The goals of the IT Education Foundation are to promote the Information Technology (IT) sector among schoolchildren as an option when choosing a future profession and to increase the number of children and students, who study programming in-depth in primary schools, secondary schools and universities. Likewise, the foundation is working to foster the development of the education system and economic processes nationally, promoting the Information Technology sector as the foundation of the future economy, as well as materially supporting schoolchildren and students learning about IT.
The IT Education Foundation’s founders are Accenture Latvia, Riga Technical University and MAK IT. The foundation’s supporters are Emergn, EazyBI, Latvijas Mobilais Telefons (LMT), ZAB Reihmanis & Partneri, VEFRESH and VISMA. The foundation’s cooperation partners are the National Centre for Education (NCE), Skola2030, Printful, “Elements of AI”, Riga TechGirls. the Latvian Information and Communications Technology Association (LICTA), the University of Latvia, the Transport and Telecommunication Institute, Latvian Informatics Teachers’ Association, Riga State 1st Gymnasium, Riga 22nd Secondary School, Baltic3D.eu and the portal Skolēns.lv.
The IT Education Foundation’s first project Start(IT) is a social education project, whose goal is to develop schoolchildren’s digital skills. Start(IT) offers the public the chance to learn computing and programming basics free of charge on the portal www.startit.lv, which is annually visited by 60,000 unique users on average. On this portal, schoolchildren, students and teachers have access to computing teaching programmed and comprehensive teaching materials, which were tried and tested in 2015 in collaboration with the NCE in 153 Latvian schools. Likewise, Start(IT) regularly organises computing and programming courses and events led by various business mentors.
From September 2020 improved teaching content will gradually be introduced in all of Latvia’s schools along the approach being worked on in the project coordinated by the National Centre for Education (NCE), “A Competence Approach to Teaching Content” (Skola2030). The findings and examples obtained in the approbation of computing content devised by Start(IT) serve as the basis with which to develop the new teaching subject of computing, which will be one of the technology sector subject and will be taught in all schools from 1st grade onwards.
The IT Education Foundation’s second project BITS (Baltic IT Society) aims to attract the most capable students from abroad to Latvia’s best IT study programmes. This is necessary in order to reach the 3,000 ICT graduates a year required by the job market, as well as to increase the quality of studies and their competitiveness globally.
The Latvian mobile communications operator SIA Latvijas Mobilais Telefons (LMT) and innovations quarter VEFRESH see the opportunity to help to prepare secondary school teachers to teach the subject “Design and Technologies”, so in December 2019 the decision was made to join the IT Education Foundation and to devise a new third project. The teaching subject “Design and Technologies” will replace the erstwhile teaching subject “Home Economics and Technologies” and schools will have the chance to offer it as an optional subject in secondary schools.
Firstly, demand for IT specialists is growing not only in Latvia, but also elsewhere in Europe. To increase the number of IT specialists in Latvia, the subject of computing needs to be taught in school including programming. Likewise, impressions of programming need to be changed and pupils need to be encouraged to study and work in the IT sector.
Secondly, at present the majority of schoolchildren do not have the opportunity to learn the subject of programming. In order to make this skill, which is so useful in the job market even more accessible, the IT Education Foundation organises teacher trainings so that programming is taught in as many schools as possible.
Finally, we want to encourage the development of the digital skills of schoolchildren, students and every member of the Latvian population. Modern technologies are becoming ubiquitous. Therefore, with every passing day it becoming increasingly vital to practice them every day not only at work, but also at home.
The foundation is one of the most successful examples of cooperation between the private and public sector, which testifies to the fact that businesses are interested in supporting the foundation’s initiatives, as well as in getting involved in the development of contemporary teaching content.
The project has received several awards and recognitions:
In 2016 for its outstanding contribution to education Start(IT) received the AmCham Latvia award "For Personal Growth";
In 2017 Start(IT) received the Accenture Global Awards award;
In 2018 UNESCO recognized Start(IT) as one of the 12 best IT education projects.