Shams Jaber , from Bangladesh

Living in the age of technology, why aren’t we teaching our children how to program?

Meet Shams Jaber, founder of Tech Academy, and a true advocate of a participatory education system. The Tech Academy is a social enterprise which provides electronics and programming education to children from both privileged and underprivileged backgrounds.

Growing up, Shams regularly came up with new innovative ideas but didn’t have the best grades to show for it. The education system Shams grew up with, didn’t nurture his innovative thoughts, neither did it teach him to think analytically or critically. These skills are now one of the most sought after skills that higher education institutions and corporations look for, yet public and private schools around the world still fail to develop these skills in their students.

Shams is now redefining the normative educational system by introducing electronics, programming, and robotics education for children aged between 9–13. Having successfully instructed more than 50 children from privileged backgrounds and 150 children from underprivileged backgrounds, Shams is already seeing the fruit of his three year labour as the students start to develop creative technological solutions to real-world problems. His students (aged 9 and 11) have already presented at their first TED talk to introduce a gadget they built, that helps blind individuals navigate around without bumping into objects, through an innovative sensor and audio system.

Shams is now working towards bringing his programming educational program to mainstream schools. According to Shams, programming, a language used to develop our every-day technologies, should be taught to children early on so they can think in the language required to develop modern innovations. The remote school he has built in the hill tracts of Chittagong for children of the indigenous Mro tribe, only have one computer to work from, but they have successfully learnt how to work with Arduino boards to control LEDs and motors, and they’ve also learnt how to collect data using sensors such as LDRs. He believes that children should be able to come up with solutions for their problems and a background in programming would open up many opportunities for them. Other student inventions from the Tech Academy include Bluetooth based toy cars, GPS trackers, and software and hardware for games. Shams is building more schools and facilities to teach more children in low-income areas and is crowd-finding to buy more computers, electronics, and robotics machinery for his students. He is also a Global Shaper at the Dhaka Hub, a project under the World Economic Forum.