Written by Alexandra Drugescu-Radulescu
Education in Georgia is repatriated in three levels: primary (classes I-IV), basic (classes VII-IX), and secondary (classes X-XII), the first two levels being mandatory. Children start receiving grades in basic school, being assessed on a 1 to 10 points scale. Every school needs to follow the national curriculum, which can be modified in exceptional cases, such as for students with special needs. The curriculum is modified based on the subjects with which the children struggle. Furthermore, home education is allowed in such cases, the child being enrolled in school but following a study plan from home. However, there is factual evidence that reveals systematic hardships faced by children with special needs in the Georgian education system. While there have been significant improvements, struggles still occur. According to UNICEF, one of the biggest problems Georgia faces is the quality of education, with the country`s expenditure being lower than that of other countries with the same GDP. It is important to keep in mind the tumultuous history of Georgia before analyzing the various challenges of its education system. Georgia still has to confront systematic hiccups, as a result of the long time spent under the USSR. As a relatively new democracy, gaining its independence in 1991, the state still has the potential to further improve its educational system in the next decades.
Children with special needs
As mentioned above, Georgia has strong legislation that is meant to ensure that every child is able to achieve academic success. Taking into account the website of the Ministry of Education, one would expect that youngsters have equal access to quality education. This idea is further reinforced by Georgia`s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of people with disabilities. Article 24 of the convention underlines states should ensure non-discriminatory education on the basis of the right to equal opportunity. While this Convention does not have a legally binding character, it illustrates the acknowledgment of signatories, including Georgia, of the relevance of inclusive education. This approval of international norms has been consolidated by national legislation. In 2005, Georgia approves the Law of General Education, which stresses the importance of inclusive education, that can provide children with the essential basis for successful development. However, this ideal is not fulfilled in practice, given the struggles faced by children with special needs.
While Georgia prides itself in its almost 100% literacy rate for 14- to 24-year-olds, a population census reveals that it drops to 86.2 percent respectively 87.0 percent for men and women with disabilities. Furthermore, an even more troublesome finding is that out of the 11,765 children with disabilities registered in Social Service Agency only 1,244 children are registered in schools. While inclusive education in Georgia has been implemented 10 years ago, only 65% of public schools report having students with special educational needs. Because the state does not collect statistics about children outside of formal education, no reliable analysis can be done on their rates of success. This implies that no clear strategy can be created in order to ensure the fruitful development of every child, based on factual evidence.
While the government permits certain changes to the curriculum, The NGO Georgian Young Lawyers Association states the national curriculum does not offer the possibility of alternative learning that cater to the specific academic needs of a child. The Situation Analysis On the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Georgia, created by UNDP, mentions the fact that a central cause for this imbalance in the educational system is the lack of resources offered to children with disabilities. Better infrastructure, learning material, and training of professionals working in the field could improve the chances of a successful academic experience for children with disabilities.
Legal steps to remodel the system have been made. One example is the 2018 amendment to the above-mentioned Law of General Education, which proposes a clear plan for financing educational institutions to cater to the needs of students with disabilities. Another vital improvement is the increase from 2018 to 2019 four times in staff specifically trained to supervise children with disabilities. Regardless of this new legal framework, it is undeniable that at the moment the prime benefactors of such resources are children in privileged areas. However, it is a first step towards improving the quality of life of children, which could receive better opportunities throughout their lives if they are encouraged in having solid education.
Georgia prides itself on high graduation rates for primary and lower secondary schools. At a first glance, it could be assumed that the rate of completion of upper secondary school is relatively high, with 76% of students graduating in Tbilisi. However, when other regions are taken into account, it can be observed that poorer areas are not as lucky. For example, in Kakheti, the drop-out rate is 58%. Why such strong regional disparities can be observed, with discrepancies of over 30 % in completion rates? In a UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, responses from Georgians are analyzed in order to find reliable data on access and compilation of education. One of the main findings is that the lowest completion rates in the country can be identified in the poorest regions. This could open a discussion regarding the connection between financial resources and the quality of education. Not only children in rural areas, that come from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to have the personal means to finish their education, but public funding is as well not as often offered to smaller educational institutions. Even when looking at primary school completion rates, while discrepancies are not as evident, children raised in an urban rich area are more likely to finish school.
