SDC Project Implemented by Helvetas and MDA

Kosovo-based ‘Shkolla Digjitale’ signs agreement with one of the biggest language schools in the world ‘Berlitz’ to expand to potentially 500 new locations worldwide

By: Alim Halimi, Lisar Morina

We’ve grown accustomed to hearing of Kosovo-based ICT companies adopting global services and standards. But instances when Kosovar companies export services globally are few and far between. Now, in a newly signed deal, Shkolla Digjitale (The Digital School) is to expand their technology education for children worldwide in 500 potential new locations—from Hong Kong and Germany, to the USA, Mexico, and more.

“There’s a huge sense of pride in our team—we started something very small in Prishtina which is now impacting youth all over the world,” says Hana Qerimi, co-founder of The Digital School. “Everything still feels a little unreal—it started from just a conversation, and now we’re operating in so many countries. It took a huge amount of research, work, dedication, and persistence to achieving this, and we’re working around the clock to let the world know that it’s not just the digital school, but that all Kosovars are hard-working!”

The new contract with the global course giant Berlitz US will enable The Digital School’s own children’s technology education curricula and training to be taught in over 500 existing Berlitz locations. Berlitz is a global technology education juggernaut which empowers young people to navigate digital transformation and take advantage of the opportunities the future holds. 

EYE made a targeted investment in The Digital School to improve their marketing and branding, and help them position their brand and services internationally. The ICT field in Kosovo has great potential: it’s perhaps one of a few sectors with a positive trade balance, where the country exports greater value than it imports. It can boost economic development and create thousands of new jobs.

From Humble Beginnings to Global Scale-Up

Shkolla Digjitale is a Kosovo-based business that offers programming and information & communication technology courses to children and adolescents. It’s an after-hours program founded by two Kosovar business and tech enthusiasts Hana Qerimi and Darsej Riziaj, with the vision to equip Kosovar youth with the right skills to succeed in life and work. The company has already trained hundreds of youngsters in Kosovo in HTML, CSS, Javascript, and other digital skills. 

“We started out small—really small—with a private investment worth barely EUR 1,500,” says Hana. “We rented a small location, purchased second-hand computers, chairs, and desks, developed our webpage, and started attracting customers. One month after we launched the business, we quit our full time jobs and invested 100% of our time on growing The Digital School.”

The Digital School’s growth happened rapidly as it quickly carved a niche for itself as one of the key players in the field of ICT training. Every two months, they would invest profits into expanding their infrastructure to accommodate more students and recruit new teachers. After only a year had passed, the Digital School had trained 250 students and employed around 10 staff.

“We developed our unique curricula and teaching methodology, which was received well and proved successful in creating young tech experts. Our young participants started creating games and applications—some teens even started developing programs for real clients,” says Hana. “Seeing this, we created a franchise model which included our curricula, methodology, and business processes, that together would enable other entrepreneurs to do what we were doing.”

After expanding locally, The Digital School opened their first franchise in Slovenia, in 2018, making it a huge success story that would open up doors for further expansion. Macedonia and Bosnia were quick to follow, which also prompted the team to start blending language teaching into their tech curricula. 

“Young people learn programming languages via technology these days, so we began blending it into our curricula,” says Hana. “This is when we came into contact with Berlitz US, and after several calls, the Berlitz director for the EMEA region came to visit us in Prishtina.” Soon after, piloting phases began in Germany, namely in Berlin, Frankfurt, Erfurt, and Dresden—all of them turning into a success. 

As the pandemic unfolded and countries found themselves in lockdown, The Digital School—having a highly agile team—developed new software and management systems and quickly adapted their modules for online learning. With the new learning system proving successful in Kosovo, Berlitz recognized its potential to grow globally, and an agreement followed to start online teaching in the USA, Mexico, Hong Kong, and more.

This enabled The Digital School’s own children’s technology education curricula to be taught in potentially over 500 existing Berlitz locations. There will be in-person and digital-training, and The Digital School is slated to support growth by offering the support of their curricula development team, technical support team, and their marketing and sales team.

“Programming is currently the most in-demand job, and what we are offering will greatly impact kids and teens all over the world,” says Hana. “We also expect to start cooperating with public schools and support them in keeping up with new trends and technological advancements in teaching.

Targeted investment in agile, tech-savvy training providers, as shown above, builds connectivity and supports the digitalization of the wider economy. In 2020, the ability to provide access to modular and flexible training through digitalization and blended learning is crucial to ensuring long-term sustainability. 

Fostering inclusive skills development is key to what EYE does in Kosovo to enable youth to acquire in-demand skills that lead to better employment prospects. The Digital School is a prime example of how a systemic investment can go a long way, and not only change the digital learning landscape in Kosovo, but also position local businesses globally and impact global approaches to non-formal education.

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