17 June 2021
Since 2018, UNESCO has been working on a project to help teachers in Kyrgyzstan to strengthen their skills in Information Communication Technology (ICT) and Education for Sustainable Development through a series of programmes supported by funding from the Republic of Estonia.This project built on a long history of cooperation between UNESCO and the Kyrgyz Republic, who have been working together on ICT in education for 20 years.
Zarina Dzhumabekova participated in one of the project’s recent training programmes. Zarina is a teacher in a school in Kyzyl-Suu, a small town of 12,000 people in Kyrgyzstan’s Naryn district, about 350km from the capital, Bishkek, and on the banks of the country’s largest lake, Issyk Kul. The training programme that Zarina took part in took place from August to November 2020 and was conducted by EdNet, the Agency for Quality Assurance in Education, in cooperation with UNESCO.
As part of the preparation for delivering these courses, EdNet undertook a pilot programme and brought in education experts from across Kyrgyzstan to ensure the training was relevant for Kyrgyz teachers and pupils. Importantly, the trainers also made sure that all of the high-quality materials were available in the Russian and Kyrgyz languages.
Training of trainers
One of the first tasks for delivering the training was to ensure it could reach as many teachers as possible – especially important during Kyrgyzstan’s distance learning mode in response to the pandemic, when teachers could not travel for training. Fifteen schools across the country signed up to participate, from the capital Bishkek and the City of Osh to Naryn and Chui regions. Not only this, but the programme invited specialists from Belarus to train an initial group of Kyrgyz educators online on a ‘train the trainers’ model.
This allowed the programme to spread as far as possible, with the initial group of trainers then training others in turn. One of these trainers was Tatiana Matokhina, previously spoke to UNESCO about her experience of becoming a trainer and how proud she was of having helped some of her fellow educators like Zarina to enhance their skills.
Though UNESCO and its partners have been working on projects like these for some years, they have become even more relevant during the global COVID-19 pandemic. The courses were moved online to make sure teachers could still safely access them during the lockdown or quarantine periods. And the courses also included training in how to use tools that teachers would find especially useful in distance-learning mode, like Zoom, Google Classroom, Mentimeter and FramerSpace.
For Zarina, FramerSpace was a particular game-changer for her online teaching during the pandemic. FramerSpace is UNESCO MGIEP's indigenously designed, artificial intelligence (AI) -powered digital co-creation platform that helps draw learnings from the tasks that AI does well, the 'HOW' to teach and consequently learn.
“FramerSpace is really convenient and interesting. All the topics are useful but, most importantly, it is really accessible for the fifth and sixth graders.” As part of the training, Zarina used the programme to teach her fifth grade class a total of seven initial lessons, while both she and her pupils got used to this new way of working. The ESD-themed topics included classes on multilingualism, responsible consumption and nutrition.
She has continued to use the skills she learned and the new tools she was introduced to in the training. And the feedback from her pupils has been fantastic. “The pupils like the lessons and they are really happy with their results. They learned about being active, polite and purposeful, as well as how to eat well, how to protect nature and how to use the internet.”
And it’s not just Zarina’s pupils who are impressed with the new ways of teaching. Their parents have gotten caught up in the new format lessons too, and some even took the time to contact Zarina and her colleagues to thank them! “By watching our online lessons, they also learned about being responsible and careful [about sustainability]. The parents thanked us for these interesting and useful lessons – they have been very supportive.”
The excellent feedback for teachers after the course was almost universal, in fact, with over 91% of pupils from classes whose teachers took part reporting that the lessons were interesting or very interesting. And in the same survey, the majority of teachers said that their participation in the course had helped develop their pupils’ cognitive, behavioural and socio-emotional skills.
But for Zarina, there was even more positive feedback to come. In a competition for ‘best practice in implementing ESD,’ judged by a panel of Kyrgyz education experts, Zarina took one of the top places and won a new laptop, along with a certificate and a box of “I promote ESD2030” badges for her and all her pupils.
On conclusion of the project’s first phases, a UNESCO conference attended by the Deputy Minister of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic, Nadira Dzhusupbekova, heard that the training had been a huge success and a wider rollout was recommended. The future of the project looks bright, thanks to pioneers like Zarina.