An educational tour to one of the most advanced digital countries in Europe took place from March 12 to March 18, 2023 as part of the European Union project «Digikonush — Building transparent future for rural communities via digitalization» in partnership with Estonian Centre for International Development (Tallinn), implemented by the «Leader» (Karakol).

The delegation from Kyrgyzstan included about 10 representatives of state bodies and independent experts. The trip program became very rich – the participants met experts daily and visited educational institutions in Tallinn, Narva, other cities of Estonia, ranging from kindergartens and schools to universities, professional persons, specialized public and private organizations.

In addition, they had a good opportunity to ask the Deputy Chancellors for General Outreach and Outreach of the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research Liina Põld and the representative of the Estonian Centre for International Development ESTDEV they are interested in.

According to the participants, as a result of the educational visit, a clearer picture has emerged of the current situation in Kyrgyzstan in this area, new ideas for digital transformation and plans for the profile of the ministry and department also appeared.

Deputy Minister of Culture, Information, Sports and Youth Policy of the Kyrgyz Republic Chyngiz Esengul uulu:

“My original entertainment goal was to learn from Estonia’s experience in introducing e-ticketing to the country’s cultural and historical institutions. Before that, I got acquainted with the electronic system of Russia and Kazakhstan, but I think that the example of Estonia is the most suitable for Kyrgyzstan. We are talking about the transfer of management of all subordinate educational institutions to the outsourcing of individual companies, while the control of the state.

We planned to create a unified system of electronic tickets, but the experience of the Baltic country showed that museums, for example, have their own specifics and functions, so do cinemas and so on. Therefore, it would be more appropriate, following the example of Estonia, to manage this particular company by industry, provided that they conscientiously fulfill plans and tasks, set forms and clearly keep records of income with their calculation of a fair amount.

Head of the Department of Digital Transformation of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic Nurlan Sharshenbai uulu:

“In Estonia, digital skills are taught already from preschool age, so children in grades 6-7 already know how to write codes in Python, which corresponds to the average speed of a programmer in Kyrgyzstan. A large-scale and open platform for electronic registration of each citizen, clearly showing his educational path from A to Z. The information in it is not static, but dynamic, updated in real time. How did they do it? The trick is that parents, students, teachers — everyone is interested in entering up-to-date information. So, if his data is not entered into the electronic system, he simply will not be able to use a reduced ticket in public transport. It is the same with visible diaries — without their data, the student will not see the homework in the system, perhaps parents and teachers will control it.

On this trip, I have put together the missing puzzles in my knowledge and intend to share my knowledge with colleagues for faster results in the framework of the Sanarip Muun plan, designed for 2023-2026. The main thing we have is desire and support.”

Former Minister of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic, doctor of pedagogical sciences, professor Ulanbek Mambetakunov:

“I was particularly impressed that in the Estonian Vocational High Schools the direction of development appears in close combination with employers, which often occurs when there is a frequent need in countries for various professions. I also liked the fact that each school has its own autonomy, uses textbooks that the teachers themselves have chosen. The main achievement of the results collected in the state standard. And, as for digitalization, this process in Estonia 30 years ago (including schools) and now 99% of all public services are digital.”

Head of the Department of State Agency for Civil Service and Local Government of the Kyrgyz Republic Cholpon Achikeyeva:

“It was the first trip of this kind, so I would like to express my gratitude to the Digikonush project. Before my arrival, I had got acquainted with the administrative-territorial reform carried out in Estonia, since, according to the decree of President Sadyr Zhaparov, we only started the process of consolidation of ayil aimaks. There were many questions about their experience in the distribution of staff positions, the work of local authorities, their quick interaction with the population. I received answers to them and I hope that during the visit of Estonian colleagues to Kyrgyzstan, we will study this topic in more detail and already on experimental observations.”

Director of the state institution «Zhany kitep» of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic Tolegen Amatov:

“In Estonia, the digitalization of libraries began 20 years ago, in our schools this process is only in its 2nd year. To date, we have automated the Zhany Kitep book accounting system and are working on an electronic application form. What will all this give us? Firstly, it will help to accurately determine the needs of readers and students in the literature by tracking applications in real time. Secondly, it will facilitate the work of librarians, specialists from district and city departments of education, saving them from the tedious preparation of paper reports. And, finally, it will create more comfortable conditions for readers in a quick search for the necessary literature.

Project expert for the development of video trainings Nazira Esenalieva:

          “One of the important ideas taken from Estonia for me was the methodology of the School of Entrepreneurship at all levels of education – from kindergarten to adulthood. That is, within the framework of a special program, kids in Estonia from the age of 5 have the opportunity to acquire the skills of keeping records of finances and economic activities, starting from the simplest basics, of course. In addition, training is accompanied by rich practice — students visit real banks, companies, enterprises and communicate with management. What is even more remarkable is that for this program, school teachers, kindergarten teachers and university professors jointly undergo 6 months of training in the form of trainings. In Kyrgyzstan, teachers, unfortunately, are often on their own, so it is more difficult to achieve results. I think we could adapt this practice in our country.”

Strategic planning expert Zaure Sydykova:

 “In Kyrgyzstan, unfortunately, there are not enough concrete implemented digitalization tools to improve the efficiency and quality of education. Here we saw with our own eyes in practice these methods and tools, as well as how they help to significantly improve the quality of management. In particular, I was struck by the systematic and comprehensive approach of Estonia to this matter, that is, the possibility of electronic support of a person from kindergarten to university, with an emphasis not only on acquiring knowledge, but also life skills and shaping him as a person, a citizen. I remember the system of assessment and electronic registration of schoolchildren, the established feedback of the educational institution with the child and parents.

What could be taken from Estonia’s experience right now? I think the format for creating mixed groups of school teachers and kindergarten teachers to improve their skills in certain subjects. For myself, I took a number of mechanisms that can be used in the implementation of the Concept of Adult Education. These are not only digital skills, but also life skills, such as skills related to entrepreneurship development, climate change adaptation, etc.

I think that carbon copy implementation will not work, these are still two different countries, with different capabilities, resources and level of preparedness. Such a digital transformation will require a good ubiquitous Internet, computers, and infrastructure. It will take time. And most importantly, the willingness of the population itself to apply this knowledge and skills, especially among the adult population, is needed. It seems to me that we need to start by showing the benefits to the population from the use of digital technologies, as Estonia did in its time. That is, to find attractive benefits for the Kyrgyz people in this, it is good to think over motivational measures. Well, it is clear that today we have the most prepared youth. By the way, it is this young generation that can become a competitive advantage for our country. By teaching them digital skills, a powerful breakthrough can be made.”

It should be noted that the phased introduction of innovative technologies in Estonia began in 1991. The country is one of the first in Europe to introduce digital school exams. In Estonia, 99% of public services are received online, and a convenient electronic format of interaction with local authorities, which also excludes corruption schemes, also attracts a large number of foreign entrepreneurs, and, as a result, money capital to the economy. Estonia has repeatedly come out on top among European countries in the international PISA Programme for International Student Assessmen ranking.