The Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) and Google Inc. are announcing a large scale strategic programme to enable more than a quarter million public and private school students across the Emirate of Abu Dhabi to learn computer programming skills, combined with training and capacity building for all Abu Dhabi ICT teachers and afterschool coding clubs.
Present at the event yesterday was Dr. Ahmed Mubarak Al Mazrouei, Secretary-General of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council; Dr. Mugheer Al Khaiili, Chairman of Health Authority-Abu Dhabi and member of the Executive Council who inaugurated the event; Saeed Eid Al Ghafli. Chairman of Department of Municipal Affairs and member of the Executive Council; Rashed Lahej Al Mansoori, Director General of the Abu Dhabi Systems & Information Centre (ADSIC); Aref Al Awani, General Secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and Mohamad Mourad, Regional Director for Google MENA alongside important dignitaries from both ADEC and Google.
The Google-created programme is called Computer Science (CS) First and targets the youth, often with no background in coding. The programme was initially offered to 30,000 students on September 2015 in grades 4, 5 and 9 across public schools, and will be offered to the rest of the public and private school students in other grades within the two years.
The intensive course will be embedded in the classroom equipping students with the basics of "Scratch", a student-friendly programming language that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed. By learning to programme with Scratch, students will learn to think productively, work collaboratively, and reason systematically.
These skills contribute to developing learners and knowledge creators across platforms, a key long-term growth engine expanding Abu Dhabi's internet ecosystem, while building a future talent pool to drive Abu Dhabi's innovative development.
"ADEC's strategic collaboration with one of the world's leading technology companies, Google, is part of delivering one of ADEC's major innovation ecosystem initiatives ‘Programming for Life' which coincides with the Council's desire to offer quality education to students in all schools in Abu Dhabi. Both public and private school students are being offered the opportunity to learn one of the world's newest and most important innovation skills – computer programming. This will not only enhance their exploration and creativity skills, but will also provide endless opportunities to question, explore and re-explore," said Dr. Al Khaiili.
Mohamad Mourad, Regional Director for Google MENA said, "Coding skills and computer science are at the very core of Google. They are a gateway to innovation in numerous fields from architecture to zoology, from medicine to the music industry. Computer programming has become a realm for creativity and innovative ideas. We believe that the UAE youth can be a part of this."
Rashid Lahej Al Mansoori, Director General at ADSIC said, "We are very pleased to be part of this impactful educational initiative and a key component in its implementation in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Education Council, in our capacity as the Government entity responsible for the UAE capital's ICT agenda and e-transformation efforts. ADSIC continually seeks to reinforce its active role in developing the skill sets of Emirati youth by providing them with effective knowledge and learning opportunities that would enable them to enter the ICT job market and boost their competitive advantage, based on world-class education levels and best practices."
Al Manssori added, "In recent years, ADSIC has successfully managed to reach various segments of Abu Dhabi's society through the Centre's carefully designed programmes such as e-citizen, which aims to decrease the digital divide and spread a modern e-lifestyle in line with the nature of life in the 21st century, and we believe that our role in this important educational programme will visibly support these efforts."
The CS First programme has been offered to thousands of students across the world; however this is the first time a whole city participates in such an initiative. This worldwide interest proves the importance of offering programming as an academic subject.
Dr. Al Khaiili added, "Google's CS First programme will empower Abu Dhabi youth to adapt to new thinking and learning methods, while acquiring critical analysis and reasoning skills. These are essential tools to prepare our students for the world of knowledge creation."
In planning for this program, ADEC and Google co-led and delivered a mass capacity-building training programme for all Abu Dhabi ICT public school teachers in August 2015, training and certifying them on the CS First program. The training produced by Google experts is a step-change in enhancing Abu Dhabi's ICT teacher workforce via modern computer programming skills. The training programme will be offered to ICT teachers across private schools.
Coding is an important vehicle for teaching design thinking, an essential component for innovation. The initiative will enable students to learn how to develop apps for mobile platforms – apps which can serve society in all fields from health care to transportation. These skills that the students are receiving through this programme are the kind of skills that enable an innovation driven knowledge producing society.
Google's MENA Regional Director said, "Coding is becoming an essential skill, just like reading, writing, and math. The upcoming generation of Abu Dhabi youth have become digital natives. We want to equip them with the skills to become the future knowledge creators of tomorrow's Internet ecosystem. "
Earlier this year, ADEC and Google piloted the CS First programme in three Abu Dhabi public schools. In a report prepared by Google after the pilot, 85 percent of teachers involved said Google's CS First programme helped engage pupils in those three schools while 100 percent recommended more students enrol in the program. Both ADEC and Google are keenly aware of the need to equip students with 21st century skills, thus building a future talent pool for Abu Dhabi's innovative development. Over a quarter million students across all schools are intended to embark on this programme.
"Our students are required to gain a deeper understanding of the fundamentals of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), which will not only lead to more interest towards that field, but will help enhance the fundamental skills of logic, computational thinking, together with problem solving skills, which are all beneficial for our youth," said Dr. Al Khaiili.
Up to 100,000 Emirati students in public schools and 57,000 Emirati students in private schools will undergo the CS First programme. "Our youth are expected to take part in competitive and challenging tasks in the future, and that requires knowledge and tech-based learning skills. Interactive programmes such as this one are key to preparing students to enter the modern workforce and play their part in the development of our beloved nation. ADEC will continue to work hand-in-hand with industry leaders to offer its students some of the best opportunities that are out there," concluded Dr. Al Khaiili.