On Friday, the Prime Minister Andrew Holness officially launched the National Coding in Schools Programme. It will benefit 400,000 students.

The programme will be suitable for students from grades one to 13 and almost 15,000 teachers in public schools across Jamaica will be also involved.

The programme was launched by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information on May 7, through a partnership with a software firm called Amber Innovations Group Limited.

The pilot programme was operated in about 20 schools where almost 2,000 students from grade four and grade nine were involved. For this complete rollout, Digicel, which is a telecommunications company, started a partnership with the Amber Group in order to co-sponsor the programme. During the virtual event, Holness said:

“Through the Coding in Schools Programme, (students) will acquire basic numeracy, language, and problem-solving skills, which are the prerequisites for coding. Too many of our students are leaving school without these basic functional skills.”

In his opinion there is a real hunger for coders as Jamaica seeks to become a digital society and quickly adapt to using technology in order to bring services to the population through virtual platforms.

“It takes coders to design the business processes, to deliver the services, to write the language…the algorithms, to instruct the machines to carry out the processes and that takes a special skill…that is not widely available here. But we are developing that skill, and the more of that skill that we develop, it’s the quicker we will be able to move to a digital society. Jamaica already has the building blocks to become the Silicon Valley of the region, such as proximity to the largest markets in the world. We have a creative, imaginative and young population and we now need to turn this into an asset. We need…the coders – they are the builders of the digital society,” he stressed.

In the Prime Minister’s opinion coding will give many opportunities to the children when it comes to information technology. Moreover, he thinks that they will learn how to problem-solve and how to think rationally. He also noted:

“These abilities, when developed at an early stage, will enable students to be more productive in the workforce and in their future careers.”

Holness revealed that he is pleased because the Amber Group will provide professional coders for children who will  educate them technically proficient. The Prime Minister also noted:

“The programme aims to educate more than 15,000 teachers at the primary and secondary levels. I encourage our teachers to embrace this. It is part of our transitioning into the fourth industrial revolution. Your jobs will be transformed in this way, and I urge you to take advantage of this opportunity in expanding your skill base.”

The Prime Minister rolled out the Coding Academy in January 2021, with a five-year goal of training 20,000 Jamaicans in software development to become software producers.

Housed at the Stony Hill HEART Academy in St Andrew, the establishment of the coding academy was facilitated through a partnership among Amber Group, the HEART Trust/NSTA, the Housing Opportunity Production and Employment (HOPE) Programme and the Art of Living Foundation.

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