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Abu Dhabi government launches peer-to-peer coding campus

Abu Dhabi government launches a specialist programming school that uses peer-to-peer teaching methods and gamification

The Abu Dhabi department for education is opening a campus that will offer gamified programming courses that use peer-to-peer learning methods.

The campus in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) capital’s Mina Zayed warehouses district will eventually host as many as 750 students a year, with no previous coding experience needed.

It supports the emirate’s planned economic diversification by ensuring a pipeline of skills for the future economy.

The school is part of the 42 Network tuition-free model of coding and programming education pioneered by French billionaire Xavier Niel. There are about 20 schools in the 42 Network globally, and the Abu Dhabi campus is the first in the Gulf Cooperation Council region.

After about a year doing the foundation course and an internship, students move to a masters level where they specialise for up to two years. Areas of specialisation include algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI), databases and data, object-oriented programming, functional programming, parallel computing, security, web, Ruby and Unix. Students then do another internship.

The whole course takes about three years and no previous coding skills are required for students.  

The 42 Abu Dhabi campus, which opens to students in February 2021, is part of the UAE’s plan to transform its education system to meet changing skills demand as the gulf state diversifies its economy to reduce its dependency on oil and gas exports.

Another example of this change was the October 2019 launch of graduate-level courses in AI at the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence university, also in Abu Dhabi.

Majid Al Shamsi, director of higher education business development at the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK), who is leading the project, told Computer Weekly that the UAE and Abu Dhabi were future-proofing the local skills base.

Read more about IT skills development in the Middle East

“We all know that the fourth industrial revolution is knocking at our door and new technologies are going to disrupt every sector and industry,” he said. “Abu Dhabi and the UAE are trying to diversify our economy, and to be able to do that we need to advance our tech innovation ecosystem. We need to start speaking the future language, which is technology and programming.”

The course is flexible and uses gamification and peer-to-peer learning to guide students through. “There are no teachers, no classes and no lectures. Students learn from each other, which is a good model as students often listen to peers,” said Al Shamsi.

The programme is like a video game, according to Al Shamsi, with students going through levels one by one to upskill themselves. The students are offered the flexibility and can choose different routes to take to complete the course and can choose to focus on certain areas.

“We all know that the fourth industrial revolution is knocking at our door and new technologies are going to disrupt every sector and industry. We need to start speaking the future language, which is technology and programming”
Majid Al Shamsi, ADEK

“Operating a project-based, problem-based and peer-to-peer learning methodology, students at 42 Abu Dhabi will learn at their own pace and develop through collaboration and creativity,” said a statement from the school.

The students will be based on the campus to ensure they build communication skills, according to Al Shamsi. “The students will be based in the campus, but the idea is that we want them to communicate more,” he said. “This is about improving communication skills because when they are at work they will not be alone and we want people to be innovative and creative and talk their ideas out.”

The school will have close ties with different business sectors and industries, with internships an essential part of the learning. “The success of the school depends on the relationship with industry,” said Al Shamsi.

The investment is part of Ghadan 21, Abu Dhabi’s three-year government accelerator programme that aims to fast-track the emirate state’s economic transformation.

“The school’s fully trained coding cohorts will significantly expand the ecosystem of skilled practitioners to propel private and public sector development, since 42 Abu Dhabi students will learn to master soft skills, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, communication, as well as how to work in teams,” said Al Shamsi.

“No previous coding experience is required of 42 Abu Dhabi students, however they must be curious, committed, proactive and creative, and must possess an innate ability to adapt and collaborate. This school will upskill our local and regional talent pool and provide a huge boost to partners in every professional sector who need tech talent to meet the demands of digitisation today and in the future,” added Al Shamsi.

The school had 900 applicants within five days of the applications process opening. Local and international candidates interested in applying to 42 Abu Dhabi must be aged 18 or above and can register online.

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