Technology is taking over the world and who better to harness and map it other than students — our future generation — by learning to code from young.
From apps for young students to learn about Malaysia’s National Day, to apps that run the school’s schedules and class information to make students’ and teachers’ lives easier, there was no shortage of good ideas from the batch of students who attended the Coding@Schools Central Region Hackathon at the Ministry of Finance building in Putrajaya recently in September 2017.
During the two-day Hackathon, students learnt to build their own apps using LiveCode — an easy programming platform for those who want to make their own apps.
At the end of the programme, two top teams from the lower secondary category and one top team from the primary school category were selected to participate in the National Code Challenge in November 2017 which will bring together top teams from other regions and Coding@Schools initiatives.
SK Tun Hussein Onn, Cheras, SMK Seri Indah, Seri Kembangan and SMK Sultan Abdul Samad, Petaling Jaya emerged tops beating other teams from 15 secondary schools and 8 primary schools in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Negeri Sembilan.
SMK Seri Indah advisory teacher, Mazaida Ali said: “These Form 1 students are fast learners. Once they understood what they had to do, they set about developing their app with enthusiasm.”
Mazaida, who was trained in Computer Science, felt that the programme is a good platform to encourage school students to apply technology in their daily lives at school.
Her team from SMK Seri Indah built a user-friendly app to teach students about historical places in Malaysia called TouristGo. They got the idea from the national school history syllabus for Form 1 students and did it because they felt it would greatly benefit students in schools as well as people who visit Malaysia.
The teacher accompanying the top team in the primary school category, SK Tun Hussein Onn, Muslim Hj Tamsir said: “Coding is not just for adults.”
“In fact, the younger the students, the faster they seem to be able to grasp the programming concepts and knowledge taught,” he added.
Muslim had earlier familiarised himself on how to use the LiveCode for two days and gave the students a one-day training class prior to their participation in the Hackathon.
When it was time to develop the app, Muslim sat together with his students to guide and steer them in the right direction. However, the students came up with the idea for the app themselves as they felt it would be helpful to have one that teaches about the themes and logos for Malaysia’s National Day celebrations from 1975 till today. Suffice to say, the students had to do a lot of research and they managed to find all the information they needed to put into the app.
Muslim himself is no stranger to student coding challenges. In 2015, he and his year 6 team of students emerged winners at the 2015 Asian Cyberlink Camp in Bandung, Indonesia for their app.
When asked if he will continue teaching students coding at school, Muslim said: “We have a computer club at school with a total of 60 functional computers and netbooks. And with a good and reliable new YTL network access, we can definitely continue and add on to what the students have learnt here.”
The Coding@Schools programme is aimed at getting primary students to learn the basic and fundamental principles of coding in a practical and fun way. The initiative which comes under the National Blue Ocean Strategy (NBOS), is designed and coordinated by the National Strategy Unit, Ministry of Finance in cooperation with the Education Ministry.
Announced in the 2016 national budget by the prime minister under the area of ‘Accelerating Innovation and Entrepreneurship’, the pilot programme was carried out in the very same year by StartupMalaysia.org to reach 3,000 primary school children from 100 schools nationwide.
This year Coding@School is targeting 6,000 students primarily from rural schools while expanding its rollout and reach via three main initiatives; Immersion Camps, Alumni Bootcamps and Hackathons.
The Alumni Bootcamp will be held in 30 schools with a total participation of 900 students, and is mainly targeted at active schools that participated in the 2016 Coding@Schools pilot programme. The students will now move on to using HTML5, CSS3 and jQuery Mobile to create website apps in a three-day coding bootcamp conducted in their respective school labs.
The hackathons are targeted at schools in more urban areas and involve lower secondary students in addition to primary students. Six regional hackathons have been planned for this year to reach 1,500 students. Over two days at each hackathon, 250 participants will learn to build their own apps using LiveCode.
Speaking at the closing of the programme, Ministry of Finance’s secretary general of Treasury, Tan Sri Dr Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah said: “The government’s intention is to democratise innovation to equip these students with the necessary skill sets to enable them to become individuals who will define the future of this nation.”
“We want to create a community of young coders — those who can work with computers and robots of the future. For this to happen, young people’s creative powers need to be unlocked. They should be encouraged to learn programming and coding to equip themselves with the skills for the future,” he said.
The culmination of the various Coding@Schools initiatives is the National Code Challenge where the best teams from each initiative (Immersion, Alumni and Hackathon) will compete over a period of three days in November this year, undertaking various coding challenges.
At the closing ceremony, Tan Sri also launched the Coding@School Portal for participants of the programme to utilise as a learning platform when they return to school. The portal also acts as a monitoring tool to track students’ progress and as a reporting tool for stakeholders of the initiative.
Also present at the event were director of the National Strategy Unit, Ministry of Finance, Datuk Dr Aminuddin Hassim and Datuk Sulaiman Wak, Education Ministry’s deputy director general.