Last week I read an article in The Daily Herald with the headline “Academy focusing on ICT development.” This brought me back to my days at the academy when phones and other electronic devices were prohibited. However, the school seems to have come a long way in embracing technology by implementing an online portal where parents can track their child’s progress and allowing students to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). The school also plans to upgrade their Information Technology (IT) infrastructure to accommodate e-marking for CXC exams and implement a BYOD policy.
These changes are welcomed but I believe that more can be done at the secondary education level to prepare students for a career in IT. When students are in the second form, they are given a choice: Business or Science. I believe IT should be one of these choices, Information Technology (IT) is a science but it is not taught as a science at the St. Maarten Academy. Both business and science students get the same IT class. Students are taught as computer users, not IT professionals.
I propose that students be given the opportunity to learn how to repair phones, tablets, and computers along with basic networking skills and security pertaining to IT. As an IT professional, I hold several industry certifications such as the A+ (deals with computer repairs, software, and hardware), Network+ (deals with IT network basics) and the Security+ (deals with IT security basics). These are all certifications that can be done at the high school level.
There is already a vast amount of study material for these certifications, curricula that are updated regularly by CompTIA and this would provide a worthwhile goal for students to work towards while working on their high school diploma . There are several other benefits for students who chose to do IT in high school such as:
• Students would have 1-3 certifications along with their high school diploma after they graduate.
• These certifications would prepare students for a job in the IT field right after graduation.
• If these students choose further their IT studies at a college or university most colleges accept these certifications as credit for certain classes, which would reduce tuition and time spent in college.
• Some businesses consider a certification as experience in the IT industry which would give students a head start in their career.
• Students who chose to study IT in high school could use their skills to open a business after graduating or as a secondary source of income.
This idea is not new, there are many high schools that offer IT in USA and Europe. However, when it comes to technology, St. Maarten has always been lagging behind other countries, even countries we consider less developed. This is evident by the internet speeds advertised and the prices we consider normal. Most people on the Dutch side think 2MB for $50 is a good deal until they find out they can get 20MB for $45 right across the border. Both TelEm and UTS only launched 4G last year (2015), a technology that has been around since 2009. Banks don’t allow customers to pay their utility and telephone bills online and ATMs don’t accept deposits, these are all norms in St. Maarten.
Introducing IT in high school would be a great way to jump ahead and embrace the digital future while giving high school grads a real head start. I still remember my first semester in college, many students came from high schools that offered IT so they came with a bit more knowledge, experience, and a few certifications under their belt. In the end, I graduated at the top of my class but I had a fair amount of catching up to do. If this is implemented students from St. Maarten who choose to study IT will have a much easier transition. Of course, the school will have to do surveys, research, and probably launch this as a pilot program but ultimately I believe it will be worthwhile.