Amber Group invests $150 million a year to fund coding in schools

Students enrolled in all Jamaican schools will now be story makers, as Amber Group and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MOEYI) prepare to roll out the National Coding Curriculum, the first of its kind in the Caribbean.

The announcement was made last Friday during an official launch of the scheme by Minister for Education, Youth and Information Fayval Williams.

This rollout of the program follows a three-month Coding in Schools pilot program, between April and June this year. The program engaged 2,000 students in grades 4 and 9 in 20 schools on the island who learned the coding fundamentals from Amber Group’s master coders.

“Amber spent a year developing this intensive coding program in consultation with MOEYI and other international subject matter experts. Our post-program evaluation confirmed that over 85% of students who participated found the pilot program very informative and useful for developing their coding knowledge. Students enjoyed working on basic coding concepts, which enhanced their creativity and problem-solving skills, and helped them to think more critically,” said Michael McNaughton, Managing Director of Amber Group, in his remarks at the launch event.

In his opening address, Prime Minister Andrew Holness thanked the Amber Group for its efforts to support MOEYI’s push for greater technological instruction while building its capacity.

Holness also stressed the importance of preparing students for new and emerging jobs and transforming Jamaica into a digital society. “As a country, we need to accelerate our investments in the jobs markets of tomorrow, to get our fair share of these new jobs in the digital economy.”

“More and more aspects of our daily lives are becoming automated. As this happens, the supply gap for people with tech skills will continue to widen. It is estimated that 10 million jobs will go unfilled over the next decade because workers lack the necessary skills, especially in coding… The more we develop these skills, the faster we are able to transition to a digital society,” he said. added.

Students will begin learning to code early next year, while teachers will be engaged in the Amber Group’s “train the trainer” project, to ensure the sustainability of the program.

Thanks to this project, thousands of teachers from first to ninth grade on the island will be able to teach coding lessons. Participating teachers will have access to textbooks, curriculum, and a live help desk from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. This support desk is accessible during teaching in classrooms, with additional support sessions outside of teaching hours.

For the program’s first year, Digicel Jamaica has partnered with Amber Group with cash support of approximately $27 million. The telecommunications giant has also pledged to offer paid internships to the best students in the country at the end of the school year.

Older students in grades 10-13 will participate in two-hour sessions each week with master coders from the Amber Group, learning advanced computer languages. To support their formal instruction, they will have access to interactive e-learning applications to practice their new skills.

At the end of grades 11 and 13, students will receive NCTVET certificates through HEART/NSTA Trust and have accelerated access to Amber HEART Academy.

Minister for Education, Youth and Information, Fayval Williams, said in her address that working with Amber Group and Digicel has enabled the government to start bridging this gap and achieve a level of much higher employment, productivity and prosperity through improved technical skills.

Education Minister Fayval Williams

“We recognize, like most education administrations around the world, that rapid technological advancements are changing the way we live, work and play. As such, we have a responsibility to prepare our students for an increasingly complex, interconnected and technology-driven world. We seek to leverage existing efforts to help them be nimble and ready for contemporary and emerging jobs, regardless of their backgrounds and starting points in life,” she said.

“The launch of the Amber-MOEYI coding program in schools comes at the right time for the technology revolution taking place globally. Learning to code will not only provide our students with a new skill, but will allow them to learn critical thinking, problem solving and build confidence. This investment from Amber and our partner Digicel will be felt for generations to come,” said McNaughton.

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