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Our interviewee is Rector of Baku Higher Oil School Elmar Gasimov.
1. Mr. Gasimov, due to the current situation, significant concessions were made to students in the educational process and exams both on the part of the state and the Ministry of Education, which is a structure directly related to this area. How would you characterize these concessions as a person with many years of experience in the field of education?
In general, I would like to note that Azerbaijan is one of the countries that chosen the most successful strategy during the pandemic. Effective implementation of preventive measures under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev and with the support of First Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva to minimize the negative consequences of the pandemic can serve as a successful example for many countries in terms of ensuring public health and economic stability.
As for the education system, one can say that the pandemic has changed the format of education in the world. Ensuring the continuity of education in the education system is a prerequisite, and when this cannot be achieved by classical methods, alternative mechanisms must be created. It is gratifying that the transition to distance education, which is being used in several countries of the world, was successful and quick in our country.
Thanks to initiatives and directives made by the head of state, decisions adopted by the Cabinet of Ministers, and action plans implemented by the Ministry of Education, the local education management system was automated in a timely manner.
Organization of TV lessons by the Ministry of Education, implementation of the Virtual School project, holding online trainings on distance education for teachers, provision of mentoring support to teachers, and conducting discussions by Minister of Education Jeyhun Bayramov with the heads of higher educational institutions and representatives of the Student Youth Organizations' Union contributed to this process.
Minister Jeyhun Bayramov praised the effective proposals that we put forward in this period and supported their implementation.
As you know, over the past period, classes have been successfully organized in higher and secondary specialized educational institutions using various online platforms. According to the latest statistics, more than 100,000 students and teachers have joined the classes.
In addition, the Cabinet of Ministers made a timely decision "On payment of tuition fees by students who are members of families belonging to socially vulnerable groups of the population." This decision, which applies to students belonging to more than 22,000 vulnerable groups and studying in higher, secondary special and professional educational institutions, has provided invaluable support to citizens in these difficult times.
As known, 50% of the costs associated with the teaching of students belonging to the above categories of the population in the spring semester of the 2019-2020 academic year and 50% of the costs associated with the teaching of these students in the autumn semester of the 2020-2021 academic year will be paid electronically from the state budget.
I would also like to note that our students have been exempted from paying repeat exam fees.
The relevant authorities made the right decisions on conducting final assessments in general education institutions, organizing final exams and summer examination sessions in educational institutions, including universities.
In this context, I appreciate highly the concessions given to students by individual educational institutions. Many important decisions were made in favor of students. Thus, higher education institutions took mitigating measures regarding the organization of online classes, exams, graduation work, as well as the payment of tuition fees.
2. Mr. Gasimov, what work did Baku Higher Oil School carry out during this period?
Baku Higher Oil School (BHOS) initiated many innovations in connection with the transition to online education. Thanks to decisions made timely by the Academic Council, it was possible to successfully form distance learning. For the first time in our country, final online exams were held at BHOS to assess the results of online education. Examinations were conducted through the LMS (Learning Management System). Unlike traditional exams, this time the exams were conducted using the test method. And as we know, tests contain more simplified questions.
In addition, BHOS students who received certificates of successful completion of courses organized as part of the global distance learning program Coursera for Campus of Stanford University (USA) were exempted from passing final exams in relevant subjects. The process of online defense of theses also completed without problems.
5th year students who completed all the conditions of the curriculum in the 2019/2020 academic year and successfully passed certification in all subjects taught, defended their theses online, and graduates defended their dissertations online.
The defense process was carried out online through the MS Teams online platform with the participation of members of the State Final Attestation Commission and the Specialized Scientific Council.
In accordance with the Action Plan on payment of tuition fees by students who are members of families belonging to socially vulnerable groups of the population, approved by the Cabinet of Ministers, BHOS students belonging to this category were exempted from paying tuition fees.
I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that BHOS students used these benefits less than students of other educational institutions. By the time it was decided to give students exam concessions, our students had already passed the final exams. This is due to the fact that the Higher School of Education provides training based on the curriculum of Heriot-Watt University (UK). We also begin semester classes earlier than other universities.
The second reason is that the Higher School has adopted standards to ensure the quality of teaching, lessons and exams, and we must comply with these requirements. Our students know these rules very well.
At numerous online meetings, I have repeatedly stated that in today's labor market, employers will pay more attention to your knowledge, social skills and experience than diplomas. Therefore, the exemption of students from classes under any legal pretext, or allowing them to pass the semester exam on easy terms, does not promise them anything good in the future. It is gratifying that our students understand this. Taking this opportunity, I would like to thank each of them.
I believe that students should not aspire for examination concessions, but should work hard, be able to adapt to a difficult situation and make decisions for the future. Nonetheless, I follow the processes and see that students from other universities still require new concessions. All of them are our children, and, of course, each of us wants them to get out of these processes with the least harm to themselves. But we must also think about their future.
They may not understand their teachers today, but they can be sure that decisions made today will bring them much benefit in the future.