Incorporating Python Into Bhutanese School Curriculum - Vital In Realising Its Dream Of Becoming A Silicon Shangri-la

In order to fulfil Bhutan's potential as a future hub for IT and innovation, it is important to implement Python programming into its curriculum.

Free Python e-books. (Source: medium.mybridge.co)

 

By Sasha Ramani | Kuensel

The contributor graduated with a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School in 2018, where he studied technology and innovation policy.

 

In April, my fellow Harvard Kennedy School alumni, Kinga Tshering wrote an article on his blog describing the potential of teaching Python, the computer programming language to Bhutanese students.

His post spawned a lively debate on the merits of Python versus other programming languages, and the value of teaching students programming languages.  

Computer programming is not about learning complicated code. At its core, it is about information and communication.

The desired qualities of a programmer

A programmer must convey instructions to a computer and ensure that these instructions are understood correctly. Therefore, computer science is an intellectual art that requires logic, mathematics, communication and empathy. Students possessing all of these skills are highly desired by technology firms, financial institutions, academia, and businesses around the world.

Luckily, learning computer science is easier than ever today, thanks to Python. Python is a programming language that emerged in 1990, and is heavily based on the older programming language C.

However, Python is considerably “higher level” than C, which means that the computer automatically handles many tasks for a Python programmer that a C programmer must consider manually.

Differences between Python and C

Consider two cars: one with automatic transmission (Python) and another with manual transmission (C). While all cars are concerned with braking, acceleration and gear shifting, the automatic transmission car handles many of these tasks automatically, without the driver even being aware of them. Similarly, Python automatically handles details such as pointers and computer memory utilisation that a C programmer would have to handle manually.

There are advantages and disadvantages to this. On one hand, the barriers to learning Python are extremely low. A Python student will quickly be able to apply their skills and see tangible results from their education.

However, this student will have less control over some of the details that may be required for more advanced programming. To bring back our analogy, a manual transmission car could be helpful when driving in particularly challenging terrain, such as in Bhutan’s mountainous countryside. 

 

Source: Enodo global

While students seeking to work at Google or Facebook may therefore want to learn C, or at least be familiar with it, Python is almost certainly the best program for most applications. Aside from being a “high level” language (as previously discussed), Python has several advantages.

Advantages of Python

First, Python code emphasises beauty and readability. This means that an amateur programmer can generally read a short Python program and understand what it is meant to do. It also means fewer errors being caused by misplaced {curly brackets} and semicolons, as in some other languages.

Second, Python is like “lego”. This means that many different “bricks” exist on the internet to be used by others. For data science, a Python programmer can quickly import the free online packages “Numpy” and “Pandas” to run complicated analysis, instead of building these capabilities from scratch.

For web programming, “Flask” and “Django” are packages that can quickly help Python programmers build functional websites. These are all free and open source packages that other programmers have written and deployed for the benefit of the community. There is no comparison for the depth of packages and accompanying documentation that Python supports.

Free online courses on Python

Third, there are countless free online courses that help Python students get started. Dasho Kinga previously cited CS50, which is Harvard University’s largest course, offered free online through the portal at edx.com.

Other online courses exist on udemy.com, coursera.com, udacity.com, codeacademy.com, datacamp.com, and other portals. Finding a programming course is not difficult – but there are so many to choose from, that selecting one is.

The surfeit of Python courses is reflective of something else: its versatility. Python is used across the spectrum of computer science, from data science to web programming and everything in between. Therefore, it has become an industry standard for several different applications. 

For students interested in data science, the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley lists a few of its preferred introductory Python courses. Udacity offers a Data Science nano-degree that is generally highly regarded. More mathematically-inclined students can enrol in Stanford University’s Machine Learning course, offered on Coursera.

For anyone interested in web programming or a more holistic understanding of computer programming, I would recommend Harvard’s CS50, offered for free on EdX. CS50 forces its students to begin coding with C so that they understand pointers and memory use before transitioning to Python and web design.

Therefore, it is a challenging course that is not for the faint of heart. But it is likely the “gold standard” of well-rounded introductory programming courses, and is taught at high schools and universities around the world to thousands of students every year.

Python is only a small (though significant) part of CS50, both because it uses C to lay a foundation of computer programming principles and because web programming requires knowing parts of many different languages (such as HTML and Javascript).

Benefits of incorporating CS50 into the Bhutanese School Curriculum

Bhutanese schools that are serious about teaching computer science should consider implementing CS50 into their curricula.

