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Kenya recognised as first African country to incorporate coding in schools – UNESCO

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has recognised Kenya as the first African country to incorporate coding as a subject in primary and secondary schools under the new competency-based curriculum.

In a report titled ‘Technology in Education: A Tool on Whose Terms?’ which was published on Wednesday, July 26, UNESCO praised the country for its support of digital literacy in the new curriculum.

The report explores the impact of technology on education by surveying school systems globally.

“Kenya has become the first African country to incorporate coding as a subject in primary and secondary schools under the new competency-based curriculum. The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development has approved a coding skills curriculum developed by Kodris Africa, a for-profit company, for children aged 7 to 16 in the Python programming language that focuses on algorithms, debugging and logical operators (Kodris, 2023),” the report states.

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The UNESCO report notes that a global survey estimated that 43 percent of students in high-income countries, 62 percent in upper-middle-income countries, and five percent in lower-middle-income countries take computer science as a compulsory subject at primary and/or secondary level. But this is not the case in low-income countries.

The report was released along with a #TechOnOurTerms campaign adding that with the low levels of digital skills in the global population and the ever-increasing complexity of the digital world, countries need to urgently define digital skills and decide how best to increase them among their citizens.

Scaling digital skills at primary, secondary, and tertiary education levels is a huge part of widening tech adoption and growing a lucrative digital economy.

Speaking last year during the Jamhuri Innovation and Tech Summit at the Kenya International Convention Center in Nairobi, President William Ruto said the entire tech ecosystem will become part of Kenya’s curriculum from elementary school to university.

The president said by teaching learners problem-solving skills early, through coding, they are better prepared for the contemporary world job market.

“This is to ensure that the entire tech ecosystem becomes part of our curriculum from elementary school to university. This fifth Jamhuri is dedicated to innovation and technology as Kenya must no longer underestimate the power of innovation and technology. Because of this, we need to know how to grow our technology from primary school. You have heard about coding that is now going to be part of our curriculum to ensure technology becomes part of our journey from primary school all the way to university,” he said.

The Economic Survey 2021 report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), indicates that Information Communication and Technology (ICT) is one of the top ten highest contributors to Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

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It details that despite the pandemic, the value of output from the ICT sector to Kenya’s GDP increased by 2.5 percent to Sh538.3 billion in 2020, more than doubling from Sh258 billion in 2019.

It also notes that in previous estimates, Kenya’s revised GDP figures undervalued ICT’s contribution to the economy due to shortcomings in the data measuring process.

Safaricom PLC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Peter Ndegwa said they have partnered with Kodris Africa to help schools entrench digital skills in their learning.

“The future is about seeking skills that help young people find relevant jobs. As Safaricom, we have joined others to create an industry-wide digital program to help schools and partners like Kodris Africa focus on coding. We also provide an ecosystem to enhance these skills. For example, in the M-Pesa ecosystem, we have over 52,000 developers working on this system and that is job creation,” Ndegwa said.

Kodris Africa is the provider of Kenya’s first-ever government-approved programme for teaching coding which is now the most demanded skill in the world and is not only classified as curriculum support material at KICD but also applicable to students in all other modern education systems.

The programme is also accredited internationally by Pearson, the largest education institution in the world. The KICD approved the programme for teaching coding which is now in the roll-out stages in the country.

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The programme is online based and individuals can choose to purchase licenses so that students who have access to computers and the Internet at home can access the programme.

Kodris’ website also details the necessity for coding at an early age, stating, “Algorithmic thinking, analytical thinking, and critical thinking, as well as problem solving, and design-oriented thinking are all considered the skills of our era. Many developed countries, having realized the importance of these skills, have made radical changes in their education systems.”