First-of-its-kind artificial intelligence, leadership programme launched for Guyanese students 

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Over 100 Guyanese students will benefit from the Spark Programme – an artificial intelligence and leadership initiative – aimed at equipping them to grow their technological skills and create economic opportunities.

The programme is in collaboration with two overseas-based Guyanese, Professor and Scientist at the University of Michigan, Jason Mars and Denise Hilliman, a former science educator and the Chief Executive Officer of Lead Mindset – leadership curriculum. The programme is being facilitated by the Ministry of Education.

Mars and Hilliman will be sharing their knowledge of artificial intelligence, technology and leadership with students here.

Chief Executive Officer of the LEAD
Mindset Ms. Dennise Hilliman (Photo: Ministry of Education/ March 21, 2022)

“We have come together to do something for our people and to bring the successes we have in the diaspora and come back home to spark the pathway to ignite innovation and perhaps a transformation in technology and economic prosperity by working on what is on the minds of our young people,” Mars said at the launch of the programme at the National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD), Kingston, Georgetown.

Mars comes with a wealth of experience and knowledge and told students at the launch on Monday that he would have started several companies in the artificial intelligence space and have also grown companies to hundreds of millions.

Founder of JASECI Labs, Mr. Jason Mars (Photo: Ministry of Education/ March 21, 2022)

The programme is available to students 16 and over and is being rolled out in all 12 Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) schools and the Government Technical Institute.

Thus far, 136 students are involved in the programme and will be provided with tools that leading global companies use to build artificial products and services.

At the end of the programme, it is expected that students will build a real artificial intelligence product that can be marketed and sold.

According to Mars, this is the opportune time for Guyanese students to be exposed to such skills.

Meanwhile, Hilliman has years of experience teaching science in Guyana, Grenada and the UK.

“There is an urgent need to bridge this digital skills gap because the world is changing and it is changing face, technology is greatly accelerating those changes, and those who fail to adapt will be left behind,” Hilliman said.

Some of the students who will be participating in the
programme (Photo: Ministry of Education/ March 21, 2022)

She posited that every country needs to nurture creators of technology if they are to compete in the global market space.

But Hilliman said leadership and innovation must go hand-in-hand and it is for this reason that she has teamed up with Mars.

Meanwhile, Minister of Education Priya Manickchand said while this programme will allow students to be creators and innovators, importantly it will produce young leaders.

“I hope that you exit this programme with more consciousness about your being, your skill, your talent, your God-given abilities that can be used to make changes, provide solutions and find better for yourself and this country,” the Minister stated.

Minister Manickhand said it is her hope that the Spark Programme would be a lasting one and that each secondary school student will be able to benefit.

The participating schools are: the Christianburg-Wismar Secondary School, Mackenzie High School, Queen’s College, the Bishops’ High School, St. Joseph’s High School, St. Rose’s High School, St. Stanislaus College, President’s College, Berbice High School, New Amsterdam Secondary School, West Demerara Secondary School and the Anna Regina Secondary School. Students from the Government Technical Institute and Teacher Trainees from the Cyril Potter College of Education will also be participating.

The programme is eight weeks long and students will be tasked with completing six challenges; there will be 90 minutes of leadership teaching and 90 minutes of artificial intelligence teaching.

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