SCO Secretary-General takes part in a webinar on Digital Transformation of Education in the New Normal: Vision & Key Practices from Weidong

SCO Secretary-General takes part in a webinar on Digital Transformation of Education in the New Normal: Vision & Key Practices from Weidong

SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov took part in a webinar titled Digital Transformation of Education in the New Normal: Vision & Key Practices from Weidong, which was held on 26 August 2020.

E-solutions for remote training are a priority in the new pandemic-affected education reality. Shanghe Trade & Culture House and the SCOLAR Network youth platform, with support from the SCO Secretariat and the Secretariat of the SCO Business Council, organised the event to facilitate mutual exchanges of best practices and innovative solutions to digital education challenges.

Weidong Cloud Education, a webinar participant, shared its vision on how to create an inclusive education ecosystem comprising the latest in information and communication technology and education management systems.

Over 500 persons from more than 22 countries watched the webinar on Zoom and other social networks.

The participants discussed how to promote education amid the COVID-19 pandemic and use the digital potential to transform education in the SCO countries.

The introduction to the webinar included remarks by SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov (the full text of his statement is attached below) and Executive Secretary of the SCO Business Council Sergei Kanavsky.

Mr Norov stated that the pandemic had been a serious blow to the education sector in the SCO region, with over 767.5 million students all over the SCO space finding themselves "outside educational establishments." He noted that these problems could be overcome if the SCO member states continued their effective and mutually beneficial cooperation with Weidong.

Sergei Kanavsky also noted the importance of digitalising all aspects of life and dwelled on Weidong's comprehensive approach to developing and upgrading education technologies, which was praised by all the SCO bodies.

The main part of the webinar included introductory presentations by Senior Vice President of Weidong Sheng Dai and Demos Group (the company's branch in France) Chair Zhu Zhiting, who described their current operations.

The participants were invited to take an interactive tour of the Weidong HQ in Qingdao Technology Park.

There was high participatory activity, with spectators asking numerous questions, a sign of profound interest in the webinar. Among other things, they wanted to know how Weidong was recruiting local IT specialists to localise its products based on local needs and technological development levels; how effective the Weidong educational venues were in the context of online exams and how the company was coping with technological security challenges; to what extent, judging by its experiences, students and teachers are ready to switch to online training, and much more.

In summing up, Secretary-General Norov noted the high level of interest in the topic under discussion and the broad opportunities that were opening for further cooperation.

Weidong Cloud Education Group is a Chinese education company whose educational platform is used by over 10 million people and 9,000 educational institutions. It has also distinguished itself on the international education technology market through project cooperation with UNESCO and SEAMEO (Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation), as well as via a successful outreach to markets in countries in Europe, North America, Africa and Asia. Weidong cooperates with the education ministries of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in supplying equipment for smart classrooms to both countries.

WELCOMING REMARKS

by SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov at the webinar Digital Transformation of Education in the New Normal: Vision & Key Practices from Weidong Cloud Education Group

(26 August 2020)

Colleagues, friends,

I would like to welcome all of webinar participants and express my appreciation to the Shanghe Trade & Culture House and to the SCOLAR Network youth platform for initiating this event, as well as to Weidong Cloud Education that has agreed willingly to share its experience in using modern technology for organising online education.

Colleagues,

Since Pakistan and India joined the SCO, our Organisation has become the largest regional cooperation organisation with the widest geographical and population coverage.

The SCO countries account for more than 60 percent of the Eurasian continent and 42 percent of the global population.

Around 800 million people aged between 18 to 25, or almost half of all the youth in the world, live in the region.

The SCO member states are increasingly expanding their political and economic opportunities and gaining significant authority and influence in the world.

The rich historical and cultural legacy and the huge humanitarian potential of the SCO countries make it natural and necessary for them to strive for closer multilateral cooperation, mutual understanding between their nations and intensifying cultural and humanitarian exchanges.

According to the SCO Charter adopted in 2002, expanding coordinated work in science, technology and education is one of the main spheres of cooperation within the Organisation.

The 15 June 2006 agreement on cooperation in the field of education between the governments of SCO member states provided a solid legal foundation for cooperation in this sphere.

The SCO member states have been successfully implementing the SCO Development Strategy until 2025 that outlines the specific measures for intensifying cooperation in education.

The member states are committed to consistently expanding links between education, research and scientific institutions, carrying out joint research programmes and projects of mutual interest, in bilateral and multilateral formats.

In the Bishkek Declaration of the 2019 SCO summit, the member states recognised that it is important to expand the exchange of information about the efforts being taken to modernise national education systems through coordinated work between ministries, universities, forums of university presidents, scientific conferences and symposiums for researchers, teachers and students.

