EFFORTS to close the gap on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in Jamaica have received a boost with the Digicel Foundation making a $28-million donation towards the Coding in Schools programme.
The foundation's patron, Denis O'Brien, met with Amber Group's Managing Director Michael McNaughton for the official handover at the Delves Building in downtown Kingston recently.
The programme, which is led by the Amber Group, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information and the Digicel Foundation, will see the national coding curriculum, which was successfully piloted in 2021, rolled out islandwide for students from grades one to 13. In addition to supporting the roll-out, Digicel Jamaica will offer 20 paid internships to the country's top grade 13 students.
“The Coding in Schools programme is an ambitious and mammoth project aimed at elevating Jamaica along the technology path of development,” explained McNaughton.
“The Amber Group, with the support of our corporate partners like the Digicel Foundation, is up for the challenge of impacting the next generation by preparing them to not only think more critically, but to gain from an early age the necessary skills to compete in new and emerging careers in technology,” added McNaughton.
To date, the Digicel Foundation has invested more than US$795,000 in STEM education.
The foundation has also indicated that, with a growing need for information and computer literacy, it is squarely focused on incorporating more information and communication technology (ICT) in the projects it initiates. This includes issuing more than 2,100 devices and SIM cards for students and a recent investment of US$110,000 in the construction of ICT labs at Anchovy Primary School in St James and Harry Watch Primary School in Manchester.
“We believe in creating a world where no one gets left behind, and as the digital divide continues to widen, many are at risk of being left behind.
“To mitigate this, we want to continue to support the national roll-out of coding and ICT training by creating labs in primary schools so that over the next three years, more children will be able to enter secondary school with a basic level of computer literacy,” said O'Brien.
Students will begin learning to code early this year, while teachers will be engaged in the “train the trainer” project by the Amber Group.
Participating teachers will have access to manuals, syllabuses, and a live support desk during instruction, with additional support sessions outside of teaching hours.
Students in grades 10 to 13 will be engaged in two-hour sessions each week with Amber Group's master coders, learning advanced computer languages. To support their formal instructions, they will also have access to interactive e-learning applications to practise their new skills.
Upon completion of grades 11 and 13, the students will receive NCTVET certificates through HEART/NSTA Trust.
While only the top-performing students will be offered the Digicel Jamaica internships, all students who successfully complete the programme will have fast-track access to the Amber HEART Academy.