Coding and robotics have been introduced at all levels of the education system to ensure students are equipped for the future, and the country remains competitive.
This was revealed today by Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Education Technical and Vocational Training, Santia Bradshaw, as she addressed a press conference held virtually by the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Council, which highlighted the successes of the inaugural WorldSkills Barbados Juniors Future Skills Camp.
The camp, which was hosted from September 6 to 10, targeted students aged 14 to 18.
“No one can deny that today we are competing in an environment where high value is placed on work place competence which leads to economic growth. Such competence must include cutting edge skills and knowledge of the latest techniques. Of such, the Government of Barbados and indeed the Ministry of Education recognises that in order for our people to be competitive in a global workforce, we need to equip our students with these future skills at a young age.
“It is against this backdrop that we have introduced coding and robotics to our teachers across nursery, primary and secondary levels and several of our teachers have already received certifications in VEXX 1 2 3, VEXX IQ and VEXX 5, and are ready to introduce these robots to our students when we return to the face-to-face environment,” explained Minister Bradshaw.
Pointing out that teachers had also undergone training in coding at the Erdiston Teachers’ Training College, she added that some, as part of a pilot phase, had already begun to teach coding to their students, in the online platform.
While also noting that teaching robotics in the face-to-face environment was difficult at this time, the Education Minister said wherever the foundation could be laid for that teaching to be done and there is a return to the face-face environment, teachers would be encouraged to do so.
Ms. Bradshaw stated that as part of Barbados’ drive to promote STEAM education for innovation in the Caribbean, the Education Ministry, through an Inter-American Development Bank grant, would forge linkages with CODE.org, an international non-profit organisation dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools.
She explained: “It is our plan to identify 12 pilot secondary schools and those students will be pulled from the first and second form level for this project, where students and teachers alike will be exposed to different forms of coding. It is my sincere hope that our young people continue to strive for excellence with the help of the TVET Council, and to use this opportunity of participation in the Future Skills Camp to explore further educational opportunities and career possibilities.”
Meanwhile, Executive Director of the TVET Council, Henderson Eastmond, stating that their role was to prepare young people for the world of work, and through skills development, gave the assurance that this would continue.
Acknowledging that the inaugural WorldSkills Barbados Juniors Future Skills Camp helped in achieving this goal, he said while the COVID-19 pandemic forced the postponement of the second biennial WorldSkills Barbados Juniors Competition, the decision to hold the Future Skills Camp “was no longer up for discussion, but was instead immediately actioned”.
He also noted that while COVID had left no industry untouched, before the pandemic, the world was well on its way to an era of rapid advancement and technological innovation.
And, he stressed: “This is why we decided to target students ages 14 to 18 for this year’s camp, because it is during this time that they are preparing for the world of work, and for our young people to be successful in this rapidly changing business environment, they need to be exposed to new and exciting skills for a digital future.
“It is also for this reason why concepts like coding were required in three of the five skill areas offered, because this concept fuels our digital world! Every website, smartphone app, computer programme, calculator, and even microwave rely on a code to function, which is why knowledge of coding and digitalisation is vital for this digital age.”
While adding that this knowledge could no longer be delivered through traditional methods of teaching, but more practical approaches to ensure students gain the requisite competencies, he said feedback from the camp proved that participants were delighted they could apply their knowledge of coding and digitalisation to demonstrate competencies for the future.
Mr. Eastmond further shared that the TVET Council would be expanding the list of skills available for next year’s camp, giving the young people more options.
The camp, which was opened to 100 individuals, saw a total of 99 students successfully registered and representing 23 institutions from across the island. Seventeen were public secondary schools; four were private schools, and two were from tertiary institutions.
Expected to be an annual event, it will be extended to students aged 11 to 13, from next year, “in order to whet their appetite for acquiring digital skills”.