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26 April 2018

Advancing Computing Education in Guyana

Sue Sentance, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science Education, blogs about her visit to Guyana earlier this month to participate in their Advancing Computing Education.

Department of Computer Science, Guyana
Department of Computer Science, Guyana

Sue Sentance, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science Education, visited Guyana in April 2018 to participate in their Advancing Computing Education week. Here she writes about her experience. 

I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Guyana this month for a week and spend some time with colleagues in the Department of Computer Science during their Advancing Computing Education week, set up and organised by Len Singh, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science.

Guyana is a small country (size of UK) in the north of South America bordering Venezuela, Brazil and Suriname. However in many ways it associates itself with the Caribbean – for example, students take Caribbean GCSEs – called the CSEC.  In terms of computing in school, students can take the CSEC in IT, similar to the old UK GCSE in ICT.

After a quick appearance on live TV talking about the Advancing Computing Education initiative we ran two student workshops focusing on the Micro:bit – the first with some fourth formers at Bishops High School (14-15 years) and the second with some first formers at Queens College (11-12 years). The team work was amazing as the volunteers got very good at flashing the micro:bits in record time when we negotiated different working environments for each of the workshops we delivered.

I delivered a keynote public lecture in the town theatre after some presentations from key stakeholders in the field.  When the power went out after 10 minutes, there was a short pause (little outages are common), but when it turned out that the whole of Georgetown was in blackout the show went on in complete darkness save for some mobile phone torchlights. Overall I had the sense that there is a lot of enthusiasm across industry and academia for developing IT and computing skills and supporting teachers.

On Friday a forum on gender in computing was held at which I also spoke as a panel member but my contribution was possibly the least important. The panel consisted of high profile speakers from Guyana and Caricom(the Caribbean equivalent of the EU) and important issues were debated around the provision of ICT in developing countries such as Guyana, in particular relating to the issue of gender, but also around the many challenges facing a country where even electricity and internet access cannot be guaranteed. 

This was a really rewarding experience for me, and I know the collaboration between King’s College London and the University of Guyana will continue. I learned such a lot about the issues facing countries like Guyana when it comes to trying to equip young people with digital skills. Despite obvious challenges, everybody I met was hugely enthusiastic about the Advancing Computing Education Week and following this up with more support for IT teachers and students. 

My visit was made possible with the support of the King’s Worldwide Fund. Micro:bits for Guyana were donated by Premier Farnell and more were loaned from the Microbit Foundation. At the Guyanese end sponsors came forward from the Ministry of Public Telecommunications and telecommunications companies for all refreshments. The feeling of the team was that this week of events, spanning students, teachers and policy makers, was very successful in highlighting the importance of this topic. 

Read the full blog.