Meeting with the Minister of Education

Posted on March 21, 2012 by

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A little over a week ago, myself and some fellow TLG-ers sat down to breakfast with the Georgian Minister of Education, Dimitri Shashkini as a “thank-you” for our work and as an opportunity to ask questions about the Georgian education system. Here are some quick facts:

  • Based on a Gallup poll conducted in 2011, studies reveal that only 25% of Georgian parents are actively involved in the education process.
  • The average teacher in Georgia is 60 years old, which means that most are teaching using old Soviet methodology. Additionally, a poll conducted indicated that 1/3 of people in Georgia are opposed to any educational reforms. Because Georgia is a small country with a population of about 4.7 million, 25% of its people in opposition to an idea has a huge impact on the policies that can or cannot be implemented, making it extremely difficult to change things.
  • In 2010 when TLG started, 45% of students were choosing to take English as part of their university entrance exams. Today, as a result of TLG, that number is up to 75%.
  • Currently, no teaching certification is required for work within the public school system. In 2014, a teaching license will be required for teachers across Georgia.
  • The hiring and firing of teachers is left solely to the discretion of school directors. There are little, if any, performance reviews conducted, specifically those based on student assessment. There are no end-of-the-year “core tests” for students that seem to be the norm in other education systems.
  • There are 2,086 schools in Georgia, but only 5-10% of those are functioning at a desired level. Last year, Minister Shashkini replaced 200 school directors across the country in hopes of brining up the number of successful schools.
  • School financing is based on a voucher system: the more students a school has, the more money that is allocated to that school.
  • One of the biggest issues within the education system in Georgia is school infrastructure. Costs of repairs for all school in Georgia totals one billion dollars, which is an unattainable number as the budget currently stands.
  • There is no timeline in place for the TLG program to expire. It is the thought of the Minister Shashkini that there will not come a time when TLG will become obsolte.
  • The following are the four TLG goals:
  1. Increase the amount of English spoken in the country to the second most-known language, replacing Russian.
  2. Change the textbooks that are used to teach English
  3. Improve the competency and ability of teachers
  4. Attain popularity for TLG

All of this information has been helpful in the way I’ve approached teaching in the days following this meeting. For example, I’ve put a greater emphasis on my goal of teaching my co-teachers in hopes that when I leave Georgia, they will have a better understanding of effective methodology, pedagogy, classroom management, and student assessment. It has also made me more understanding of why things in the classroom often seem chaotic; there’s been such little structure for so many years.

I will conclude this entry by saying that while I think Georgia has a long way to go, I am eager to be part of that process. Already, I truly feel as if I’m having a positive effect in my own classrooms, and am helping to mold, in the smallest of ways, the future of this country. I would also like to offer my sincerest thanks to TLG, the folks who organized the breakfast, and Dimitri Shashkini. I am incredibly grateful and appreciative, and can’t wait to see what wonderful things are to come for Georgia.

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