“If education is the gateway to the future, coding is a premium pass” – Education

What made IBM align with HT Codeathon?

One of our biggest programs was STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) for girls, where we had MoUs [memorandums of understanding] signed with states, and the whole goal was to reach 130,000 girls and 70,000 boys. Unfortunately, Covid-19 hit and we were unable to reach most of these children.

When the Hindustan Times said they had a codeathon online and could reach children who can do it at their own pace, we thought this was a great opportunity to partner with places where the program has not yet been reached.

We had the opportunity, obviously with this reach, to go into the nooks and crannies of the country and give children the opportunity to try out coding, Python and HTML. The idea was to get your hands dirty and get a feel for what coding is because 80% of the jobs of the future will have a STEM element in it.

Is coding the future?

Education is the gateway to opportunities. When it does, the coding is like a premium pass that puts you at the forefront.

How early does a child need to be introduced to the concept of coding?

Our program starts with eighth graders because we believe when you are in this standard (ages 13-14) you will begin to form your own opinions. At this age, they begin to explore what they want to do in life. Even so, it can always be argued that we should start much earlier – but we firmly believe that eighth graders are decent enough to start with.

In addition, the coding does not have to be viewed only as a programming language. How we start in our programs is the use of MITs [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] open platform called Scratch. It’s very friendly and you can tell stories through it. You can create a story and through these stories we introduce you to the concept of coding. They show them building blocks that they can drag and drop, create loops and create a story.

They identify a problem, for example in a village, and actually look at how well they can tell the story with the help of technology. In the end, they realize that they essentially coded. It codes through the concept of storytelling, which is what makes it fascinating to them.

What changes do you see in the work and education scenario in the post-Covid period?

The digital transformation has already happened and I think Covid-19 only accelerated it. What we probably could have done in five or six years is now possible in about a year. Look at the example of the [Covid-19] Vaccine; something that used to take years is now available in months. The education sector itself has already evolved into a hybrid model. It may have taken us 34 years to have a new education policy, but essentially what it did accelerated the whole transformation. The number of tools that are now available. and the catalyst in this whole thing is the teachers as they are the ones who have to transform the children and teach whatever we are trying to teach locally. They now had a great opportunity to familiarize themselves with technology, new educational methods, new platforms, and new content that they previously had no access to.

I’m sure the hybrid model will continue because once you get a feel for it there is no going back. IT companies would never have thought of 100% work-from-home. But now people work from home and you can get things done and you are more productive. I would expect the same thing to happen in education. Investments in hardware, software and capacity building will really accelerate in the future.

Could you talk about some of your projects?

At IBM, we launched two online platforms during the pandemic: one is called Open P-Tech, a fully open platform for school children to find out about new technologies such as artificial intelligence, IoT (Internet of Things), block chain, cloud and others, while hearing these terms over and over again, knowing what it is and how we can use it in our daily life. We have developed content on these open platforms that is more aimed at teenagers.

Today we have almost 80,000 learners on this platform. Anyone with a Gmail account can access it. Once you complete a course, you will also receive an IBM authorized digital badge that you can also display on your résumés.