A million students enroll in computer science engineering courses annually in India. However, only a small percentage of those students come from underserved and underrepresented communities. From limited access to computers and low exposure to career opportunities and mentors in this field to language constraints in accessing coding curriculum, the students face systemic barriers to aspire for a career in the technology industry.
The Amazon Future Engineer (AFE) program launched in India a year ago aims to address this gap by bringing early exposure and access to computer science education to students. The vision: All young people can realise their potential as creators, thinkers, and builders.
Live Chats with Amazonians
In the past one year, AFE has provided high quality computer science exploration and learning opportunities to 4.5 Lakh students from more than 3,000 government schools across 11 states in India. This also includes above 600 live Class Chats to expose students to real-world careers that exist in the tech industry. More than 40,000 students have participated in Class Chats delivered by over 150 Amazon volunteers till date across diverse roles.
“Amazon Future Engineer was launched in India with the aim of democratising computer science education so that every child has the potential to become creators and not just consumers of technology. Since the launch of AFE, we have been striving, along with our partner organizations, to support systemic integration of computer science education in government schools in multiple states,” said Anita Kumar, Head - Amazon in the Community, CSR India & APAC.
“Post Covid, the rapid rate of digitalisation across the globe offers tremendous opportunities for India and Young Indians. Prime Minister Modi has envisioned the coming decade as India’s Techade - one that would be driven by young Indians. Our government is fully committed to empower its citizens with industry-relevant skills and job opportunities through various skilling, upskilling and re-skilling programmes - with a special focus on Digital Skills," said Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Minister of State in the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship; and Electronics and Information Technology. "I appreciate Amazon India’s Future Engineer Program, which provides our underprivileged students relevant training and skillsets through government schools. I wish them all the very best in continuing this program and strengthening Prime Minister Modi Ji's vision of New India and Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas, Sabka Prayaas,” Chandrasekhar added.
Enhancing learning experiences for students, educators
Amazon has partnered with select non-profits to create mobile based computer science learning apps and translated multiple world class courses (like code.org). Around 70 labs have been setup across the various government schools where kids don’t just learn to code but to build live projects using physical computing components like raspberry pis and sensors. This helps in inculcating computer science skills such as machine learning, coding, natural language processing (NLP) and artificial intelligence (AI). AFE initiatives such as ‘Code-a-Thon’ and ‘Hour-of-Code’ help students understand the basics of programming before creating pathways for more immersive learning through Amazon Cyber Robotics Challenge. The digital assets created under Amazon Future Engineer would enable millions of students, who do not have access to a PC or do not speak English, to learn computer science in their own language.
“We provide computer science learning avenues which include interactive learning content based on real world application of computer science in local languages, curated curriculum for schools, courses for teachers in CS, additional recourse person to teach CS and bridge infrastructure gaps where possible. Through these initiatives, we believe that we will be able to inspire young people to build their best future through quality computer science education, while building a diverse and inclusive tech industry,” Kumar added.
Educators are central to the program, and the focus is to learn and teach computer science in an engaging manner. Training and coding courses are offered to teachers who want to take computer science to their classrooms. “The students are enjoying and benefiting from this learning experience. Earlier, I knew little about the concepts of algorithms and sequencing. The teacher training course has provided me with a broader lens to understand how these concepts are extremely useful for the students and can help them learn coding and develop logical thinking and design thinking, skills that are needed in the technology industry.” says Surekha Kunjir, Teacher, Pimple Nilakh School, Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC), Pune.
Transforming the lives of budding engineers
In 2021, Amazon Future Engineer scholarships were provided to 200 female students from low income families to pursue computer science engineering. Seeing the success of this program, Amazon is extending the scholarship to support 500 more students this year. The selected students will receive Rs 40,000 per year for the duration of their courses in computer science or related fields of study. The program besides financial support also provides mentorship by Amazon employees and advanced personalized coding boot camps to scholars to help them transition into successful careers in tech industry.
Through these initiatives, AFE provides students and educators with the right tools for tomorrow and creates pathways for young people to realise their potential and build a better future.