This is a guest blog post by Cristina Stephany of the Cook Islands Ministry of Education.
Introducing computer science education in diverse schools is a means to build non-dominant perspectives into the global infrastructure of tomorrow. The importance of introducing computer science to students early in their education is evident across the world, and especially in the Cook Islands. Our Ministry of Education saw the Hour of Code movement and its value as an opportunity for students to practice problem-solving skills and see programming as a possible career pathway.
2016 was the first time that Cook Islands schools participated in the Hour of Code. When kicking off our country-wide campaign, most heads of government ministries tried coding! As they coded and worked together to solve puzzles, it enabled the officials to build an understanding of the transferable skills embodied in computational thinking.
Over half of all schools across the islands held an HOC event, and more than 1,000 of the 4,098 students in the entire country tried coding. While some of our islands have excellent access to the internet, the connection on six of the Pa Enua outer islands can be spotty. Students on each of these islands were still able to participate despite a lagging connection!
In our country, Cook Islands Maori and English are our official languages, but on the island of Rarotonga (the centre of tourism and government) the learning of Cook Islands Maori continues to be a challenge putting its sustainability at serious risk.
Within our Education Master Plan, “Taku Ipukarea Kia Rangatira is intended to strengthen a learner’s identity as a Cook Islander. It is grounded in the language, culture, thinking, visions and aspirations of the people and has a sense of belonging and pride.”
Our residents deserve to be part of the world’s increasingly technology-focused future, but most information communication technology structures are constructed from visions and aspirations outside of the Cook Islands. We cannot stress how important it is for Cook Islanders to see programming as a way to share, sustain, and connect to their language and culture.
This year, we look forward to finding new and innovative ways of weaving indigenous language and culture into our HOC campaign.
In partnership with Code.org, the Cook Islands Ministry of Education supports the vision of empowering students of diverse backgrounds through the learning of computer science.
Cristina Stephany, Cook Islands Ministry of Education