Debate on ministries’ budgets: Communications and Information

Parliament: New funding for projects to ramp up public digital readiness

Children taking part in hands-on activities that teach computational thinking at a Tiny Thinkers workshop.
Children taking part in hands-on activities that teach computational thinking at a Tiny Thinkers workshop.PHOTO: TINY THINKERS

Learning to think like a computer does not need to involve perusing lines of programming code. It can begin with tallying up - or recognising - differences between fruit and vegetables, something pre-school children can be taught.

This has been the message to parents from the team behind Tiny Thinkers, a pilot non-profit initiative to equip young children with computational thinking skills.

It is the first organisation to get funds from a new digital-readiness component of the Our Singapore Fund launched in 2016. Projects can get up to $20,000 as part of the national goal to help the community get ready for a digital future.

"We believe that every Singaporean can be a digitally connected and engaged citizen," Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran told Parliament yesterday during the debate on his ministry's budget.

"Building digital readiness is a national effort, involving the Government, businesses, communities and individuals," he added.

Mr Cedric Foo (Pioneer) and Nominated MP Lim Sun Sun had asked what is being done to supplement digital skills taught in schools.

The Tiny Thinkers team - comprising Nanyang Technological University communications undergraduates Germaine Tan, Chen Peijun, Teo Yisi and Jermaine Lau - has been conducting a series of free coding workshops for parents in the past two weeks.

 
 
 
 

At the workshops, parents and their children are given both online and offline activities which they can do together, like an app that allows children to use physical Pocky sticks to chart a route for a virtual character. About 330 parents have signed up, with the last group of five one-hour sessions taking place this Saturday.

Ms Tan, 23, said: "Computational thinking is using the logic behind how computers work to solve problems. For example, children can learn to recognise patterns through packing groceries in the fridge and also how to break down a big problem into smaller parts.

"Given Singapore's Smart Nation initiative, we felt it was important for kids to learn these skills. As the barriers to entry to such opportunities can be high, we wanted to make computational thinking accessible to families of various backgrounds."

Separately, a new Digital Participation Pledge has attracted commitments from 270 organisations. They will take steps to equip employees with digital skills and educate their customers to go digital. The ministry targets to have 3,000 organisations on board by 2021.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2019, with the headline 'New funding for projects to ramp up public digital readiness'. Print Edition | Subscribe