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Coding Is For All: How This Project Plans To Teach Computer Programming To Underprivileged Kids In Bangladesh

When “Code.org” started teaching children of minorities and women coding in American, it was surprising due to the fact that top echelon computing companies are based in the US but schools, in most parts, were missing in valuable computing knowledge for their future and this was and is more so for minorities and women. The purpose is to ensure access to computer science, and increasing participation by women and underrepresented students of color since, as many believe, coding is the future of education and should be part of core curriculum. This in an interesting take and several researches suggest that, coding and similar technical skills provide better employment opportunities.

'Kids Go Coding, a project that aims to empower underprivileged children with the knowledge of computer programming, is trying to do the exact thing in Bangladeshi context: teaching underprivileged children coding as a career building skill.

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The Program 

Kid Go Coding started in 2014. The program originally came out of a competition arranged by Microsoft Bangladesh and World Bank where the project was submitted by Better Stories Limited and secured the 1st position. A US$ 10,000 was awarded which led to implementation of the project in May 2015.

Founded by Better Stories Limited with the support from Microsoft Bangladesh and World Bank, the program is currently teaching around 100 students aged between 10 to 13 years from 2 non-profit schools, Jaago Foundation and Shohag Swapnodhora Pathshala, based in Rayer Bazar and Mirpur in the capital. The classes are run for free of cost and most of the students are underprivileged kids.

At I write this report, the initiative has around eight trainers. Most of these trainers are students who are either studying engineering course in universities or have already graduated. The program is seamlessly integrated with the regular school program so that is does not disrupt learning process. Trainers used to teach coding in between classes as part of their ongoing curriculum. 

As a project funded by Microsoft Bangladesh and World Bank, Kids Go Coding gets valuable mentoring and advisory support from the both organizations. Microsoft often provides training for the trainers and the other partners such as Aamra and Fusion also provide insights for designing and delivering a better program. 

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Kids Go Coding
Kids Go Coding

Curriculum and the School: Insight into Coding for Children

As an alternative course from traditional education provided to children in Bangladesh, gauging their pre-existing skills is at the utmost importance. As a crucial step for successful implementation, Kids go Coding runs a gauging test on the children to adapt their curriculum accordingly. As underprivileged kids often do not have access to a computer, a basic computing class has to be run to get them accustomed to basic computing skills needed for coding.

The children are taught a elementary coding language known as Microsoft Small Basic which is specifically designed for children to get accustomed to coding. This helps them to brush their basics in coding before moving on to widely used coding languages. The curriculum, jointly developed by Microsoft and Dimik Computing, helped this young initiative gain exceptional insight into teaching children computing and coding. This also provides the children to grow habituated to future courses as the learning process of coding is quite a unique niche and is very different from traditional education.

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Kids Go Coding: Into The Future

As Kids Go Coding advances forward, the program's plan to expand in the future is an ambitious one. The team is working hard to ensure that students learn a workable coding skill. Those who excel in existing curriculum would eventually get placements into local software companies in the form of internships which would increase their future employability.

They also have plans to expand in the suburbs of Dhaka city by 2016 and outside of Dhaka by 2017 which shows they have long term vision ahead of them. The program also argues for their courses to be integrated within the national curriculum in the long run which would make it possible for kids around the nation to learn coding early on and boost a generation into successful computing literacy, employability and beyond.

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Kids Go Coding

Looking Beyond The Horizon 

Most of the students who are learning coding here don't have computers in their household which makes it difficult for them to continue learning after school hour and also pose a threat to the ultimate outcome of the program. If things go wrong, there is a very good chance of happening so, many of these students would not be able to continue their journey in the world of coding and would eventually forget what they are learning here and would follow the conventional career path. 

To tackle this challenge, Kids Go Coding in turn is launching a campaign called “Our Children, Out Future” on the 5th of March which is aimed at solving that problem. The campaign is targeted to raise both financial and logistical support from people (including computers, laptops and tabs) to be presented to the underprivileged children who were taught coding under the project. It will continue until 15th of April, 2016 running both online and offline. The campaign aims to reach both government and the private sector from national, international and multinational arena.

Kids Go Coding will celebrate the completion of its 1st year in April 2016. The second year will focus on specific coding languages that will build students as website developer or app developer. It will manage internships for the successful graduates of the course by involving them in different software organizations where they will be able to implement their knowledge practically. 

As Khan Academy’s Salman Khan said “To prepare humanity for the next 100 years, we need more of our children to learn computer programming skills, regardless of their future profession. Along with reading and writing, the ability to program is going to define what an educated person is”. This shows how crucial coding skill will become in the future and the future generation of Bangladesh needs to be ready to adapt to that reality. Kids Go Coding is helping us to prepare for that future. 

Samiul Alam is a recent graduate of International Studies from Monash University, divulging into various global issues pertaining to international politics, economic and social issues. Recently getting into the startup culture in Bangladesh and how it is developing from an insider’s perspective. An avid collector of graphic novels, fantasy coins and EDC gadgets, Samiul works as an Editorial Assistant at Future Startup.

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