Hello World Kids teaches programming in Jordanian schools

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After Hanan Khader travelled to Silicon Valley in 2013 to represent her Jordanian company Aqar-Estate as part of the TechWomen program, she left the US determined to delve into a bigger endeavor.

Exciting developments were taking place in Silicon Valley, while over in Jordan, some children were still learning to use a mouse, she said. MENA’s tech inferiority in the academic field pushed the young entrepreneur to establish Hello World Kids (HWK), a local native coding curriculum for children.

Through her company, established in 2015, Khader intends to bridge the gap between programming and teaching. Many programmers are at corporations to gain experience, while teachers are oftentimes detached from the advancement of technology, Khader said. HWK qualifies teachers to become programmers and encourages programmers to become instructors.

Khader’s great passion towards programming is evident in her mission to introduce it as a science rather than a technique. “I don’t want to teach children how to write Java Script. It’s not about writing, it’s about absorbing the concepts of programming. How to see everything around us as objects, and learn how to control and mold the objects with eyes and hands [on a keyboard],” she said.

Hanan Khader with HWK students. (Images via HWK Facebook page)

Paving the road to schools

The HWK five year curriculum teaching kids how to program computer and mobile applications, has reached 1200 students. This year, her curriculum is mandatory for students in grade three to six in 20 of Jordan’s public schools and seven private ones. HWK gives free training sessions to the school instructors to sustain a consistent standard across the various schools.

“In the West, children learn how to produce technology, while we teach them how to consume it,” Khader said. The challenge is to shift the energy lost in consumption into production mode, she noted.

The company makes money from selling educational books and from registration fees for the extracurricular coding camps that take place on Saturdays in King Hussein Business Park.

Reem Jaradat, the IT supervisor at Alhoffaz Academy, believes that ever since HWK curriculum was incorporated into the IT class last year, students have dramatically become more interested in IT and have even requested to increase the number of lessons per week.

“The curriculum does not only teach IT or programming, it also encourages students to practice mathematics, art, and language, serving more than one field,” said Jaradat.

HWK students at Zain Innovation Campus. 

Challenges

Approaching schools and the Ministry of Education were some of Khader’s biggest challenges.

“I told them that programming has become an essential skill in our modern life, which is solely dependant on programs starting from the mobile’s alarm clock, to games, and navigation,” she said.

Although the MoE did not officially integrate the curriculum into public schooling, Khader did not give up and managed to reach public schools through a different route that involved the facilitation of Jordan Education Initiative and the sponsorship of Progress Soft, a Jordan-based software development company.

The results exceeded Khader’s expectations. At least 30 percent of the children learning the curriculum are excelling. An example is that of 14-year-old student Dana al-Taher, who has developed a game and a program that got incorporated into the curriculum.

Students’ projects will soon be published on a HWK platform to allow programmers to learn from each other and share their work publically.

HWK students Abdul Rahman Abu Saed, developer of a Pac-Man game, and Dana al-Taher. (Image via Tala El Issa)

Owner, manager and mother

In addition to HWK, Khader also founded a real estate website Aqar-Estate in 2007. However, when she decided to found HWK, she knew she would not be able to handle both companies and be a mother of three at the same time. So she handed Aqar-Estate to her husband, Mohammed Al-Hosary, whom she believes was critical in allowing HWK see the light of day.

“He knows that entrepreneurship is part of my personality and if you take it away, I won’t be the same person. He knows that, and has been supporting me since the beginning,” she said.

For his part, Al-Hosary believes that the most important thing is the belief in the idea. “Both Hanan and I had full faith in HWK and we managed to arrange our lives accordingly,” he said.

Khader encourages other women to not fear technical fields.  "Women have the analytical skills and critical thinking, but they run away from technical fields. I do not know why.” Through programming women can secure a good wage while staying at home, she said, which solves a lot of problems.

Khader is planning to distribute the curriculum in all the Kingdom’s schools by 2018 and reach 100,000 students next year. In addition to Jordan, HWK curriculum will be taught in Lebanon and perhaps Palestine in the near future.

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