Data Education: Empowering the Next Generation of Innovators
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Data Education: Empowering the Next Generation of Innovators

In this rapidly changing world, Eskwelabs introduces "Skills of the Future," a content category that features interviews and conversations with leading experts in technology, data, education, and business. We believe it is critical to keep up with the latest trends and developments in these areas and understand the skills that will be in high demand in the future of work years.

Meet Riz Supreme Comia, a graduate of Eskwelabs’ Data Analytics Bootcamp Cohort 3. She designs and facilitates learning experiences in data analytics, functional literacy, mobility, social reform, and life skills with government officials, families from urban poor areas, persons with disabilities, and learners with underdeveloped literacy. With the Data for Empowerment Alliance, she also works in community development, civic engagement, research, and policy reform. 

Interview by Meg Ruiz, Junior Content Designer at Eskwelabs

As a public teacher without my own classroom, to be able to learn those data analytics skills and use them to improve my students’ learning feels like a superpower. - Riz Comia

Can you tell us about your background and experience in learning Power BI and SQL?

At that time I was still a teacher at Teach for the Philippines—and learning data was at the tailend of my teaching stint. Back then, we were conducting a new program and we didn’t have a way to measure the learners’ skills. Upon entering Eskwelabs, I realized it was a good opportunity to consolidate the data we already had—and there was a lot as we had 7,000 students. We tried using excel and google sheets, aggregating it little by little. But because we had a lot of data points, the tools couldn’t process it. Power BI and SQL made it so much easier for us to analyze the data and use that data to dictate what we’re gonna do next.

Why are these skills important in education? What role do these skills play in the public school system in the Philippines?

Recently, we had a workshop with the national Department of Education’s (DepEd) policy and research department. We had them analyze their own data because they never had an opportunity to do that. We made sure to turn those insights into policy recommendations to make sure that policies are reflective of and responsive to what’s happening on ground—that policies are learner-centered. Such policies ensure that education is not only accessible but also relevant and responsive to the needs of learners.

Can you walk us through the most exciting project you have worked on where you used those skills?

Now, I work in policy reform and we’re advocating for disability inclusive or accessible classrooms. We tried to look for data to support this cause, unfortunately it doesn’t exist. When respective officials do the inventory, they only use checkboxes to ask “Is it accessible?” —it doesn’t really measure if there are ramps, railings, non-slip corridors, etc.

So, we collected data ourselves. We went around schools in Metro Manila trying to audit the schools. Using a tool we built, we measured the data points needed. There was even an event when we invited a Barangay Captain and the media to really check if these facilities were accessible. We even had them go through the commute. All of these were part of the data collection.

I built a dashboard using SQL, and the people I worked with were so amazed! They asked me if I could teach them so they could use the dashboard and maximize its functions. So, I taught them how to do it and how to use Power BI on-site! They were so amazed by it that by the end of the mini session they requested another one for their other employees across the Philippines. 

The officials could see the possibilities after learning Power BI. I do believe that it is also an entry point for them to keep learning those skills. Having those small sessions with them and seeing that excitement brings me hope. Having this newfound drive to make data-driven decisions, coupled with our latest insights from the inclusive data we’ve gathered, matter so much to children with disabilities and give them hope that they’ll be able to go to school.

Who is someone who can be good at your job? What type of mindsets and skills do they need?

Learning data is for everyone. It will broaden your capacities once you try it. You don’t need to have technical skills before entering bootcamps, you just need two mindsets:

What are you currently learning? What's a learning resource you can recommend?

In my work, having the basic skills of SQL can be the jump off point in learning everything else. Recently we’re trying to learn AI and integrate it into our workflows. 

Part of accepting that this is the future of work is being able to build on the skills we currently know to learn more. Even the basic skills, like learning to visualize data or learning to understand data and communicate them, are fundamental skills that will help you level up. For me SQL has been essential in understanding how AI works. 

If you want to learn data analytics and data science, Eskwelabs bootcamps are the perfect place to start and to be able to practice those skills in a community. Skills aren’t really honed in MOOCs because you don’t get to apply them and you don’t have anyone else to learn from.

How would you encourage those in the education sector to upskill? / What does the future of work look like for those in the education sector?

For those in the education sector who are either students, teachers, or non-teaching staff—data analytics will take you the extra mile. It will make the journey more worth it because you’ll get that superpower. I don’t know how else to describe it because that’s what it feels like for me. As a public teacher without my own classroom, to be able to learn those skills and use it to improve my students’ learning feels like a superpower.

If you want a kind of future that’s a little more accessible and a little more inclusive, we need more data-driven policies and educators. The way we can achieve that is to take that leap of faith and learn data analytics.

We’ll be deep diving into our impactful partnerships through the future issues of FutureNotes. To learn more about our learning sprints and how they can benefit your institution, we encourage you to download our Sprint Catalogue. If your organization is driven by education innovation, collaborate with us and help create a future-ready workforce. Together, we can bridge the skills gap and prepare future generations for the changing nature of work.