Programming – a goal for the 21st century

Andrej and Jovana are two out of a thousand children who will learn to programme using simple codes.

Jelena Obucina
Andrej with an educational robot.
UNICEF Serbia/2019/Pancic

26 December 2019

Andrej controls the robot. He programmed its movements and picked its colour. He learned to do all that in a three-day free workshop.

This 12-year-old is satisfied. He says that he and his peers quickly learned “a bit” of programming.

"I learned how to teach the robot where to go, how to connect to it by phone, how to calibrate it so it knows how to go right, straight and left.”

Jovana showing everything needed to control a robot.
UNICEF Serbia/2019/Pancic
Jovana showing everything needed to control a robot.

Girls also enjoy programming and they are not afraid of making mistakes either. The robot shows children programming errors. If it goes in an unwanted direction – they know they need to make a change.

Jovana Terzic learns a positive lesson from that experience.

“Sometimes I make a mistake, but I realize it immediately. Then I try again and again. We must never give up,” Jovana says.

The free programming workshops will be organized in 12 cities in Serbia.

Andrej and Jovana are two out of a thousand children who will attend the workshop jointly organized by UNICEF and Startit, with the support of the Cabinet of the Minister for Innovation and Technological Development of the Government of the Republic of Serbia.

The free programming workshops will be organized in 12 cities in Serbia, all with the same goal. For children to develop algorithmic thinking and learn to programme using simple codes, explains Tatjana Ristic, lecturer at the workshop.

Workshop participants refreshing their knowledge.
UNICEF Serbia/2019/Pancic
Workshop participants refreshing their knowledge.

“Everything is very visual and intuitive. The idea is for them to develop the right approach rather than to adopt passive knowledge that they can’t use later,” explains Tatjana.

Ranko Trifkovic, the project supervisor, believes that the workshops are a complete success. 

The aim of the programme is to also ensure participation of children from vulnerable groups who do not have access to a digital environment, devices or trainings.  

Learning in an informal environment is a good way to combat the unsatisfactory statistics indicated by the “EU Kids Online” survey.

Psychologist Dobrinka Kuzmanovic says that the data from 60 primary and secondary schools in Serbia indicate that only 5 percent of children know how to create online content.

“Digital literacy is as important as mathematical, reading or scientific literacy,” says Dobrinka Kuzmanovic. 

The match where little robots are football players and the programmers are coaches.
UNICEF Serbia/2019/Pancic
The match where little robots are football players and the programmers are coaches.

Children, especially girls, need more opportunities to develop digital skills, which will close the social and digital gap. 

This is not the case with the participants of the “Learning for the 21st Century” workshop. At the end of the workshop, they organized a competition to see how much they have learned. Robots play football, programmers control them. The green team against the blue team. It was a draw. 1:1.