Train the trainers coding programme empowers teachers, enthuses organisers
Ruchita Tripathi, technical coordinator for Amber Academy

KINGSTON, Jamaica -The latest push to develop a computer coding culture in Jamaica has come in the form of the Amber Group's Train the Trainer programme, which is targeting 940 educators of grade one to grade nine students islandwide.

Train the Trainer, is an offshoot of the coding in schools programme, which was launched in November 2021 as a $150 million a year partnership between Amber, the Ministry of Education and Youth as well as the Digicel Foundation. The Jamaica Teaching Council is another partner in the programme.

The six-week course, which should end by the second week of March, has already begun to build enthusiasm amongst teachers and other stakeholders about Jamaica becoming a country known globally for programming.

Ruchita Tripathi, technical coordinator for Amber Academy, a subsidiary of the Amber Group, said the high level of interest and participation by the teachers has been a source of encouragement for the company.

"This is being done so that we have our own cadre of trainers so that we don't have to outsource trainers from somewhere else. We are teaching our teachers to maintain the sustainability and continuity of the programme. We train the teachers in the basics of coding, like how to do logical thinking, write a short programme and then those teachers in turn, when they go to the schools in September can teach the students. Primary school trainers are being trained in a different curriculum and grade seven to nine teachers are being trained in a different curriculum. It is depending on their knowledge,” Tripathi said, noting that the primary school trainers are divided into batches, which are based on how much they know and what background they have in programming.

"It has been going very well. We have interacted with the teachers and they join the sessions with eagerness. These teachers are from all subject areas. They ask questions, we provide them with all the information needed and they are having fun. We are getting almost 80 to 90 per cent of the teachers every day and it is totally online. We are providing them with instruction manuals and all the data and resource materials they can use down the road. We are already looking forward to us taking in a second and a third batch because the response from the teachers is very nice," she said.

Teacher at the St Patrick's Primary School in St Andrew, Denise Carter, who is participating in the programme, shared that she is looking forward to improving her own digital education skills, learning how to create applications, websites and games with the aim of improving the overall teaching and learning experiences in the classroom.

For the students, Carter said, "it will increase their digital competency, improve communication, creative and problem-solving skills and also their ability to be resilient.

She expressed confidence that it will make teaching and learning "more interactive, practical and fun".

Amidst the enthusiasm and excitement surrounding the programme, local technology expert, Trevor Forrest, described the initiative as fantastic, but advised that the government should move to ground it in policy, so that it won't be easily eroded. He pointed to India, putting a policy in place, which has caused that country to be recognised globally as one of the top players in technology globally.

"It is fantastic, because we need to get more people and more students at an early age into this thing. We really need to start them off from primary school. The concern I have is getting them to make sure that they do this thing in a sustainable way and to make sure that they can follow through on creating things that work at scale,” Forrest said.

"If we are supposed to become creators of technology and not just consumers, we have to be able to create technology that can be used in spaces far bigger than Jamaica. The concern I would have with programmes such as these is sustainability. The way you overcome such things is that you have to have a policy that burns it into all aspects of education and so on. I have not heard of any such policy that would cause such things to be sustained and almost compulsory,” he continued, adding that this administration has shown a lot of vision in “implementing stuff like this but when the administration changes, another administration may not have that view, so it stops or it doesn't get the attention. It must be sustainable based on a policy that will transcend administrations. If you don't do that, it is a nice little programme that may last [a] couple years and fall off after."

BY JASON CROSS Observer staff reporter crossj@jamaicaobserver.com

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