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Mikheil Chkhenkeli, a candidate for the Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia, addressed the Parliamentary Committee on Education, Science and Culture, Sport and Youth Affairs and spoke about the measures taken to sustain distance learning during the pandemic. Mikheil Chkhenkeli emphasized that the anti-crisis measures taken by the Ministry in the field of education were highly praised by international partner organizations, namely, Anthony Salcito, the Vice President of Microsoft Education, UNICEF representatives in Georgia and the Head of the OECD Directorate of Education.
Mikheil Chkhenkeli: “Despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic, through joint efforts, it was possible to safeguard the continuity and quality of education. To prevent the further spread of Covid-19 and ensure the uninterrupted flow of education for students, the Ministry has quickly developed relevant recommendations for schools, in conjunction with successfully implementing various distance learning platforms in the education system.”
According to the Ministerial candidate, within the scope of introducing distance learning methods in Georgia, the Ministry managed to create virtual classrooms for all grades and subjects in cooperation with Microsoft corporation. As a result of this fruitful partnership, the Microsoft Education Portal (Microsoft Teams) was translated into Georgian, further integrating the valuable electronic resource platform – el.ge. Moreover, the process of integrating an electronic journal is currently in progress.
Additionally, Mikheil Chkhenkeli noted that every crisis raises precious opportunities. Under these circumstances, The Ministry was swift to collaborate with the First Channel of Georgia to create a unique education project – TV School, launching on March 30, 2020. According to Mr. Chkhenkeli, TV school is a long-term project and will continue to broadcast on a newly created channel – First Channel Education.
TV School provides TV lessons for I-XII grade students in all subjects, as well as special preparatory entrant hours, a separate lesson grid for representatives of national minorities (Armenian and Azerbaijani) and an adaptation of all lessons for students with hearing impairment in Sign language.
Mikheil Chkhenkeli underlined the regulation of the legislative base in order to improve the distance learning process, in particular, in June 2020, owing to the initiative of the Ministry, an amendment was made to the law on general education, thus recognizing distance learning as one of the forms of education. At the same time, before the start of the 2020-2021 school year, the rule of distance learning was approved, which ensured that the teaching-learning process is conducted remotely.
Mikheil Chkhenkeli also emphasized the importance of supporting the entrants in the distance learning process and noted that for this precise reason, the Ministry implemented the – “Web School” project, within which up to 400 webinars were held for both Georgian and non-Georgian entrants.
As for the much-needed teacher support programs during the pandemic, the ministerial candidate stated that electronic resources are constantly created, in conjunction with IT specialists consulting teachers to conduct remote learning without any technology-related issues.
Furthermore, Mikheil Chkhenkeli stressed the importance of ensuring equal access to education and noted that beneficiaries of penitentiary institutions are continuously provided with educational services. Additionally, during the first semester, upon students return to classrooms, parents were given the opportunity to choose the distance learning format. All schoolteachers, whose students voluntarily switched to distance learning had their pay doubled due to an increased workload.