In today’s world, digital literacy and computing skills are essential, and serve as a gateway to coding and computational thinking. In India, there is a pressing need to bridge the gap in ICT skills among youth.
According to the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) report for 2020-21, only a small percentage of young people possess the ability to write computer programs using specialised programming languages.
Recognising this challenge, the third National Education Policy of India, launched in 2020, emphasised the integration of digital literacy, coding, and computational thinking into the curriculum starting from grade 6. There is now a growing acceptance of computing programs for children, like extracurricular or after-school activities in the form of Code Clubs, in the school as well as community.
History of Code Clubs in India
The Raspberry Pi Foundation had also recognised the need for young people to access ways to learn computing skills, so work in India started in 2018 with one team member, Divya Joseph running the show. By the end of that year, there were 150+ Code Clubs across the country through partnerships and volunteers. In 2019, our team expanded when Vasu joined — and from then, we have never looked back! We partnered with Pratham Foundation and the number of Code Clubs went up to 350+.
The pandemic was a difficult time for most of our clubs — learners and supporters alike. The engagement then was continued through online hackathons and community calls.
In 2022, our team grew to six people, and we started teacher training and registering Code Clubs based in government high schools of Odisha — one of the eastern states. We presently have over 1,100 active Code Clubs.
Learning through the years
While Code Clubs typically run in schools, we realised that the model in India was going to be a unique one. Organisations like Pratham Education Foundation work with out-of-school children and facilitate learning in community centres based in remote villages. Their needs are completely different from what we have experienced before.
Fostering a warm and supportive environment for both teachers and students is at the heart of Code Club’s mission. We reached out to the community to understand their situation better because we knew we had to adapt quickly to cater to our community’s needs.
One such community-focused initiative is “Coding Pe Charcha,” a voluntary session conducted every Friday. The phrase “Coding Pe Charcha” translates to “Discussions over Coding.” Conducted entirely in the local language, Odia, this session is specifically designed for teachers who have been trained and assisted in setting up Code Clubs in government high schools.
To have teachers voluntarily join these sessions week after week, despite their non-computing background and other ground level challenges, points to genuine interest in the area of computing. Interacting with these teachers also enlightens us to their specific support needs — from very basic digital literacy skills, like changing passwords and getting over infrastructural challenges, to using resources which come in English and are prepared for a global audience.
Another community-driven initiative is the “Come together to Learn together” (CTLT) calls. Code Club has always prioritised community engagement, regularly organising quarterly meetups and workshops for community members, some of which are led by the community itself. These gatherings feature panel discussions centred around a chosen theme relevant to their current needs.
Topics have ranged from “Computational Thinking through Offline Activities” to “Introduction to Raspberry Pi Pico.” These calls have consistently attracted approximately 120+ participants, actively involving community members and placing them at the heart of Code Club’s work.
Impact of Code Clubs
The impact of Code Clubs in India has been substantial and transformative. Through partnerships with organisations like Mo School Abhiyan (Odisha government) at the school level and Pratham Foundation at the community level, Code Clubs have reached over 32,000 students in high schools across Odisha, with an impressive 54% of them being girls. These Code Clubs serve as a crucial first step for many students in their digital learning journey.
Suchitra Bhuyan, a Code Club teacher from Brundavan Govt. High School in Jagatsinghpur, Odisha, shares her experience saying, “When I work on coding with my students, I myself feel like a student. Sometimes I learn from them, and sometimes they learn from me. So we, the teachers and students, learn together and create together. When we succeed in creating something, the happiness on their faces is truly heart-touching.”
Looking ahead, Code Club’s focus remains on engaging and supporting existing clubs, partners, volunteers, and teachers. While coding education in India is still in its early stages, particularly among disadvantaged groups, Code Club is determined to expand its reach and empower more children with digital literacy and computing skills. By fostering a warm, community-centric approach and placing the people behind the impact at the forefront, Code Club continues to make a difference in the lives of countless young learners across India.
Through some inspiring people on the ground running these Code Clubs, we are trying to build a community of coding learners and supporters. Do you wish to support us in any of the already running Code Clubs? Do you wish to start a Code Club in your community? Reach out to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org