JAMAICA | Education Ministry Looking to Expand Coding in Schools Programme

JAMAICA | Education Ministry Looking to Expand Coding in Schools Programme

KINGSTON, Jamaica June 28, 2021 - The Coding in Schools programme, which is now in its pilot phase in 20 schools, is set to be rolled out in other institutions shortly.

This was disclosed by Minister of Education, Youth and Information,  Fayval Williams, who said the programme will be evaluated to determine the next steps toward wider implementation.

“The pilot… is [concluding] at the end of June, at which time we will be doing our assessment to get a sense of how it’s been, the impact that that has had, and to see how best we could take it to other schools,” Ms. Williams said.

The Minister was addressing the virtual inaugural Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in Education competition awards ceremony on Friday (June 25).

The Education Ministry officially launched the pilot Coding in Schools programme on May 7.

The initiative, which involves partnership with Amber Innovations Group Limited, aims to promote the teaching and learning of coding in public educational institutions across Jamaica.

The pilot is being conducted virtually in the selected schools and involves the engagement of approximately 2,000 students in grades four and nine.

Under the programme, classes in coding computer applications are being incorporated in the regular school curriculum.

Among the objectives of the engagement are developing skills such as logical and critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, team work and mathematics, and instilling confidence in students through coding.

Meanwhile, Ms. Williams praised the JTA for conceptualising the ICT in Education competition through which teachers sought to integrate technology in a creative way in their classroom instruction, create websites, and use a variety of applications that would enhance the teaching and learning process.

“[This] is the kind of practical demonstration of ICT that we at the Ministry want to encourage among our students… that you should not just think theory, but the practical know how,” she said, while commending the JTA for working with school administrators to build capacity in this area.

The Minister noted that while a programme to expand ICT in education has been underway for some time, “there is recognition that there is yet more to be done to train our instructors to better impart knowledge and skills to our students”.

Mrs. Williams said this will be even more important. given that ICT will remain a permanent part of the education system.

“We are going to be talking about blended learning for quite a bit. Even when [students and teachers] come back into the face-to-face environment, which I have every hope for in September, we will have ICT as part of the teaching and learning process,” she pointed out.

In his remarks, JTA President, Jasford Gabriel, said the idea behind the ICT in Education competition, was “always to showcase the work and worth and expertise of our teachers as they pivoted during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic”.

“It is perfectly timed given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our education system. Certainly, if we are talking about promoting digital transformation, a big part of that is to make sure that we not only empower, but equip our teachers to pivot as fast as possible. Our teachers have responded with alacrity and a lot of sacrifice and intensity just to make sure that they stay apace with the teaching and learning required for online instruction,” he said.

The JTA President added that “it was always our intention that we need to recognise as many of our teachers and reward them for the extra efforts… they would have made in this regard, as they seek to engage their students meaningfully in the online platform,” he added.

A total of 26 teachers from schools islandwide participated in the three-week competition which saw entrants competing in the early childhood, primary and secondary level categories.

Teacher at the Alpha Infant School, Erika Allen-Lennon, won the early childhood category; Mona Primary and Infant School teacher, Abigail Eubank, topped the primary level category; Immaculate Conception High School’s Bhagya Millagi surpassed all entrants in the secondary level category.

The winners were previously presented with certificates of participation, trophies and cash prizes.

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