate to learning?” Singh questioned, and disclosed that moving forward diligence will be given to ensure learning is fostered, so that the participants would progress to intermediate work. However, he disclosed that adjustments have already been made to curriculum for the next round.

Penelope De Freitas and Alicia Layne, also from the department presented findings from the studies done on the Girls Code event. De Freitas shared that according to the World Economic Forum 2016, only 24 per cent of women enter jobs in the digital sector. This was cause for concern and the department aims to find out why this was so in the local context.

Fifty-six girls, from Grades Seven to Nine, benefitted from the 12-week-long programme that featured scratch programming and basic web development. The project infused technology with creativity and innovation, in an attempt to develop an interest in the field among the participants.

In fact, what was found was that girls do have a vested interest in ICT, but perhaps lack the opportunities to accessing the programme. The two representatives, who were also facilitators of the programme, suggested that the limitations of the model of the programme be assessed and further, longitudinal study should be conducted to track how the girls develop in the field.

Both studies showed that the young people targeted through the interventions were very receptive and benefitted aptly. From the experience, Marks shared that one girl was able to harness the skills taught and has begun to develop a website for a local business. Applications for the 2019 edition of the Coding Camps will open from January 21.

Source:https://guyanachronicle.com

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