The Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia, Mikheil Chkhenkeli participated in an online International Discussion Panel on International Policy, organized by TSU International School of Economics (ISET) and ISET Research Institute and addressed the participants. Reviewing higher education after the pandemic was the main topic of discussion. During the dialogue, the attendees discussed the impact of post-pandemic demographic, economic, social consequences on higher education institutions, and the higher education sector in general; the upcoming challenges and its solutions, as well as the issues of adaptation and further development of the higher education sector in the post-pandemic era.
Mikheil Chkhenkeli addressed the public gathered on the webinar: “I would like to thank the TSU International School of Economics (ISET) and the ISET Research Institute for organizing such an interesting discussion panel. I think it will be useful and important for all parties involved. The COVID-19 pandemic has posed a major challenge to the world in a variety of areas, including education. During these circumstances, when students are left out of classrooms and auditoriums, the main goal of our team was to continue the provision of education without any interruptions. Together with teachers, lecturers, Georgian government, and international organizations, we can say today that we have successfully overcome the challenges facing the education system during the pandemic, and this semester has indeed been completed”.
Furthermore, in his speech, the Minister noted that Georgia's success in the implementation of distance learning is also evidenced by the international response. In particular, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), has released a report on tackling the educational challenges in 2020 caused by COVID-19 pandemic. Study examined practices from 98 countries. The steps taken by the Georgian government to ensure a continuous education process are one of the best examples. Additionally, Andreas Schleicher, Head of the OECD Education Directorate, and Anthony Salcito, Microsoft's Vice President on education, both praised Georgia’s measures in tackling the COVID-19 crisis.
The Minister also emphasized the enthusiasm and creative approach of teachers and lecturers of higher education institutions in the implementation of distance learning and expressed his gratitude towards them. According to Mikheil Chkhenkeli, during the pandemic, the teachers, like the doctors, found themselves on the front line of the battle and successfully coped with the new challenges.
Moreover, the Minister also thanked the international organizations with which the Ministry has been in constant communication during this period and received useful recommendations and guidance. Minister Chkhenkeli also spoke about a new project launched in cooperation with the World Bank, which has a budget of $ 102.7 million and aims to develop human capital by providing quality education and a favorable learning environment in Georgia. According to the Minister, this project will greatly help to overcome the challenges of the post-pandemic period in Georgia.
Additionally, the minister noted that during the initial stages of the pandemic, the Rector Council was given a clear recommendation to resume the spring semester in a distance learning format, in pilot mode. The Minister also stressed that since there is one common challenge facing all universities, the process has been successful through mutual assistance and sharing of experience between universities. All universities have been advised to follow the guidelines for e-learning and quality assurance developed by the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA).
Furthermore, the Minister also spoke about the project "TV-School" created in cooperation with the Public Broadcaster to ensure universal access to education, where experienced teachers of all subjects and grades provide engaging lessons. According to the Minister, the project, which is aired on the First Channel - Education, has received an incredibly positive response from the public. Not only students but also their family members watch TV lessons regularly.
Mikheil Chkhenkeli explained that all successful projects created during the pandemic will continue to function. Upon the arrival of students to classrooms, the electronic component of education will be further enhanced, which in turn will enhance the capacity of electronic resources, the ability to implement joint projects at local and international levels and provide various professional trainings.
The online discussion organized by ISET was also attended by the following experts: The President of European Higher Education Quality Assurance Registry - Karl Dittrich, The President of Magna Carta Observatory (Bologna) and Academic Cooperation Association (Brussels) - Sijbolt Noorda, the World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus – Sebastian Molineus, and the rector of Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University - Giorgi Sharvashidze.