With this week’s GT newspaper focused on the theme of “education,” we spoke to one of the most prestigious educators in the country, British Council Georgia, to find out how they have been supporting Georgia on its path to developing the education sector, and what we can expect in the post-pandemic future.
“We have various programs in Arts, English and Education, alongside the well-known IELTS and various Cambridge assessment exams,” says Ekaterine Patsatsia, Marketing and Communications Coordinator at British Council Georgia.
“We are running a Creative Economy program with four directions: The Creative Producers program is a development opportunity for producers in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and the Western Balkans; we are supporting the Creative Economy, a program for policymakers; we are developing a research and evidence framework for the creative industries in Georgia; and the fourth is ‘Selector Pro,’” she tells us.
“Crafting Futures has a Creative Learning Module (CLM) that has recently been approved on a national level by the Georgian National Education Quality Enhancement Center, and will now feature in VET programs across the country,” Patsatsia adds.
One of the British Council Georgia’s flagship programs ‘Creative Spark: Higher Education Enterprise Program’ has recently managed to establish the Georgian Enterprise Education Alliance (GEEA). Only in Georgia, this alliance was established to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem throughout the country that is recognized internationally as best practice, and which supports the country’s youth, students and citizens to develop entrepreneurial skills to enhance their careers in employment and/or as entrepreneurs.
“At the moment, we have an open call for ‘The Big Idea Challenge’ video pitch competition, which encourages young people from the participating institutions of program countries to develop an innovative ‘startup’ and tell the world about it,” Patsatsia notes.
“Our ‘Learning Hubs: Improved Skills for Stronger Societies’ is a three-year program that develops young people’s skills so that they can build their self-confidence and get better access to educational and career pathways in the future. We will have the closing event of this program on 25 March.
“We are especially proud that British Council designed the English Teaching Strategy for General Education in Georgia, which has officially become part of the National Education Strategy of Georgia 2022-2032,” Patsatsia says.
“And, of course, the English program makes up a significant part of our operations,” she points out. “As part of our Future English program, the Online Teacher Community is our new peer-led online platform for English language teachers. The platform is a unique, borderless, digital home for thousands of English language teachers across the region, where they can meet each other, share experience and knowledge, access synchronous and asynchronous learning, and document their development in a safe space facilitated by trained facilitators.”
The pandemic naturally affected studies in Georgia. We asked Stephen Shelley, Teaching Center Manager at British Council Georgia, about that difficult time and how they had overcome the challenges.
“It’s changed things hugely!” he tells us. “Two years ago, there was a lot of scepticism about online English classes. Now, more than a third of our students choose to have lessons online. As such, we’ve invested in training our teachers for online classes and in providing the platform and resources needed.
“For adults, we launched a new, more flexible course, called myClass, with a flexible timetable with a web portal or mobile app so students can manage their schedule and preferences,” he says.
“The online classes have surprising benefits: online classes for young learners allow students all over Georgia to study English with us, whereas before we relied on face-to-face classes in branches in different parts of Georgia.
“And, of course, we have been able to offer places to Ukrainian students in our classes who are not able to attend lessons for obvious reasons, which has meant a great deal to them and our team of teachers,” Shelley notes.
We asked him to give his perspective on the future of education and language-learning in Georgia, post-pandemic.
“We’re expecting the demand for English classes to rebound now that the pandemic is coming to an end and restrictions are being lifted,” he says. “We expect the majority of students to opt for face-to-face teaching, so we are really glad to be (finally!) opening our brand new teaching center behind the parliament building, with its state of the art classrooms and environment.
“Online classes will remain popular with a number of students, though, and this will allow us to reach more students right across the country.
“And finally: parents tell us that they want their children to start learning English earlier and earlier. We would like to open up for younger children, though it’s important we do this in as safe and supportive an environment as possible,” he says.
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