The Explore Data Science Academy (EDSA) has announced an online course and a series of data science competitions aimed at making ‘job future’ skills available to South African high school students.

From 11 February, scholars between Grades 10 and 12 will be able to access ‘Data Science for High School’ online.

Priced at just R249 a month, the 10-month course teaches the fundamentals of data science and exposes students to Python programming, data visualisation and some basic machine learning algorithms.

“As an academy we’re concerned that vital future skills are not being taught at our high schools. We’ve also priced the course to make it affordable to as broad a spectrum of scholars as possible,” says Shaun Dippnall, a cofounder of the Explore Data Science Academy.

“The jobs of the future are very different to today,” Dippnall adds. “To succeed in 2025 youngsters will need to be creative problem solvers who write code and are able to solve complex software algorithms.

“Data Science for High School is intended to do just that. From 11 February, motivated scholars can begin accessing the course material, which will involve between five and seven hours of self-study a week,” Dippnall says.

Although the course is purely online, instruction material is supplemented by videos and assessments to help guide the student. Regular testing will advise students of their progress and provide necessary feedback.

Commenting on the relevance of the course to high school students, EDSA co-founder Dave Strugnell says: “South Africa’s youth should be learning data science skills from as early an age as possible. In many countries these skills have been introduced into the syllabus at primary school level already.”

In addition to the online course, Explore will be holding two competitions later this year, which will involve scholars competing against each other in order to solve complex problems using data science techniques. Entrance is free.

“These will be Kaggle-style competitions where we give scholars a problem, as well supportive data, and a time period to solve it. Whoever builds the best algorithm wins,” says Aidan Helmbold, another Explore co-founder.

The winner per competition will earn R10 000. Second prize is R5 000 and third prize is R2 500.

“As the Explore Data Science Academy, we’re excited to lead in mobilising a community of South Africa’s youngest and brightest, and to get them solving problems using data science,” Dippnall says.

“We’re also excited to market this emerging profession so that our youngsters get to see first hand how cool data science is, and then have an option follow a career in this emerging space.”