Minister of Education, Santia Bradshaw (left), operates a teleoperated robot while Principal (ag) at the Erdiston Teachers’ Training College, Dr. Ramona Archer-Bradshaw (centre) and Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Senator Dr. Romel Springer (right) and other Ministry officials look on. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Santia Bradshaw, has announced her Ministry will be introducing a robotics and coding programme within schools at the start of the upcoming academic year.

She made the announcement at a press briefing to mark the arrival of the first set of robotics kits to be used in this programme.  It was held this morning at her Ministry’s office at Elsie Payne Complex, Constitution Road, St. Michael.

Minister Bradshaw said it was part of Government’s thrust to reform the education system into one that provides children with the foundation to better function in a technology-driven world.

“Why robotics?  The world as we know it is changing…. According to the 2016 Future of Jobs Report by the World Economic Forum, approximately 65 per cent of who enter school in that year will work in jobs which do not currently exist. These jobs will be based on and enhanced by the use of technology.

“If our students are to be competent and assist Barbados in regaining a sustainable economic development path, it is imperative that the education system prepare them to not only manipulate and utilise the technology, but more importantly, participate in its development.”

The Education Minister stated that Government believes students would greatly benefit from this programme, in that robotics and coding help to improve their vision of science, mathematics and engineering, problem-solving skills, and promote innovation, among other things.

Ms. Bradshaw said the programme “will be implemented by formalising timetable contact hours for [the] early developmental stage and through extra-curricular clubs”, as a means of ensuring that all children have access to the lessons.

She revealed that the Ministry was in “the final stages” of developing a draft curriculum for students aged seven to 14 in this subject area. However, she noted they were still welcoming stakeholder input, including that of parents and students.

“We’re also aligning the upper secondary curriculum with the national objectives, and discussions are presently ongoing with CXC, and TVET … to identify and procure any additional resources at the schools to support the curriculum,” the Minister added.

With regard to the 1,128 robotics kits procured, Ms. Bradshaw explained that they were “initially part of a pilot project, which was led by the Ministry of Education, in conjunction with the Erdiston Teachers’ Training College, which would have resulted in over 140 teachers being trained, and 2,602 students, across 50 schools at the nursery, primary and secondary levels, participating in robotics training at their respective schools”.

The Education Minister continued: “With additional resources becoming available at the end of the last financial year at the end of March, the Cabinet of Barbados agreed to the procurement of an additional 4,785 kits, and a further allocation of BDS$1.6 million. This would allow to now increase the number of students and teachers who could participate in the programme for the start of the September term, which would allow us to have 16, 508 students being able to have access to these kits.

“The total investment in this project to date is BDS$2.7 million, and Government remains committed, funds permitting, to the expansion of the programme to all schools over the course of the next few months.”

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