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Emirati Children Crack the Codes for Jobs Not Yet Invented

March 4, 2017 | The National UAE

DUBAI // Emirati children as young as seven are learning to be the computer programmers of the future in a new course to help prepare them for the jobs of the coming generation.

Ahmad Shilleh designed the programme, being run by Hamdan bin Mohammed Smart University, for children from seven through to 15. On the course, which has three levels, children work with coding from Microsoft, Apple and Google.

There are 100 children in the programme now, which is funded by the Emirates Talented Association.

“We wanted to bring the kids into the 21st century,” Mr Shilleh said. “They use the technology but don’t know how it’s produced.”

The course is run on Saturdays and the children have work to do at home via Cloud Campus, just like the blended learning used at the university.

“It keeps them engaged,” Mr Shilleh said. “We wanted to take it out of the classroom so they don’t just come, do the work, then forget it.”

He said this preparation was vital for the jobs of the future, with technology advancing in all areas of society, from health and education, to banking.

“We don’t know what job a seven or eight-year-old will have in 10 years so we’re training them for jobs that don’t even exist yet, but there will certainly be jobs that require some amount of coding or programming skills.”

He said the course, which includes robotics, encourages critical thinking, creativity and communication skills. “These are skills that can be applied to anything in their later life, whether that’s maths or science,” Mr Shilleh said.

Parents said the course was a step towards preparing their children for the jobs of the future, beyond the academic preparation of the classroom.

Khalid Alowais has all his five children in the programme. He said: “Computer science is a tool for the future. We want our children to be ready and have a place in new economic chart worldwide.”

Mohamed Alsaadi has three children who have been in the programme for seven weeks, Noura, 11, Marwan, 10, and Abdualziz, 9.

He is aware of the importance of such education for the children of this generation.

“Software programming is becoming a critical part of all our lives. It is the language of our world and I cannot imagine the future without knowing how to code. People who know how to code can be innovative and solve problems more efficiently.”

Fajer Saeed Al Yousuf’s son Abdulla Mohammed Al Jawi, 12, is doing the course. He said: “Abdulla has shown an interest in software development since early childhood so when we heard about the Emirati Programmer [course] at Hamdan bin Mohammed Smart University, we thought this is exactly the right programme for him to join.

“This programme has helped Abdulla to find what he was looking for. Now he can use and develop his skills in drawing, problem solving and coding.”​