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Addressing the Joint Parliamentary Committees, Mikheil Chkhenkeli, the candidate running for the Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia, spoke about the continuation of the educational process in schools, in a safe environment and focused on measures taken to maintain continuity and quality of education, in light of Covid-19 pandemic.
Mikheil Chkhenkeli: “From February 15, the educational process in Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Rustavi schools resumed in classrooms. Consequently, students throughout Georgia have returned to their usual space – the classrooms. I would like to mention and assure the public, that a safe educational environment is provided in our schools. The general education institutions are equipped with all the necessary resources and inventory for the prevention of the virus, the toilets in the schools are organized and maintained, and the sanitary-hygienic norms, as well as the recommendations of the Ministry are strictly observed and maintained."
The Ministerial candidate stressed the importance of maintaining a safe educational environment in schools and proper sanitary-hygienic standards and noted that the health of students and young generation is a top priority for the Ministry. To this end, the First Deputy Minister in General Education is personally informed about the situation in schools, while the Educational Resource Centers, in turn, carry out systematic monitoring of general education institutions.
According to Mikheil Chkhenkeli, before the restoration of the educational process, the Ministry provided timely delivery of updated recommendations on the organization of the educational process and sanitary-hygienic norms to general education institutions.
The Ministerial Candidate especially highlighted the decision of the Coordination Council on the necessity of wearing personal protective equipment for students in grades V-XII on the school premises and the provision of mandatory systematic testing of teachers by the state. The candidate stated that once every two weeks, 20% of public and private school teachers and administrative staff are tested systematically.
Mikheil Chkhenkeli also spoke about the additional opportunities offered to parents and teachers, noting that, like in the previous semester, students' parents can choose between attendance teaching and a form of distance learning. The ministerial candidate stressed that the ministry will provide additional remuneration for teachers conducting distance learning.
The ministerial candidate noted that in the case of coronavirus cases are confirmed in schools, the approach of point restrictions will enter in force. At such times, the school appeals to the local health center to make a decision on the continuity.
Mikheil Chkhenkeli especially emphasized the role of teachers in overcoming the challenges in the education system during the pandemic, thanking them for their selfless work. The ministerial candidate said that since January 2021, there has been an increase in teacher salaries and, in addition, a special teacher professional development path and salary policy have been defined, and based on that, from January 2021, senior special teachers will receive an increase based on their status.
As for the successful introduction of distance learning in Covid-19 in 2020, to ensure the continuity of education, Mikheil Chkhenkeli said that the steps taken by the Ministry in this direction deserved the approval of international partner organizations. Among them, the anti-crisis measures taken by the state were highly praised by Anthony Salsito, Vice President of Education at Microsoft, UNICEF Representative in Georgia, Head of the OECD Directorate of Education, and World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus - Sebastian Molineus.
Mikheil Chkhenkeli noted that appropriate recommendations have been developed for general education institutions to facilitate the distance learning process, and the ministry has offered various distance learning platforms to schools, including Microsoft Teams and Feedc Edu. Also, the el.ge platform was integrated in Teams, the Microsoft educational portal was translated into Georgian and an electronic journal was introduced, the system development of which is underway.
The Ministerial Candidate focused on the unique project "TV School" created in cooperation with the Ministry and the First Channel, which will be implemented from March 30, 2020 and will include lessons for students of all levels in the national curriculum. In addition, the TV lessons are adapted into sign language and the subjects are taught in Armenian and Azerbaijani as well.
It is important to note that during the period of restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus, the BBC offered British students their version of "TV School" from January 2021. Accordingly, what was started in the UK in 2021 was introduced in the Georgian education system 10 months ago.
The ministerial candidate also stressed the need to implement legislative changes to support distance learning. He said that the Law on General Education recognized distance learning as one of the forms of education and approved the rule of distance learning before the start of the 2020-2021 academic year.
In addition, to address the challenges and technical needs of distance learning from the second semester of the 2020-2021 school year, at the initiative of the Ministry, Internet Service Providers have offered a discounted internet package to students and teachers.
To better manage distance learning, the Ministry has ensured the creation of e-learning resources for teachers and their retraining for distance learning. 130 webinars were held for general and vocational teachers, in which more than 20 thousand teachers participated. Up to 16,000 teachers have been trained in distance learning using Microsoft services.