Anke den Ouden, Microsoft Regional General Manager: "Georgia has right strategy for developing technical skills"

  • Anke den Ouden, Microsoft General Manager for CEE Multi-Country Region. Photo via Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia.

By Tornike Khomeriki

Art & Culture Editor

Agenda.ge, 25 Jun 2020, Tbilisi,Georgia

As the new coronavirus outbreak reached Georgia in the spring, the countrywide shutdown of institutions including educational venues meant a necessity to move the process to remote learning and keep the academic year going.

The Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia was involved in the task through its initiatives such as broadcasting television format of primary school lessons and adapting educational materials for digital use.

The work has involved a cooperation between the ministry and the Microsoft Corporation, which operates projects for digital learning and - even before the pandemic - had agreed with the country's education body on implementing the Minecraft Education Edition, a version of its widely popular videogame, for use in primary schools in Georgia.

While the project is in preparation, Anke den Ouden, Microsoft General Manager for CEE Multi-Country Region, spoke to the ministry in an interview touching on subjects of the Georgian education system's adaptation to remote learning and strategy for teaching technical skills.

How would you assess the already existing cooperation between Microsoft and Georgia?

I am happy to say that cooperation between Microsoft and Georgia counts many years, and we
were glad when we became the leading partner in the digitalization of education of the country
and played our role to help students to achieve more.

It is always a pleasure to cooperate with countries that are open to technologies and digital
transformation. Georgia realized that building future-ready skills among the population is a key factor in succeeding in the nearest future. We all are living in a rapidly changing world where
technical skills and knowledge play an important role in the development of the country, and I
must say that Georgia has the right approach and strategy.

Georgia realized that building future-ready skills among the population is a key factor in succeeding in the nearest future" - Anke den Ouden

Within the framework of our cooperation together with the Education Management Information
System, we finalized a lot of successful projects in the shortest time. I will mention localization of
Microsoft Teams, localization of online courses and learning platform for the teachers, integration of interactive Georgian language chat-bot in MS Teams, and Integration of the digital library www.el.ge in Teams.

These are the projects that were implemented in the past few months, and many others will be
launched effective new academic year. We are happy and motivated, seeing how our joint efforts
and cooperation help our future generation to achieve more.

The education-modelled edition of Microsoft's popular Minecraft videogame will be adapted for use in the Georgian education system. Screenshot via digitaltrends.com.

How would you assess Georgia's implementation of distance learning using Microsoft products, including Microsoft Teams, during the pandemic?

Transitioning education from face to face on remote learning smoothly, was the result of the
digital transformation of education that was initiated by and started by the Ministry of Education,
Science, Culture, and Sport of Georgia. This fact, once again emphasizes the importance of
digitalization. In general, the digital transformation itself is a complex process that requires synchronization of the transformation of many directions. There are needs to create an
appropriate curriculum, to improve technical skills of the teachers, to renew the infrastructure of
the schools, to equip students and classrooms with the right software and hardware, and, of
course, to review the success of usage and to get some learnings out of it.

In general, the digital transformation itself is a complex process that requires synchronization of the transformation of many directions"- Anke den Ouden

We are happy to see Microsoft Teams and other of our products played an important role in the
implementation of remote learning. Still, there are a vast work and effort behind done by the
Ministry's team, that has been working on the project for months and years. Besides Microsoft
Teams, the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture, and Sport of Georgia launched another
successful project called "TV Lessons," which helped students with no access to technologies to
continue learning. Continuous learning and closing academic year successfully mean that the
education system of Georgia responded to the global challenge that we were all faced with.

It is planned to integrate Minecraft Education Edition into the Georgian education system in pilot mode from September... What are the plans to deepen the cooperation between Microsoft and the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture, and Sport of Georgia?

In order to achieve competitiveness, Georgia -- among other countries with developing tech
industries -- must create a skills-based labor market and meet the modern economy requirements by starting digital education from the students` early age.

Minister Chkhenkeli initiated deployment of Minecraft Education Edition, and Microsoft is fully
supporting the project of Minecraft implementation into the education system. From computer
science to mixed reality, it provides endless opportunities for exploration, storytelling, and digital
learning. Minecraft Education Edition is the tool that not only increases engagement but building
skills like collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and systems thinking. The open learning environment gives students the freedom to experiment, encouraging creative self-expression and problem-solving.

In cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture, and Sport of Georgia, we already started deployment of Minecraft in 150 schools of Georgia" - Anke den Ouden

In cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture, and Sport of Georgia, we already started deployment of Minecraft in 150 schools of Georgia. In general game-based learning is the
approach that significantly increases engagement of the students and makes the learning process fun. It also perfectly fits in the hybrid teaching model that was announced by Dr. Chkhenkeli and will be implemented in September 2020. The hybrid model is going to be a new stage of our cooperation, and many existing projects will be implemented in the upcoming months.

I can safely say that Georgia is moving in the right direction in digitization efforts and have a set of
strong supporters and allies as Microsoft certainly is.

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