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Taking computer coding to school kids

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MindChamp hopes to inculcate logical reasoning among children through its fun-based activities

In 2014, soon after completing her undergraduation in Information Technology from St. Xavier’s, Mumbai, Sneha Krishnan landed a job with an education company.

If there was one thing that bothered her, it was that coding education was being given the short shrift here unlike in the rest of the world, where it is pursued aggressively at the school-level. This is ironic, given that India has a huge need for technical expertise: As per the National Employability Report, 2014, out of the six lakh engineers that graduate annually, only 18.43% are employable for the software engineer-IT services role.

“National boards do not have a prescribed curriculum for Computer Science till Class VIII. Most programming at the school-level is taught through a programming language and not the logical concepts.” Like with other streams of education, here too, children simply memorise codes to get marks in the examination but that does not contribute towards skill-building, she says.

Ms. Krishnan, who had designed learning modules for a US-based education company, decided to fill this gap and started experimenting with a fun, activity-based, after-school curriculum with a few school children and they loved it. While working with them she also came across women who had the requisite qualifications in computer science but were not a part of the workforce owing to domestic reasons. “I decided to educate children in computer coding through women-led, home-based micro franchises,” she says.

Taking computer coding to school kids

Manasi Kashikar, an Information Technology engineer with Infosys Ltd., came across Ms. Krishnan’s post seeking applications from women interested in home-based teaching opportunities on a Facebook group. She could instantly relate to both the problems Ms Krishnan was trying to tackle: coding education and work-life balance in technology jobs. There was an immediate connect and together, they launched ‘MindChamp Teaching Solutions’ in 2016 to enable and empower the next generation of coders.

The curriculum

“At the core of coding is logic, just like the basis of language is grammar. We wanted kids to enjoy the process of learning,” says Ms. Kashikar. It was a challenge to design activities for every concept in a way that the child found engaging, stimulating and fun. They developed three courses, My First Animated Story, My First Game and My First Website, and paid pilots were launched between December 2016 and May 2017. “As the programmes have been designed by both of us and the classes are conducted at home, the investment was very less (around Rs. 10,000),” she says.

MindChamp uses a popular approach called block-based coding, where the students (Class I to VIII) apply the knowledge they acquire through fun-based activities and are encouraged to reason out their steps and suggest alternate solutions at every step. “All courses have tangible outcomes. Students create their own game/website in every course and are equipped with the skill and knowledge of platforms to continue doing so post the course as well,” says Chidambara Singh, an educator, who runs a franchise at Chandivali.

MindChamp encourages women (undergraduates in IT/Computer Science) to start micro franchises. After the candidates are screened andtaken on, they go through a two-to-three-hour training that gives them the skills and tools to carry out the classes. They are also given the option of taking help and support from MindChamp.

MindChamp also provides the partners with marketing creatives and other tools. Once a student signs up for a course, they are made to take an online pre-assessment. Post this, the students engage with the partner over the period of the course which lasts from 8-10 sessions of 1.5 to two hours each, depending on the topic. A typical course aims to aid learning of Computer Science concepts and implementation and is carried out through games and other interactive activities. Activity and practice booklets are also provided. At the end of the course, the students are made to take an assessment to gauge the impact on their logical reasoning capabilities.

Avinash Jhangiani, whose son Rihaan (9) has taken the MindChamp courses twice in the past year, says, “Rihaan was able to learn concepts such as loops and if-then-else statements that inherently taught him to build and improve his logical thinking and problem-solving skills. More importantly, he was asked to develop a game which meant that he had to learn not just coding but also how to create and tell engaging stories.”

Revenue generation

The micro-franchise model facilitates two revenue streams: franchise cost from the educator and percentage of fees. “An educator pays a one-time fee (varies on the programme chosen from Rs. 6,000 to Rs. 10,000) to MindChamp and once a franchise is started, MindChamp shares a percentage of the fees charged to every student (varies from 50% to 60%),” says Ms. Krishnan.

Currently, there are 10 micro franchises and four activity-based centres across Mumbai catering to more than 120 students. Ms. Kashikar says the aim is to have a presence and brand recognition in cities like Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai andGurugram. “Tier II cities also have a substantial number of women who have the required educational qualifications but are not a part of the workforce owing to domestic reasons. MindChamp wants to establish its presence in these cities next.”

Eventually, the idea is to skill students, says Ms. Krishnan. “No matter which region of the country a student is in, whether he or she goes to an international school or a government-run one, the knowledge of technology is imperative to manoeuvre the world a decade from now.”

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Printable version | Dec 16, 2019 6:17:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/taking-computer-coding-to-school-kids/article22682479.ece

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