The Bulgarian information technology industry is one of the fastest growing industries in this country. Arguably, since the 1990s, the IT industry in this country has enjoyed consistent growth, only slowing down between 2008 and 2010 because of the global financial crisis. According to European Information Technology Observatory (EITO), the Bulgarian IT industry has been enjoying at a two-digit rate, and there are no signs that this growth will slow down anytime soon.
This week Irish tech entrepreneur and investor Sean O’Sullivan launched the 2014 MATHletes challenge in partnership with Khan Academy. Students and schools from across the country are invited to compete for €20.000 in prices. So learning math literally pays off in Ireland.
MATHletes is a free tournament for students in 5th and 6th class in primary school and 1st to 3rd year in secondary school junior cycle. The results are tracked online and students can check on their rank on the leaderboard by visiting the MATHletes portal.
Students will compete in three different finals: county, provincial and national and can win cash prices and other awards.
The reasoning behind setting up the MATHletes Challenge is to get Irish students into ICT jobs in the country. According to O’Sullivan there will be around 44.500 job openings in the next six years but Irish students today lack the needed STEM skills to fill them.
“At the moment, Ireland is languishing in the middle of the European tables when it comes to student performance on STEM subjects. There is no reason that Ireland cannot be No 1. The underlying purpose of the MATHletes Challenge 2014 is to help our students develop the confidence and competence to excel in maths by introducing Irish students and teachers to the Khan Academy.”
O’Sullivan told siliconrepublic.com in an interview.
Therefore the other purpose of MATHletes, besides getting students to learn math and challenge their peers, is to introduce flipped classroom concepts and edtech like Khan Academy to teachers in Ireland. Everywhere edtech is being introduced it usually faces reluctance from the teachers side for a variety of reasons including the fear of being replaced or at least being diminished by technology in the classroom. Khan Academy has been faced with its own wave of backlash over the years.
Such a competition might be a good way to introduce new concepts in a more relaxed way. This is not the classic hard-sell to teachers. They are part of the competition and will hopefully have as much fun as their students.
In order to compete in the global economy Ireland sets its focus on a strong digital economy which of course needs skilled workers. A recent World Bank study shows that better maths results among students will have a positive impact on GDP and incomes along the road.
Even relatively small improvements in the math skills have big impacts on the future economic well-being of a country. Khan Academy is a perfect partner to achieve this impact as
“Over the course of a year, students who use the resources of the Khan Academy obtain results that are 20pc better than students with who only have regular maths teaching. Basically, it enables below-average students to be above average, and above-average students to be remarkable.”