Now, tot every Bhutanese student will aspire to become a computer scientist. But as computers continue their inexorable dominance of personal and professional life, learning how to communicate and work with them becomes increasingly important.

Computer science simply must be a part of any well-rounded student’s education. If Bhutan is to truly realise its potential of being a “Silicon Shangri-La”, it must seriously incorporate computer science into its educational framework. With so many free courses available, including by reputed schools like Harvard University, there is no excuse to wait.

  

This article first appeared in Kuensel and has been edited for the Bhutan Times.

 


Related Posts

Impact of Social Media in Bhutan

Over the years, with the rapid growth and usage of social media in Bhutan, its interactive features and no holds barred...

Apr 03, 2018 19:25

New Social Studies Curriculum to Teach Tha Damtshi and Ley Judrey

“This is to impart knowledge to youth on how we function as a close-knitted community and play a vital role in the unity...

Mar 30, 2018 11:40

Bhutan’s Possible Collaboration with the Finnish Education System

Finland is the top ranked nation for high quality education. It is also known as the top-ranking nation in the Programme...

Nov 02, 2017 10:35

Project Kadinchey Helped Raised Funds for a School in Bhutan

The travellers experienced first-hand the harsh conditions that the primary school students had to put up with daily....

Nov 21, 2017 08:13

Positive Impact of Fintech on Bhutan

“Fintech is a disruption to be embraced,” this view was echoed by the digital pioneer Taizo Son.

Apr 26, 2018 00:36

How Social Media Is Changing Lhuentse – A Remote Province In...

Lhuentse has achieved over 98% of telecommunication connectivity.

May 15, 2018 15:23

Latest

News

Bhutan’s Satellite Deployed From ISS Along With Limited Edition Stamps Launched To Laud Event

Live-streamed on YouTube, representatives from various countries and institutes gathered at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in...

Aug 11, 2018 16:08

Daily Professional Fee Proposed For Tour Guides To Boost Tourism In Bhutan

Such an initiative is also thought to help boost the image of the profession in Bhutan and retain senior tour guides.

Aug 10, 2018 12:09

Features

In Commemoration Of World Elephant Day, Bhutan Records 678 Elephants, Up From 513 In 2011

There are 678 elephants in Bhutan, according to the second edition of the National Elephant Survey Report.

Aug 15, 2018 12:54

Discover Raju’s Passion For Making The Traditional Bhutanese Bow And Arrow

The class VI drop-out earns at least Nu 8,000 a month by making bows and arrows.

Aug 08, 2018 16:09

Sports

The Myriad Of Sporting Facilities Constructed In Bhutan To Promote Healthy Living

The government in its 11th FYP report stated that it undertook the development of various infrastructure and institutions to promote sports...

Jul 29, 2018 08:33

Adolescent Girls In Bhutan Learn About Health And Sanitation Through Weeklong District Cricket Championship

The national nutrition survey 2015 conducted by the Ministry of Health and UNICEF Bhutan found anaemia in adolescent girls to be a critical...

Jul 21, 2018 16:29

Business

Start-up Centre In Bhutan Held Session To Provide Advice On Doing Business For Entrepreneurs

Guidance was provided during the first session on starting a business held at the newly established start-up centre at Changzamtog, Thimphu.

Aug 14, 2018 12:06

SDF To Develop E-Commerce Platform And Support Start-Ups In The South Asian Region

The SDF has already achieved and disbursed US$ 47mn for 12 cross-border projects.

Jul 24, 2018 09:03

Travel

About 91 % Of International Visitors Intend To Revisit Bhutan And 85 % Want To Recommend Nation Of Happiness To Others

The majority (80.4 %) of the international visitors expressed that the culture and traditional charm attracted them to Bhutan.

Aug 13, 2018 12:11

DrukAir To Fly Between Bhutan And Singapore Via Guwahati Starting Sept 1

The new flight will connect Paro to Singapore via Guwahati.

Aug 09, 2018 10:37

Lifestyle

Gokab – The First Dance Studio To Be Registered In Bhutan For Dancing Enthusiasts

Gokab, a youth group comprising of mostly dance enthusiasts, has seen a healthy growth of membership numbers since its inception in 2015.

Aug 12, 2018 15:44

Red Rice Is Bhutan's Staple Food And This Brewery Has Turned It Into Its Flagship Beer

Namgay Artisanal Brewery is the new kid on the block and it’s got everyone talking about its red rice lager.

Aug 03, 2018 14:04

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!