Furthermore, it can be observed that factors such as ethnicity play a role as well in access to education. For example, three times more Azeri children, part of Georgia`s biggest ethnic minority, are likely to be out of school than Georgian children.
The differences become even more stagnant when analyzing the results of Georgian children at the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment, which assess children in four areas (reading, mathematics, science, and skills to meet real-life challenges). Students in rural areas score 44 points less in 2015 than those from urban areas, which would be the equivalent of one year and a half of studying. This gap has actually increased over time, with the difference between rural and urban assessment takers being only 33 points in 2009.
The data presented above highlights an underlying problem in the Georgian education system. While it could be argued that regional disparities are present all over the states of the world in terms of educational funding and opportunities, it is a problem that needs to be addressed. A conversation could be opened regarding the need for a more comparative way of analyzing the success rates of an educational system, without overlooking underprivileged areas.
QUALITY OF EDUCATION:
In order to assess the quality of an education system, a number of factors need to be analyzed. Firstly, modernizing teaching is paramount in achieving quality, up-to-date education. In order to modernize a system, it is necessary to have well-trained professionals, willing to implement new technologies in their method of teaching and assessing. According to OECD Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in Education, Georgia ranks low on modernization, primarily because of the age of teachers. A quarter of them are over 60, which could lead to a preference for more traditional forms of teaching. While the debate on modernization is more nuanced, the combination of age with the low pay of educational staff and observable phenomena, it could be assumed that Georgia still has to improve its tactics in incentivizing teachers to implement modern methods in the class.
Second, educational performance can be analyzed in order to assess if an education system is qualitative or not. The performance of its students at international assessments, such as PISA, mentioned in the previous section, is extremely relevant in the case of Georgia. A clear improvement between Gorgia`s performance in 2009 and the one in 2015, in reading, science, and mathematics. However, while this increase is note-worthy, Georgian students still score lower than other children assessed. For example, only 1% of children would be considered top-performing, lower than the average of 8% of OECD countries. Furthermore, one of the highest shares of low achievers in science comes from Georgia.
The lack of modernization and the performance of students at international assessments could be linked and showcase a structural problem in the Georgian education system. A better comprehension of ways pedagogy can be done, combined with a better incentivization system for teachers could potentially increase student performance.
Georgia has gone through a vast number of reforms throughout the last decade. An increase in the quality of education can be observed, as well as the attempt to create new legislative projects that can sustain factual change. Nevertheless, Georgia still faces a number of educational challenges that affect the lives of children throughout the country. While some may be more susceptible to feeling the implications of such challenges, as presented above, the improvement of the education system could benefit everyone.
Digitaldesign.Ge. (n.d.). Chapter VI. Basic Methodological Orientations – The Portal of National Curriculum. The Portal of National Curriculum. http://ncp.ge/en/curriculum/general-part/general-part/tavi-vchapter-vi-basic-methodological-orientations
General Education. (n.d.). UNICEF Georgia. https://www.unicef.org/georgia/general-education
Li, R., et al. (2019), OECD Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in Education: Georgia,
OECD Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in Education, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/94dc370e-en.
Mizunoya, Suguru & Amaro, Diogo & Mishra, Sakshi. (2020). Georgia: Education Fact Sheets | 2020 Analyses for learning and equity using MICS data.
Situation Analysis of the Rights of People with Disabilities in Georgia. 2021 | United Nations Development Programme. (n.d.). UNDP. https://www.undp.org/georgia/publications/situation-analysis-rights-people-disabilities-georgia-2021
UN Enable – Text of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. (n.d.). https://www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/rights/convtexte.htm