The Minister of Communication, Ursula Owusu Ekuful announced at a ceremony to mark Girls in ICT Day organized in Kumasi last month that government intends to introduce coding into the basic school curriculum. Coding, which can also be referred to as computer programming, will offer children endless possibilities especially as Ghana takes steps to digitize its economy.
Even before this announcement by Hon. Ursula Owusu Ekuful, some private organizations including the Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana (IIPGH) have been running these trainings for kids at their office in East Legon and at the East Airport International School. Currently, the programme is also run at St. Martins de Porres in Dansoman and plans are underway to start the programme outside Accra when schools go on recess.
In spite of the fact that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is taught in schools, most pupils are doing practically nothing with the computer. Adding coding to basic school lessons will ensure that children of school going age will do something practical with the computer. This will help the children to become conversant with the use of a computer and become comfortable at doing practical things on the computer. Since the demand for computer skills will only increase, this will serve as a good foundation for the future.
Also, coding offers the opportunity to communicate ideas in a logical and structured manner. By repeatedly engaging in coding exercises the child learns how to think, troubleshoot and solve problems methodically. Coding in schools can help us change the mindset of the average Ghanaian to one that is focused on problem-solving. Furthermore, it can help teach a competency such as giving attention to details and a virtue such as patience.
Furthermore, coding can unleash the creativity of children and give them the chance to try out new things. With a little program, a young child can tell a story from start to finish. This can teach kids written and oral communication skills, a skill that is required for life irrespective of your chosen profession.
Moreover, coding offers opportunities for creating highly paid jobs. In this fourth revolution, technology is changing our way of life. This brings countless possibilities for people with programming skills. As revenue continue to decrease from our traditional exports such as gold and cocoa, there is the need to develop other sectors of the economy that will absorb the numerous youth who will graduate from our schools, especially with the introduction of Free Senior High School education. Software engineering jobs and opportunities for entrepreneurship will definitely appeal to our future graduates and contribute to a thriving economy long after we have depleted our natural resources.
Despite these benefits, there are a number of challenges that we must overcome as a country before we can successfully introduce coding in our basic schools. Ghana lacks the basic infrastructure to run coding for kids in all our schools. Most schools have no computer labs and most public schools are not even designed to allow their conversion into computer labs. Likewise, the cost of computer is high for most Ghanaians and without owning computers, it will be difficult for school children to practice. Schools in some rural areas also lack the auxiliary infrastructure such as power. Another challenge, though a minor one, is the lack of broadband connectivity in our schools. Programs such as App Inventor may require internet in order to test the applications created by the school children. However, there are alternative programs that can be used offline. Above all, there is the urgent need to train teachers who will teach the pupils since this is a new area for most of them.
To make the introduction of coding in our schools beneficial, the Ghana Education Service must partner organizations such as the Institute of ICT Professionals for the training of tutors and to share lessons learned so far. Additionally, there is the need to make ICT infrastructure available in all schools. If the Ghana Education Service will run these coding classes the same way ICT is learnt on the blackboard in some schools then it will not be useful.
The writer is the Director of Professional Services, Institute of ICT Professionals, Ghana)
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