|27 Sep 2023
|2023 Finalists Global Teacher Prize
In 2000, Babak Mashhadi Ebrahim made the life-changing decision to immigrate from Iran to the United Kingdom, partly drawn by the relative equality that girls and women are afforded there. While he did find this to be the case, it became clear there is still significant work to be done.
As a mathematics and computer science teacher, Babak observed a concerning trend – girls were consistently underrepresented in participation, confidence, and performance in these subjects. Social influences and family traditions often led boys more naturally towards computing-related interests. This placed girls at a relative disadvantage, with potentially significant consequences considering our increasingly technology-focused world.
This issue hit home for Babak as a parent of two daughters; he developed a deep passion for making a positive change. He firmly believes that every student should have equal opportunities, unwavering support, and inspiring role models, regardless of gender, to excel in any field they choose.
To help address this, Babak started his school's Cyber Girls teams, coaching them to victory in the National Cyber Security Centre's CyberFirst competition in 2022 and reaching the final in 2023. To maintain a relevant and inspiring curriculum, Babak organised technology showcases, facilitated coding competitions, featured female speakers as role models and collaborated with the University of Aston Cyber Department to organise Cyber Taster Days for Girls, encouraging more girls to explore careers in technology.
Babak's commitment extends beyond his school. During the pandemic, he addressed the challenges faced by disadvantaged children, initiating after-school clubs, workshops, tech business collaborations, and computer science educational trips. His impact across his community includes serving as the West Midlands Computing Hub's Champion, providing revision sessions for teachers nationwide, and supporting local primary schools with their computing curricula. Babak also organised computing challenge events and delivered sessions designed to inspire students from a young age.
Recognising the importance of innovation, he introduced an Amazon Web Services (AWS) App competition and collaborated with businesses and universities to introduce VR headsets into the classroom. These initiatives have led to exceptional student performance, with his school achieving one of the highest progress rates in computing nationally in 2022.
Of course, computer science is not the only area where gender inequality is present, and his daughter's interest in football highlighted this imbalance to him across the world of sports. Both computer science and football are traditionally male-dominated fields. To help address this disparity, Babak now manages a local grassroots football team and coaches the school's girls' football team, supporting young girls to have the opportunity to excel not only in technology but also in sports. These initiatives, combined with his dedication to teaching, stem from his unwavering belief that every child, regardless of their background or gender, deserves an equal chance to thrive academically and personally.
Babak hopes that as well as reaching the students at his school and the wider community, these efforts can, in a small way, contribute to a brighter future where gender equality and educational opportunities are universal. His mission is clear: to empower young girls and close the gender imbalance in his areas of expertise within his community and beyond.