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This Jordanian Woman Aims to Teach One Million Children Programming

12 September, 2016
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Programming is the new language of the world. And while learning it is generally limited to those who pursue a career in tech, one Jordanian woman decided to change that. Hanan Khader, a programmer, researcher and mother of three, has developed a curriculum and incorporated programming within primary school education through her foundation HelloWorldKids.

Their Schools Programming Science Curriculum was developed to teach native programming for kids at the young age of eight as a mainstream subject. The curriculum simplifies basic concepts of programming science, and combines it with logic, analytical thinking and entrepreneurship skills.

By coincidence, Khader discovered that she knows how to simplify things. And that she loves teaching.

"At the start of my career, I loved being a programmer much more being an instructor or teacher. But later, I discovered that I am in love with teaching. Not any kind of teaching though, I love teaching kids," Khader said. "So I thought, if I didn't do this, no one else might do it," she added.

Most programmers remain in companies for their whole career, getting more and more experience, and would never think of teaching. Meanwhile schoolteachers work with a broad curriculum but still become detached from the fast-paced world of technology, Khader explained.

"That's where the gap is. So I decided to build the bridge between teachers and programmers, by getting programmers to come and teach, and qualifying teachers to become programmers," said Khader.

Khader started working on her foundation when she came back from the USA in 2013, after her participation in Women In STEM's techWomen program. The foundation was officially established in 2015, making its breakthrough in just a year.

HelloWorldKids teaches Programming Science through a variety of programming languages. They focus on explaining the concepts in a very simple way, and through related skills, such as desktop programming, web programming, mobile computing and games development. They teach kids how to think like programmers, how to analyze, and how to inquire and search. Teachers simplify numerous programming concepts and processes in the form of games.

The program is taught to children from ages eight to 12, those between the third and sixth grade. Any child incorporated in the program starts at the first level, mounting up to the fifth. Becoming a core subject at schools, the program is now mandatory for all students after it was approved by the Ministry of Education. It was adopted in selective public schools, however in private schools it is a core subject now.

The five levels are Programming 101, Programming 102, Web Programming, Java Programming and Mobile Computing, at 22 hours per level. The level is a whole one academic year.

Yet even those who were not lucky enough to learn programming at school have the chance to go to the Foundation's campus.
HelloWorldKids has influenced the lives of 1200 kids so far, among them being Yaqeen, a nine year old girl from a public school. Yaqeen created a program for room decoration. She said she wants to become a programmer when she grows up, and she want to create her own company, and she wants to be proud of herself, Khader recalled.

"When she said I want to be proud of myself, my tears fell," said Khader.

The Foundation aims at teaching ten thousand children in Jordan between 2016 and 2017, but it does not end there. HelloWorldKids wants to take its curriculum to other countries. After winning the Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund prize with two Lebanese friends, Khader is set to to fund HelloWorldKids in Lebanon, targeting one thousand children by 2017. In addition, she is amid talks of starting the curriculum in private schools in Egypt in 2017, with the goal of 110, 000 kids to be taught programming with HelloWorldKids by the end of 2020. On their list is also Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Palestine.

"Our target is to teach one million Arab kids how to program by 2020," Khader announced, adding, "I am so proud and happy, and I love what I do."

Image courtesy of HelloWorldKids

Tags MENA Because HelloWorldKids programming education technology school curriculum STEM CSR social enterprise NGO volunteering Jordan