Glasgow entrepreneur launches interschool cyber awareness competition to educate children about online threats
Dr Rashmi Mantri, head of The British Youth International College (BYITC)
As part of its wholehearted commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), a Glasgow-based academic and entrepreneur has launched a free interschool cyber security Capture The Flag challenge in a bid to raise awareness of Internet safety among young people on the occasion of Cyber Week Scotland (27th February to 5th March).
Dr Rashmi Mantri, head of The British Youth International College (BYITC) is inviting schools and individuals across the UK to take part in the competition – with the aim of both educating young people about online threats and promoting the importance of cyber awareness among students, parents and schools.
BYITC Founder and Managing Director, Dr Rashmi Mantri, said, “This is the first time a competition of this kind is being undertaken on such a large scale with school pupils, as opposed to corporate participants. We are trying to assess whether pupils are using safe practices when browsing online, and if they aware of potential dangers on the Internet.
“The objective is to make them more confident, while also creating awareness at school level about the importance of learning cyber security. It is our duty as an educator to protect our children and young people from online threats, as they are most vulnerable and can easily fall into a trap.”
Comprising a masterclass and follow-up survey, the challenge is aimed at pupils from P6 to S4 with basic or indeed no knowledge of the main principles of cyber security. Youngsters will be delivered a 45-60 min lesson covering key issues such as cyber bullying, identity theft, online banking, and online gaming before testing their skills in a 30 min multiple- choice assessment.
Once the competition results are in, awards are split into two levels. The top three performing pupils at each school will earn a Cyber Champ Student certificate and the top 10 overall schools will be awarded a Cyber Champ School certificate and trophy.
The BYITC already has a wealth of expertise in cyber security education. Since its foundation in 2015, the school has launched courses covering a range of diverse subjects including mathematics, English language, programming, and coding, as well as a national Capture the Flag Cyber Security challenge. The BYITC is also the founder of the world’s first online Abacus Maths learning application – a digitalised form of an ancient tool that helps children master arithmetic.
As part of its social corporate responsibility policy the company also runs a club called BYITC Inventors which encourage kids to be all they can be. This initiative includes Summer and Winter Creative writing workshops, Rangoli Competitions, Grammar Competitions, Cyber Security Webinars presented by youngsters, participation of inventor kids on global platforms plus a homework club and a mentorship programme.
Dr Mantri points to the Covid-19 pandemic as one of the key factors driving the school’s motivation to now introduce an Internet safety programme specifically for children and young people.
She said, “During the pandemic, most of our work, education and schooling went online. But the transition to online education has also exposed children to the perils of cyber threats.”
Indeed, while the number of crimes such as theft and robbery decreased during lockdown, cybercrime became even more prevalent. According to the Office of National Statistics, there was an estimated 89% increase in computer misuse offences in the year ending March 2022 compared with 2020.
Dr Mantri added, “Technology is here to stay, and we need to partner with that understanding to be able to cope up with this increasingly digitalised world.
“It is important to teach children about simple online scams, like phishing, ransomware and other malware, and train students to safeguard themselves from online threats.”
By assessing the cyber awareness of young people, the BYITC’s interschool cyber security challenge will provide original and essential data to schools about areas for improvement and development in this field.
Dr Mantri hopes the interschool cyber security competition will ultimately encourage and facilitate conversations about what more can be done to protect young people from cyber threats.
She said, “We are the biggest provider of Abacus classes in the UK, and our English classes are doing really well across the world. Now it’s time for cyber security.
“I think children’s education is our forte – whatever we do, we do it with total passion.”
The interschool cyber awareness competition is currently operated on an invitation-only basis. Based on criteria like results, rankings and quality of teaching, the BYITC will select and invite some of the top schools in the country to take part. Schools that are not invited but wish to take part in the initiative can write to [email protected] for consideration.
The individual students who wish to participate can either refer their school to participate in the competition or they can participate individually also.
There is no participation fee for the selected schools or students.