By Tenzin Lekhden
DHARAMSHALA, March 16: With the growing presence of data-driven technology and digital tools permeating every aspect of our lives, the importance of teaching computer science and coding is no less than what math, physics and engineering were for the second industrial revolution. Despite its growing necessity and relevance, Tibetan schools have failed to adapt their curriculum to the drastic changes in the labor market and have been cautious in their adoption of new teaching methods that make learning fun.
india National Education Policy (PNE) 2020, introduced in the summer of that year, made coding an optional subject from grade 6 in recognition of its growing importance and overall impact on children’s intellectual development. But the same recognition is missing from CTA’s Sherig (Education) department. In conversation with a Sherig officer, they acknowledged the non-existence of any new programs or policies addressing the growing importance of computer and coding education. The only proper coding lesson is limited to students taking science classes after class 10.
Tenzin Chemi, who is currently studying for her master’s degree in computer science and application, told Phayul that “in Tibetan schools, the basics of computer science are only taught in class 11 and 12. But this too is only available. for students choosing science; and among the students who opt for science, only a group of students can pursue the particular subject by taking it as an additional subject alongside the main subjects.
He further expressed his opinion on the importance of integrating coding and basic IT skills saying, “There is a noticeable gap in knowledge compared to Indian students. I discover that they studied certain programming languages in much younger classes, the basics of which we only learn in class 11 and 12.”
Early stage coding or pre-coding has been shown to have a positive impact on children’s intellectual capacity. Coding requires organizing commands or instructions to solve a particular problem or problem sets, which can be done in different ways. This puzzle like nature of coding requires children to think critically and creatively, which is a necessary skill for any other task. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), an organization that promotes high-quality early education for children, on the importance of early coding wrote: “Early coding provides children with an experience that incorporates communication, thinking and problem solving. These are 21st century skills that are invaluable for the future success of children in our digital world.
Tibetan parliament member-in-exile Lobsang Sither, who is cybersecurity expert and one of 32 Wired UK innovators building a better future, “Integrating IT courses that includes programming/coding to a Early age is important for the overall educational growth of a child and should be embraced in Tibetan schools.There are several models to follow, such as the various Code Camps for children held around the world or even throwing a take a look at the educational programming learning system implemented at the TCV Day School in McLeod Ganj.
He also stressed the importance of creating and maintaining an inclusive environment for everyone involved in integrating technology and educational tools. He said: “However, it should be noted that integration must involve everyone in the process, namely parents, teachers, students and technology as equal actors because for the overall development of a child, each actor plays an important role”.
But a large and important group of students often feel left out as an “equal stakeholder”. Female students often feel that computer education and technology is for boys and that those getting into computer science have to navigate a male-dominated field of interest, which can often feel overwhelming.
Unlike the positive trend in Computer Science Education in India, which reflects an egalitarian field in terms of gender equality, Chemi Dolkar, Masters student in Computer Science, on gender equality in computer science and education in general in Tibetan schools, said: “The ratio of interest between boys and girls still have a big gap. When I was in school, there were only four girls taking computer science as a subject, compared to 27 boys.
But this gap is not self-inflicted, it is the result of years of sedimentation of stereotypes and the predominant geek culture in computer science. Chemi Dolkar on gender disparity, told Phayul, “I think the main reason why Tibetan girls are not interested in IT is lack of inspiration. My friends have a preconceived idea that learning computers is difficult and reserved for boys.
Another reason is the lack of resources. In my day, I didn’t know that there were teachers in Tibetan schools who had computer expertise. Although lack of resources does not justify girls’ lack of involvement in IT, it is one of the factors.
For everyone to be an equal player, it is not enough to provide the necessary infrastructure but to create an encouraging environment for an individual to succeed. Amartya Sen, an economist and Nobel laureate, devised a theoretical approach known as the capability approach, which has been used in various philosophies of education. the method is an approach to human well-being that focuses on people’s actual ability to achieve their well-being rather than their mere right or freedom to do so. Capacity, in Sen’s context, includes the ability, both economic and social, to do and be the things they choose.
“Access to internet/technology is essential, but it is also important to understand that access alone is not enough. It’s about having tools, resources and support that will allow students to maximize the effective use of the internet/technology,” Mr. Sither told Phayul.
Sherig’s absence of a new policy regarding computer and technology education is not only a bet on the quality of education that Tibetan children are subjected to, but could possibly act as a barrier to social mobility. The worst will exacerbate the already existing gender and class disparity in IT. It is high time to update the software.