A small nonprofit K-to-12 school for students from low-income families has teamed up with an information technology advocate to impart IT skills to students at an early age.
Mano Amiga Academy has collaborated with Developers Connect Philippines (DevCon) to pilot a program, called DevCon Kids, that seeks to impart tech skills and “life-proof” young students.
The academy, which opened in the Philippines in 2008 in Taguig City and now runs a campus in Parañaque City, offers international quality education to help marginalized youth cope with and even become globally competitive in today’s digital environment.
DevCon, meanwhile, is dedicated to promoting information technology in the country by bringing tech professionals together to actively provide digital opportunities to more Filipinos.
Mano Amiga Academy’s teaching philosophy includes project-based learning (PBL), a method that develops critical thinking, communication, and collaboration in students, as they work together to solve the problems that are relevant to their communities.
“PBL is just one of the many means by which we are life-proofing our students so that they are equipped to deal with real problems,” said Lynn Pinugu, executive director and founder of Mano Amiga.
“Nevertheless, bridging technological gaps still requires external support. For instance, our school still lacks a computer laboratory, a stable internet connection, and other tech tools,” she added.
In spite of these limitations, Mano Amiga Academy decided to team up with DevCon for the program that led to the formation of a DevCon Club, which now counts 30 members selected from grades seven to nine who possess a certain level of aptitude and knowledge in science and math.
Every week, DevCon Kids mentors discuss lessons, such as coding and design thinking, specifically developed for the program.
One of the mentors is Joel Bautista, who is also a full-time computer science teacher at the Philippine Science High School.
A Lead Instructor for DevCon Kids, Bautista joined the program’s core team because he believed in their advocacy of teaching kids life skills that are beyond the basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic.
“We are in the 21st century and we want to instill computer science skills, problem-solving, creativity, and collaboration in today’s kids,” said Joel.
“Our goals and those of Mano Amiga are parallel―we’re both serving the underserved. We are aware that they don’t have computer labs like other schools do and it’s DevCon’s way of extending help by teaching these new topics.”
In 2018, the World Economic Forum ranked the Philippines 53rd among 63 countries in terms of digital competitiveness. A report from the Department of Education (DepEd) states that only 26% of public schools in the country have internet access.
Also, the current DepEd school curriculum only offers computer programming in senior high school for the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) strand of the Technical Vocational Track. There is also a lack of ICT devices in many schools nationwide as computer laboratories are still being built.
Education stakeholders say the quality of ICT education in the Philippines is definitely a pressing concern, as they repeatedly call for capacity-building for teachers, allocating sufficient resources, and partnering with the private sector to accelerate ICT education.
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