Children of Bhutan received a royal soelra to learn coding through games on a popular online platform, CodeMonkey, amidst the pandemic.

Coding, in simple terms, is a computer programming language to develop websites, apps, video games and software to help people in day-to-day activity.

In the age of technology, coders are in demand. For children, coding is not only fun, but the knowledge they gain would help them to understand the world better. It improves their creativity and problem-solving skills.

The CodeMonkey also has good resources for teachers, including well-developed lesson plans, teaching materials and classroom management system with grading and assessment.

As a country with its mission to embrace information, communications and technology (ICT) as the third language to remain abreast with the rapidly changing digital world, His Majesty’s soelra would equip the children with 21st Century knowledge and skills.

We also have the royal kasho on civil service reforms which highlights the royal aspiration for Bhutan to become a developed country in our lifetime through a knowledge-based and tech-driven economy. Coding is the answer to make that possible.

It’s now the education ministry mandate to ensure every child in the country benefits from the soelra and not just the privileged. With the emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, every student should learn to code.

Coding products are used in every field today. During the pandemic, checkpost management system (CPMS) and contract tracing apps benefitted.  

However, the success of the implementation of the coding programme would depend on internet connectivity, availability of computers and proficiency of teachers.

With the education ministry already implementing the education flagship programme, we know the issues. There is a huge digital divide. Many rural schools do not have ICT laboratories, computers and internet facilities. Even in Thimphu, many children do not have access to computers.

The ministry already listed there are 30,000 disadvantaged students as of 2020. It also found more than 13,0000 students need tablets.

The good news is that the education ministry would implement the coding programme with support from Department of Information and Technology and Royal Society for STEM. While the ministry must ensure schools have computers, DITT should ensure internet connectivity.

We have come a long way in digitising Bhutan. Children and computer science are the future. Children can learn new languages faster. We have to facilitate the learning so that no one is left behind.