The SCO member states also stress in the declaration that it is important to further develop the SCO University, including by involving interested states in the agreement between the governments of the SCO member states on the establishment and operation of the SCO University.

As you know, the key mission of the SCO University is to coordinate the training of highly qualified professionals in priority industries for the economic and social development of the SCO countries, as well as to develop integration in the field of education, science and technology.

Since its establishment, the SCO University has earned the status of an important platform for developing cooperation across the SCO in higher education, building closer links between higher education institutions and improving the practice of joint educational projects in the multilateral format.

The SCO University currently comprises 79 higher education institutions, including 14 in Kazakhstan, 23 in China, 8 in the Kyrgyz Republic, 22 in Russia, 11 in Tajikistan and one in Belarus.

With India and Pakistan having become full members, the SCO University will be able to expand its geographical coverage and spheres of cooperation.

Meanwhile, we must remember that since early 2020 and up until today, the world has been dealing with the difficult circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic that has caused unprecedented economic damage to almost every country. The education system has been hit the hardest and the SCO countries are no exception.

UNESCO reports that over 1.2 billion students around the world and over 767.5 million students across the SCO found themselves outside schools.

School pupils, students of vocational schools and universities, teachers and instructors were thrown outside the familiar classroom environment and were forced to rapidly adapt to the conditions of distance learning.

In his recent policy brief on education amid the coronavirus pandemic, UN Secretary-General António Guterres focused on the serious global consequences of the pandemic and called for ensuring access to education throughout the world with due regard for safety measures.

It is notable that the coronavirus pandemic has revealed numerous problems and challenges facing all countries in ensuring the right to education.

The biggest problems include the underdevelopment of IT communications and equipment, inadequate broadband internet access, especially in outlying regions, the absence of the necessary infrastructure and, which is very important as well, low levels of digital literacy among teachers and students.

These problems and challenges have come to a head during the past few months.

At the same time, the efforts taken to overcome these challenges in the field of distance education have allowed all of us to accumulate invaluable experience and to focus our attention on the potential and capabilities for improving education systems through the introduction of online learning and modern technology.

In this context, China's experience of large-scale use of distance learning based on digital technology has a special appeal for the SCO countries in light of the huge

number of students in China.

Since China has become the leader in online education, it is especially important to take advantage of the Chinese companies' practices and experience in this field.

One such company, Weidong Cloud Education, has played a key role in supporting Chinese schools' transition to distance education.

Weidong is not only a large player on China's education market, where more than 10 million people and 9,000 educational establishments are using its e-learning platform.

It has also made a name for itself on the international market of education technology through project collaboration with UNESCO and the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation (SEAMEO), as well as by emerging on the markets of European, North American, African and Asian countries.

Our cooperation with the Weidong Group began long before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, because Weidong joined forces with the SCO Secretariat and the Secretariat of the SCO Business Council in promoting the SCO countries' cooperation in education based on the principles of the Shanghai Spirit and China's Belt and Road Initiative.

Weidong is working with the SCO Business Council to promote new education tools in the SCO countries, including smart classes, as well as the use of control systems for organising comprehensive online education at general schools and universities.

It should be pointed out that Weidong is closely collaborating with the SCOLAR Network youth platform to promote online education in the SCO countries. It is focused on vocational training and the development of ties with the SCO University.

It is notable that Weidong is ready to establish an online-offline vocational college in the fields of trade, transport, logistics, digital economy and phytosanitary education within the framework of the China-SCO Demonstration Zone for Local Economic and Trade Cooperation in Qingdao. The purpose of this project is to promote mutual trade and investment among the SCO countries.

Colleagues,

Under the agreement on the establishment and functioning of the SCO University, one of its main goals in the sphere of education and research is to create and introduce innovative education technologies and modern education methods in higher education.

In this context, we believe that it is advisable to exchange the SCO countries' experience in the field of distance education, because the first meeting of the SCO University Coordinating Council, which was held via videoconference on 30 June 2020, adopted vital decisions that can turn the university into a reliable platform for the further development of distance education.

We also propose drafting a programme of multilateral SCO cooperation in the

development of this education tool.

In conclusion of my address, I would like to express the hope that this webinar, which has been organised to discuss the highly important topic of new online education technologies amid the pandemic, will make a major practical contribution to drafting the SCO countries' programme of cooperation in this vital sphere of the organisation's operations.

I would like to wish all of the webinar participants good health, every success and fruitful discussions.

Thank you.