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Beáta Brestenská: The Educator

Beáta Brestenská sparkles with energy and ambition - resources that she constantly draws on in her role as Slovakia's front-line information technology (IT) educator.
As the head of Comenius University's Department of Science Didactics, Brestenská has her hands full training a new generation of Slovak university teachers. But she somehow still manages to find time to promote IT education among the nation's youth.
Brestenská decided in January, 1999 to get involved in Project Infovek, an ambitious project whose goal is to provide Internet access to every primary and secondary school in Slovakia within the next 10 years.


photo:Coutesy of Beáta Brestenská

Beáta Brestenská sparkles with energy and ambition - resources that she constantly draws on in her role as Slovakia's front-line information technology (IT) educator.

As the head of Comenius University's Department of Science Didactics, Brestenská has her hands full training a new generation of Slovak university teachers. But she somehow still manages to find time to promote IT education among the nation's youth.

Brestenská decided in January, 1999 to get involved in Project Infovek, an ambitious project whose goal is to provide Internet access to every primary and secondary school in Slovakia within the next 10 years.

Brestenska's Infovek role is arguably her most important educational task - she has been asked to create a curriculum for Internet-based classroom lessons for Project Infovek that will be followed by all Slovak children. She must also train the nation's teachers, most of whom have never used the Internet, to teach on-line.

"It's been very, very hard," she admitted in her Comenius University office on November 8. "Since I became involved in Infovek, my colleagues and I usually work from 7:00 till 23:00."

The idea of transforming the Slovak educational system first occurred to Brestenská a few years ago on separate trips she made to Israel and the US. In Israel, she said, she was impressed with how the University of Israel had created a five-year plan to better use IT tools such as the Internet to enhance science teaching.

Later, on a trip to the US, she saw how top universities had recognised the importance of IT skills in today's high-tech world, and had overhauled their education systems to better address the needs of students.

"The quality of life that people experience depends to a great extent on their level of education," she said. "Personal prosperity, and the prosperity of entire societies, is closely related to IT these days."

On January 14, Brestenská heard a presentation on Project Infovek given by Peter Sýkora, one of Infovek's two co-founders. The next day, she said, she called Sýkora and expressed her interest in helping.

Now Sýkora says that Brestenská has become a significant player in getting the Infovek ball rolling. "She is one of the most important people, she is very dedicated to the realisation of Project Infovek," he said.

With Brestenská and a slew of volunteers, Project Infovek is off to a promising start. The project's other co-founder, Tibor Papp, said that 80 schools will go on-line this year, and thanks to corporate donations and state funding of 40 million Slovak crowns ($1 million) this year, the project's goals may be realised in five rather than ten years.

For Brestenská, the sooner the better. "This project can give future Slovak generations a real chance to prosper in the future," she said.

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