Women in Business : Neene Gichaara, Tinker Education Manager
Introduce yourself – tell us a bit about yourself and your STEM Education Course.
My name is Neene Gichaara, manager at Tinker Education in Nairobi. My key role is to build partnerships with parents in order to discuss, support and promote Tinker STEM Education with a focus on their child’s learning development.
At Tinker Education students are taught STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) with the application of computer science (coding) to explore and create. By tinkering (learning by doing), students are free to make mistakes, improve, collaborate, and share with others as part of the Tinker Learning Sequence.
We offer digital literacy courses, programming courses through fun and interactive animation projects, science programs with exciting experiments, IGSCE Mathematics tuition, as well as process art and guided reading weekday classes for 3-4 year olds.
The goal of Tinker Education is to enhance the learner’s natural talents by developing their 21st century skills in critical thinking, problem solving, reasoning and communication skills to succeed in career and life.
Tell us about your Courses.
- When and why did you start your organization?
Tinker Education Ltd., which was established in 2016 by Korean Edtech (education technology) company, EMCAST based on their expertise in ELearning. Tinker STEM Education is designed to realize student-centered learning and encourage exploration with hands-on, physical computing and unplugged activities with the purpose of nurturing children and the youth for global competitiveness. That is why the STEM Research & Development team of EMCAST conducts investigation on STEM in education in the USA, UK & South Korea in order to develop the best comprehensive curriculum, content, and resources.
- Please share the main need/gap your organization is filling in the market and who your main customers are?
“Under the new Kenyan education system (2-6-3-3-3), learners will not sit exams but they will be evaluated through Continuous Assessment Tests (CATs) on the skills acquired as opposed to cramming for exams as has been the case.
Experts are of the view that it will enable learners to develop beyond academics and also focus on how best they can use their specific talents to make a living. Tinker Education is the solution for students to perform well in this new education system. Our STEM + computer science programs develop program solving and critical thinking skills necessary for the 21st century.”
We welcome children ages 5-17 Years old at all skill levels for the STEM programs. Based on their exposure to computer science and performance evaluation, we suggest an appropriate Tinker Program.
- Do you have any special services for parents that cannot afford these courses?
Our strategy is to provide the best quality products and service in the local culture. Education is one of the key factors for national development, and the children of developing countries should have the same quality education and capability to achieve as much as those in the developed countries. We believe STEM education can realize this goal. In order to achieve this, we source technology, tools and materials from all over the world.
Overall understanding the local market and meeting local needs is very important so we provide an affordable package compared to other after-school (extra-curricular) programs in the education sector. Likewise, we look for opportunities to share Tinker STEM curriculum, contents, and devices in schools for all Kenyan children to access.
- The ‘art of the start’ is often said to be very difficult – what was the hardest part about getting these courses off the ground?
Firstly, overcoming government regulation and lengthy procedures when establishing a corporate body and registering Tinker Education to the relevant authority has been the toughest challenge. We are still in the process of registering Tinker Education Academy (Learning Centre) to the Ministry of Education since we started this process in January 2017.
Secondly, less brand awareness and having no network among the Kenyan education key players and customers was another challenge. We are currently raising brand awareness of Tinker Education as a STEM centre among potential customers by executing various promotion events through diverse channels such as Mum’s Village.
- What is the most rewarding thing about running these courses in Kenya? And the most frustrating?
Above all, it is most rewarding to see STEM education growing in Kenya and more parents as well as educators noting its value and importance. Although it can be frustrating to find the facilities and equipment locally, we are fortunate to have the committed investment and expertise of EMCAST to meet the demand for Tinker Education.
- Is this your first course you have run or have you tried others previously?
EMCAST has piloted Tinker Education in other parts of Kenya and currently provides a Digital Literacy program to students at Kingshill Academy in Baringo.
- What is the best review you’ve received from a client about your courses?
During last year’s April Invention Camp with LittleBits, we hosted an Invention Fair where our students shared with family and friends their innovation process and creations. One mother was moved to tears and told us that she had never witnessed her son speak in public. And yet, he was able to convey all the information about his project with his new sense of self-esteem.
It is always encouraging to see kids return term after term, or camp after camp. Therefore, we are able to see their progress and hear reports about their character and learning attitude developing as a result of confidence brought about through our programs and the social connections built at Tinker Education.
8. What do you like most about MumsVillage and what would you change?
The MumsVillage team are supportive and available to assist with our marketing needs. They have a reputable name that has garnered an audience of many. We appreciate the opportunity to share our programs through their channels.
9. Lastly, what or who made you most happy today?
Every day, I enjoy working in a unique place where I am learning all the time, from the best people—our students. It makes me happy to see a child feel empowered to independently create, code or solve. Kids are more capable than they know, and to prove it, they should be given the skills and tools to think critically.