By Lucia Sconosciuto
With many schools and universities around the world temporarily having to close their doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, public and private learning institutions immediately looked for solutions to continue education programmes and academic curricula.
Parents of young pupils suddenly had to refresh their grammar and algebra knowledge, with various degrees of success, but for higher education students, it was all about access to online teaching.
In Mongolia, the private Mandakh University wasted no time in launching its courses online shortly after the government ordered the closure of educational facilities. The university was well equipped to move its operations online thanks to a recent business advice project undertaken with the help of the EBRD and funding from the European Union (EU).
One of the oldest private universities in the country, it comprises several faculties including Economics and Business, Accounting, Engineering and Information Technology, and enrols up to 3,000 students every year. With its main campus in the capital Ulaanbaatar and a branch campus in the Darkhan-Uul province, the universitys research papers contribute to international publications and conferences. Mandakhs motto is a policy to nurture prosperity: Wealth is created through knowledge.
With the ambition of achieving the best international standards, the university first started working with the EBRD a few years ago.
Through the Banks Advice for Small Businesses programme, a consultant, who was funded partly by the EU and partly by the university, helped Mandakh introduce new management procedures and obtain ISO certification for its quality management system, which allows for better monitoring and continuous improvement of its processes.
This brought with it several achievements, including a major move to new state-of-the-art premises, with modern classrooms and offices, a gym, a canteen and a library; the expansion of IT, engineering and MBA programmes; and increased cooperation with foreign universities.
Upgrading learning methodologies is of great importance to Mandakh University, so the next project, again with the support of the EBRD and the EU, focused on introducing digital technology into all areas, from management to teaching. This could not have been more timely: when the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic forced the physical closure of the campus, Mandakh University was ready to swiftly and effectively move all its courses online.
The university immediately developed a plan to improve remote teaching services and students access to research work. Faculty members received instructions on how to organise their lessons, which are conducted via video class, while graduate students have been advised on how to prepare for final exams and maintain regular contact with their supervisors and teachers to keep up with their studies.
The director, Nanjid Gombojav, is proud of the universitys accomplishments: During the implementation of the project, we conducted research on school operations and management. The advice from the consultants and the improvements following this are now paying off.
The objective of the European Union in Mongolia is to support youth employment. In this crisis period, we are focusing our projects to meet long-term impact of Covid-19. Stakeholders in our projects such as Mandakh University are developing e-learning materials that will also be made available to youth in remote areas. This is an imperative tool for education to reach the youth of Mongolia today and in the future, says Cooperation Team Leader, European Union Delegation to Mongolia, Pierre-Yves Lucas.
The EBRD has a strong focus on small and medium-sized enterprises in Mongolia, especially during these challenging times. SMEs have a certain capacity to adapt to new situations, which makes them potentially more resilient, given the right support. Thats exactly what the EBRD and the EU provide, says EBRD Principal Manager, SME Finance and Development in Mongolia, Baigalmaa Sanjjav.
The pandemic didnt even stop the annual English Skills Competition from taking place in April, which saw 380 students pit their knowledge online in five skills: linguistics, vocabulary, reading, translation and Q&A.