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School of high technology to be opened in Kazakhstan — interview with Kwame Yamgnane

Thursday, 30 January 2020, 14:29:56

On the eve of the forum “Digital Future of the Global Economy,” the journalists of Primeminister.kz interviewed the Founder of Qwasar Silicon Valley Kwame Yamgnane, who had specially arrived from the United States to participate in the forum. Yamgnane spoke about his vision of the digital future, global trends in teaching programming, and also announced plans to launch the QWANT high-tech school in the capital on the basis of the AIFC Bureau for Continuing Professional Development.

— Dear Kwame Yamgnane, welcome to Kazakhstan! You are a co-founder of the School 42 of computer programming. 42 Schools are called the "future of the education system." What is the peculiarity of the school? Why is it so successful?

— This is an unconventional school. My colleagues from EPITECH and I opened it in 2013 in Paris. Then we brought it to Silicon Valley. Innovation School 42 is fundamentally different from the traditional education system around the world. For example, there are no teachers, textbooks or diplomas. The training is automated and presented as a gameplay. The student is responsible for her studies. Only those who really need knowledge, and not getting a diploma, study. Information is provided intensively and in a short time without days off, instead of stretching the training for several years.

— You are also the founder of the first school, QWASAR Silicon Valley, with an online platform for teaching programming. What is its difference from other schools? Please, tell us about it.

— QWASAR Silicon Valley is a school where we teach what Silicon Valley needs right now, we train software engineers. Of course, everyone knows that the best software engineers are in Silicon Valley, and we are opening a school to transfer the experience of students from there to here.

— Now there are a lot of schools, courses, online formats for teaching programming. Still, what is necessary for effective programming training?

— Programming is engineering, so you need a lot of practice to understand how to program. If we take Kazakhstan, there is a very strong base in STEM: a strong physical and mathematical science knowledge. And this is a good basis for learning the basics of programming.

— Is it possible to open a school like the Innovative Programming School 42 or its branches in Kazakhstan?

— In fact, we are going to open a school together with the AIFC. Because we really want to bring a high-tech school to Kazakhstan to prepare your country for faster development in the digital era. The possibility of cooperation in this direction was first discussed with the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Askar Mamin during his recent visit to San Francisco.

The opening of the school will contribute to the digitalization of the financial industry through the training of high-quality personnel in the field of financial technologies that can develop and implement non-banking products considering the requirements of the digital economy.

— How will this school differ from many others that exist in Kazakhstan?

— The school is planned to be opened on the basis of the AIFC Bureau. It will be called QWANT. The application process for studying at the school is carried out online on the school's website. You will need to take a test and an interview. The site is almost ready, I hope that there will be many applications, and we will be able to train professional software engineers.

— As you said, at school 42 in the USA there are no teachers, the principles of teamwork and equality prevail. Will all of these principles be preserved in Kazakhstan?

— Yes, they will be the main principles. The curriculum will also be based on the principles of active learning, equal andragogy, project training, gamification, and role modeling. All these principles have been tested for several years at EPITECH University. A distinctive feature of the school is the exclusion of the teacher as a facilitator and controller of the educational process. Responsibility and the result lie entirely with the student, which creates a precedent for creativity in problem solving, develops communication skills, teaches you to work independently and in teams, focuses on the result.

— How do digital technologies change education?

— There are a lot of processes going on. In fact, there is an increasing influence of science on education. Teaching methods are changing, the way students learn is changing. For example, 20 or 30 years ago, to learn anything, you had to go to university, because you did not have access to any resources. Today, all this can be done online. Today you have Google. If you want to learn something, you google it, enter a name and you can easily find information about it. Knowledge is very easy to access from all over the world. This is one of the big changes that the Internet has brought, one of the influences of technology.

— What competencies do you need to have in the 21st century?

— At the moment, the abilities that are necessary in the 21st century are to be truly creative, to work with users, and to be innovative in what you do. The most important thing is no longer what you know, but how to be innovative and creative with it.

— What trends in programming training can you name?

— There are big changes in the way we teach programming. Programming has two basic components. The first is computer science, the study of mathematics is important here. On the other hand, you need to know how to be a software engineer. A software engineer is not only about your skills and competencies in computer science, it is also your ability to create programs, innovativeness, work with modern technologies, the ability to manage your project. Therefore, this is not only about computer science. And one of the big transitions that we are doing is bringing these great technologies to Kazakhstan in order to educate the largest possible number of people and teach them all these things.

— How do you assess the digitalization process in Kazakhstan?

— Kazakhstan has great chances to advance in digitalization, because you do not need to go through all the historical stages in order to come to digitalization. You can make a big leap into the future through the introduction of technology in the economy. You can already get to the top and immediately reach the highest level in the digital economy. You made big changes in terms of economy, proof of this is the opening of the AIFC. You are making big changes in terms of digitalization. Therefore, I think that what is happening at the moment is that you are making a leap from your current level to one of the highest levels of digitalization. It will take another 5-10 years, and you will be at the highest level.

The most important thing in the digital economy is the development of human capital. The most important thing in a strong digital economy is people. Therefore, you need to have as many software engineers as possible, people who are ready to bring their country to the digital era, to a new level. Because now everything is connected, people here will work with people in the USA, in Eastern Europe, Asia, Central Asia, all regions. Therefore, we need a lot of people who are ready to do this, and in general, this is what we want to bring to Kazakhstan.

— How do you assess the work of the Government of Kazakhstan in this direction?

— I believe that there is absolutely no problem on the part of the Government of Kazakhstan. It is on the right track. I feel this while I’m working here. For example, two months ago, I met with your prime minister in Silicon Valley. This means that your Government understands what is happening in an ecosystem such as Silicon Valley. It is very important. I think the First President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev made a great contribution to moving the country forward. The Head of State Kassym-Jomart Tokayev supported this idea and promoted it to an even higher level. And already, when we see the opportunities that you have for building a new financial center in Kazakhstan, when you come to the most advanced ecosystem, like Silicon Valley, to understand how it works. I think that you are really preparing for the country to reach a new level. Now it is only a matter of fulfillment. Changes will occur, I think there will be no problems.

— This is your first cooperation with Kazakhstan. Why did you choose Kazakhstan?

— We already work with other countries, there are branches in Africa, for example. But Central Asia is a new region for us. Firstly, the Central Asian countries are not open. Before the AIFC, it was difficult to get access to your countries, it was difficult to develop business in Kazakhstan, because the rules are not the same here. After the opening of the AIFC, it became much easier for us, we had more opportunities and it became much easier to do business. Before, your country has been moving, going through its evolution. But now, I think, it is ready for the digital innovation phase, we are here for that.

— Tomorrow the forum will bring together the most prominent representatives of the field of innovation and digitalization. What initiatives do you want to discuss at the forum with other representatives of the field?

— We will have a panel session at which we will discuss the impact of digital technologies on education, and also talk about the opening of the school.

— Thank you for the interview!

— Thank you for inviting me to an interview. I am very happy to be here. I really like the hospitality of the people of Kazakhstan. I wish you to remain the same and achieve the goals of the forum as soon as possible and rise in the digital era.


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