Improving online learning with UNESCO

1 April 2021

The move to online learning in 2020 proved a massive challenge for teachers, students, pupils and parents worldwide, and teachers in Kyrgyzstans vocational lyceums were no exception.

These institutions provide crucial professional and vocational education for thousands of young people every year, training them in skills as diverse as typesetting, welding and hairdressing. But how have teachers responded to distance learning to ensure their students are still able to learn?

Nargiz Temirkulova has been working in education for 9 years and is currently a lecturer training apprentices in systems administration at Vocational Lyceum No. 3 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Though she did not start her career as a teacher, Nargiz is a highly qualified specialist, now teaching students in automation and control systems, circuit engineering and computer science. She teaches a number of courses and supervises students as they complete their diploma projects.

A difficult start

Frankly speaking, nobody taught us anything about methods of teaching online lessons or peculiarities of remote learning, she says. We were set the task to conduct online lessons using webinar platforms and we had to study everything ourselves, choose online tools. Nargiz explains that she feels that she and her colleagues faced a lot of problems with teaching online at the start of the pandemic. The main issues, she says, range from keeping students motivated and monitoring attendance and participation, to the more concrete and practical issues like the lack of live communication, problems with technical equipment, and the lack of skills and knowledge in how to do online learning.

In October 2020, UNESCO Almaty in cooperation with GIZ developed a special online training course for teaching staff working in lyceums like Nargizs in Kyrgyzstan. The aim was to offer a two-week course to strengthen their skills in distance learning and develop specialist skills in tools like Moodle, Zoom, Teams and PowerPoint. As a train-the-trainers programme, the course aimed not just to equip the participants with new skills to improve their online teaching, but also to ensure they could pass the skills on to others too.

Nargiz decided to enrol in the training because in the technical disciplines she teaches, the teaching methodology is really crucial for helping students master the skills. The rapid development of society and the constant updating and supplementing of materials in technical disciplines means that the learning process has to be constantly improved, she explains. I decided to enrol in this training because I wanted to improve my skills in distance learning and online teaching tactics.

Nargiz took part in the training in November, with UNESCO trainers Vitaliy Nikonovich, from Belarus, and Bronius Aismontas, from Lithuania as well as Kyrgyzstani colleagues from GIZ.

A turning point

This training was a turning point for me, says Nargiz. Time is split into before and after the training. I came to the course to learn something new about teaching methods, but as a result I learned not only that, but also a lot about how to make learning effective. Every session I attended helped me change something in myself. I now feel I know a lot more, and I am a lot more confident in myself.

And now that she is fully equipped as a trainer-of-trainers, Nargiz has been actively and passionately passing on her knowledge. Since completing her training with UNESCO and GIZ in November, she has conducted training for colleagues who have, in turn, conducted their own training sessions. Thanks to Nargizs efforts, at least 100 teachers and training supervisors have benefited in this way from the knowledge and skills she gained from the programme. It is not known exactly how many professionals have been trained as part of this waterfall effect from the 22 people who joined the programme at the same time as Nargiz, but it is certainly possible to say that thousands of lyceum students across Kyrgyzstan are benefitting from improved online teaching.

The future of education

The feedback so far has been outstanding, according to Nargiz. This can only bode well for the future of professional and vocational education. The education system has definitely changed forever, she explains. I think the growing interest of students in online education and the subsequent influx of investment will lead to development of more new learning tools. I believe that soon we will even stop asking young people what do you want to be when you grow up? because the new high-tech world is already forcing us to constantly expand and redevelop our practical skills.

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