Saturday, 24 May 2014 00:00

Educating and affecting our next leaders

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What bothers me the most and keeps me up at night, is how we can make a positive impact and make rights out of the wrongs we have in our country. For you that don't know me, I'm a doer. I never sit down discussing about the possible impact something would make, but rather, roll up my sleeves and get cracking on it, gather results, learn and if feasible continue doing. This is how we all work at the Cypriot Enterprise Link.


You may have heard about hack{cyprus} Code School. This is an initiative that came out of our willingness to positively impact the youth, our next leaders. This is an initiative with the aim to get students more acquainted with technology, show them that coding is fun and also introduce them to the amazing world of engineering through robotics. We just do it to show those kids that there are other exciting options for studying than just the classic subjects that they are currently being taught at school. Studies show that most of the jobs with the highest expected demand in the coming years will be around the area of software development or engineering.

Source: Occupational employment projections to 2020

Taking as an example a student who loves maths. When this student asks for guidance on what she should study and what fields she could possibly focus on, the classic example that will come out of a career counselor's mouth is... Wait for it.... A MATHS TEACHER!! Yes what an amazing response! No one expected it! If this student knew though that her love in maths could make her an amazing programmer, an algorithms specialist or a researcher (and the list goes on...) she could make a decision that could change her life for ever. You never get bored when you do something that you love and you always want to give more. So our point with the Code School is that we are trying to show those students some other exciting things they could do with their lifes, that possibly they didn't even know existed.

One amazing fact that blew my mind was that when we announced the first such Code School at English School Nicosia, we had 50 spots available and students could register for free. There was so much demand that within the first 3 minutes that registrations were available, we ran out of spots! Within the first hour we had a wait-list of 64 students wanting to attend the event! This only proves the fact that students want to learn and they want to learn something that excites them, something that's out of the ordinary school curriculum. The only way we could tackle this very welcome problem was to try and have a second event. We managed to make arrangements with our sponsorship money, moved things around, got approval from the school and managed to organise another event to cater for at least another 50 students.

So now instead of proving a concept with 50 students, we already had 2 events to do and we had 100 students waiting for this to happen. The day for the first Code School comes. Excitement, willingness to learn and many smiles flooded the Lloyd's building. I've never seen such excitement to learn. Maybe it was that they had the chance to use and play with Engino robots, maybe it was the fact that they got to learn basic programming having teachers like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, or just because it was something different. At the end of the day, everybody was happy and they left with some great new knowledge.

We got some great knowledge too. One thing that struck me the most, being a judge for the robotics challenges, is that I haven't seen a single solution that was the same as any other team's! Why is this important? That tells me that our students have so much creativity in them that they can make wonders. Just don't make them think inside the box. Unfortunately with the current education system, most of this creativity goes to waste, because they are trying to make them think the same way. I'm all in for standardisation, but we should look into the models of other countries, such as Denmark, Sweden or Norway, who tackle this problem very well. (I know I'm not an expert in the subject. All I'm saying comes from being a mere observer and being willing to change things)

At the end of the day, all that matters is that we got the chance to show this exciting world of computing and engineering to some students and may have caused a positive impact on some people's lives and their future plans.

The most amazing part of all though is that more than 50% of the work needed to be done to organise these events, was done by 6 volunteer students from English School along with their lead teacher. They got to prepare the promotional material, they managed all their tasks initially with their own project manager, they were responsible for managing the social media and even building some of the challenges! The lesson learnt? Give these students the freedom to create, don't put them into boxes, just give them some proper steering. They will make wonders! They will be great professionals. These are some amazing leaders in the making!

To finalise this long post, I am glad I am part of this initiative and I will make sure more students get the chance to live this experience. For now the outcome was that English School was very positive from these events and they want to repeat it every year. Also we have many other private schools who got in touch and want to have a Code School there, coming the new academic season. Last but not least, the Ministry of Education and Culture is willing to start including Code Schools as an extra curriculum activity and we will be going into a discussion with them very soon!

This is what you get when you roll your sleeves and start doing. That's why I'm glad to be part of this amazing initiative and in general, part of the Cypriot Enterprise Link. This is how you can make a difference and help make the next great leaders of this country. Let's get out there educate them and enable them any way we can.


Till the next one...

Read 17491 times Last modified on Saturday, 06 September 2014 16:16