UNDP Moldova positions teachers as amplifiers of digital transformation

Posted December 23, 2021

Photos: Tekwill

Digital transformation can mean different things to different people. But for one teacher in Moldova, the term brings up memories of his youth – a time when his first interactions with new technology transformed the way he connected with faraway family members.

When Piotr Cusursuz first got online, he used the internet to keep in touch with family overseas. It improved their lives tremendously; whereas keeping in touch previously had been expensive and inconvenient, with new internet tools it became instantly simpler.

His excitement for digital transformation, and zeal for the latest technologies can also be seen in his work as a computer programming teacher today. Cusursuz is a beneficiary of UNDP’s Tekwill in Every School project, which offers teachers continuing education in digital literacy that they can then pass on to their students. Cusursuz – and UNDP Moldova – believe that digital tools and technology can help Moldova in a number of ways – from helping prevent brain drain, to boosting the country’s GDP (frequently cited as the lowest per capita of any European country). “Digital skills provide us access to any education technologies we may need,” Cusursuz says. “Digital skills open doors. Nothing is impossible if [students] have those skills.”

Teaching students to code

Cusursuz is currently teaching programming to students who will be entering the job market in a few years. In Moldova, Cusursuz says, skills in technology like programming can increase the opportunities and average salary of someone entering the workforce. “There are 100 to 200 daily announcements from companies looking for IT specialists, so it is a highly demanded profession,” he says. “An average salary in Moldova is $500 [per month], but in the IT sector salaries start between $1000 and $2000.”

This increase in wages can not only improve quality of life – it can also help staunch the flow of qualified young people leaving the country for economic reasons, a phenomenon known as brain drain. According to a recent study by Fund for Peace, Moldova scores 7.5 out of 10 on the so-called human flight and brain drain index – that’s over two index points above the global average of 5.25. By training young Moldovans to qualify for new, digital-first jobs, Cusursuz and his colleagues create the possibility for the next generation to find quality work while remaining in their own country.

Just like in Cusursuz’s class, there are students across Moldova looking to learn these valuable technical skills. But before students can be taught these skills, the teachers in Moldova first need to learn them.

Educating teachers through Tekwill in Every School

UNDP Moldova as well as the Chief Digital Office worked with country leaders to develop a Digital Readiness Assessment for Moldova, identifying digital progress, as well as areas where increased attention is needed. Over the course of the Assessment, it became especially clear that increased digital literacy was needed for Moldovans of a variety of backgrounds and existing skill levels.

Tekwill in Every School was founded with the financial support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), The Government of Sweden, and UNDP Moldova. This program, which EU4Moldova also supports, was created to increase digital literacy in schools, for both teachers and students.

Participating teachers receive continuing education on topics within technology and digital literacy, including opportunities for refreshers throughout the school year. These programs help teachers become experts in subjects like graphic design, web development, coding, and more. Once they’ve mastered a subject, they can then pass on the new knowledge to students.

This means Cusursuz is not only able to train the next generation of Moldovan computer programmers; he’s upskilling himself at the same time. While his students learn the Python programming language from him, he is learning about advancements in artificial intelligence and mobile applications he’ll eventually be able to pass on as his students advance.

A more digital future

In Moldova, digital transformation through digital literacy is becoming a stronger reality every day. This new approach to digital literacy, combined with the UNDP’s Digital Readiness Assessment, serves as a catalyst for learning that stands to benefit multiple generations of learners. This work also highlights areas of digital growth and supports innovative ideas to provide more inclusive improvement for all citizens.

Tekwill in Every School is successful because it has actionable benefits, delivering measurable results for the Moldovan economy as well as the lives of Moldovans. Programs like this also demonstrate the huge potential of digital for positively shaping the future. “This is what digital is for me,” says Cusursuz, in the midst of his own digital transformation. “It’s about eliminating barriers.”