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“Society and I” – What will education reform bring to Georgia?
17:12 20-02-2015
“Society and I” – What will education reform bring to Georgia? One thing that everyone agreed upon over the last 25 years was that out of all of Georgia’s government entities, the education system was and remains among the weakest links. Mukhran Guliashvili, head of the NGO School Research Center, shared his thoughts on the impediments to education reform and ways of increasing the pupils’ motivation with Georgian Journal:

– The main reason why a full-fledged education reform hasn’t been implemented in the country yet lies in incorrect evaluation of the problem itself. According to surveys and research, not only the pupils’ education levels are low, but also the teachers’ qualifications are far from stellar. The country’s current education system is very similar to the one created in the 19th century. Even desks are arranged the same way that they were a hundred years ago. Teaching methods and school standards are not far ahead, either. The last century’s education system was built around the needs of an industrial economy, while nowadays economies rely on innovation and general knowledge instead. Unfortunately, Georgia failed to keep up with the times and ended up stuck with a century-old education system.

– The introduction of civil education into the schools’ subject lists and national exams was welcomed as an important innovation. Has this subject achieved the goal of helping pupils develop critical thinking?

– According to surveys conducted in 2010, this subject failed to live up to its expectations and did not really assist pupils in becoming active citizens. Most of them enjoy the subject, but 64 percent of them claim that they cannot find any practical use for it. This is further emphasized by local elections, which saw a rather small amount of young people voting. All the while, the subject’s purpose was precisely to make the younger generation politically active.

– This year, in order to increase the teachers’ motivation for self-development, teachers were separated into four groups in accordance with their qualification level. However, considering that many of currently active teachers are retiring by 2020 and more than 50,000 teachers failed to obtain the necessary qualifications, do you consider this initiative by Education Ministry justified?

– I cannot exactly call it unjustified. You see, moving up the qualification ladder from an ordinary teacher to a mentor carries a significant salary increase. It is also apparent, however, that this initiative simply does not match current reality. It takes at least five years to attain the rank of a mentor. Proper preparation of teachers is vastly preferable to any incentive schemes. Unfortunately, the amount of people in Georgia who can take up that responsibility is very small. This is why Georgia needs a very strict and well-oiled teacher selection system. For example, in Canada or Singapore, one cannot become a teacher without holding a master’s degree. From them, only those who were most successful in their studies (about 10 percent of the total amount) can become teachers. In turn, the governments are responsible for creating all necessary conditions and conveniences for them as well as paying them accordingly.

– It is hardly a secret that in Georgia, teaching is a very unpopular choice of profession for the younger generations. What is the reason for that and how are we supposed to replace 20,000 teachers who are on the brink of retirement age?

– This is a very important problem, and it is caused first and foremost by teachers’ low salaries. The government should create all necessary conditions in schools by 2020 to allow us to replenish the dwindling numbers of teachers. Infrastructure is the first thing that needs to be brought into order. Actually, it is now cheaper to build new schools rather than repair already existing ones. Successful police and bureaucratic reforms give me hope that education reform will also bear fruit. In general, comprehensive reforms will help schools raise critically thinking citizens rather than obedient drones. Schools should take on the responsibility of not only teaching, but also caring for their pupils.

– Considering the limited size of Georgia’s budget, how realistic do you think such a reform is?

– The Georgian government only spends 2.4 percent of its income on education. Meanwhile countries with successful education systems spend at least four percent. If the government “stoops” to increasing funding to 4.5 percent, then creating a decent education system will be perfectly achievable even with Georgia’s budget.

Author: Rusudan Shelia
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