Georgia’s Newly Certified Teachers

Posted on May 28, 2012 by

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I recently discovered another difference between the American education system and Georgia’s – the process of deciding who gets to be a teacher.  To be fair, I’m still not entirely sure what qualifications a teacher needs to have to be hired by a Georgian school, but I now know that he or she (ok, usually she) does need to be a state-licensed teacher, but I’m just not sure what that currently entails.  In the US, each of the fifty states is in charge of devising rules on teacher licensure/certification, and they usually include completing a teacher training course from an accredited university, passing one of a handful of standardized tests (such as Praxis or MTEL), spending a certain amount of time spent in a classroom teaching with an experienced teacher, and last but not least paying a state licensing fee.  If you are a licensed teacher in one state and decide to move to a new state to teach, you have to become licensed in the new state (most states will waive taking the standardized tests again, but you do still have to pay the fee).

Part of the Georgian government’s education reforms is instituting teacher certification exams and providing teacher training.  The exams are three-tiered.  First, a teacher takes an exam in her subject area (ie, history, biology, English).  The next step is a professional development exam – aimed more at teaching methodologies than subject area knowledge.  Passing these exams will give the teacher 75 GEL added to her salary each month (it might not seem like much, but it is if you’re making 200 lari/month).  Starting in 2011, once a teacher passes these exams, she is eligible to pass an exam in English and computer skills.  Passing this exam will give a teacher an extra 125 GEL per month, or 1,000 GEL if you are in the top 25%.  I would imagine this is a powerful incentive for Georgia’s teachers to attempt to learn some English.  The exams are voluntary until 2014.

Having teacher certification exams should help the Ministry of Education make sure all of its teachers have been exposed to new ideas on teaching methodologies, and that they actually know the subjects they are teaching.  Giving an added incentive for them to learn English should also help in the government’s drive to make English the country’s second language.  None of the teachers I’ve talked to have taken these exams, but they have all gone to the training sessions and are planning on taking them.  As a final note, I should also say that the extra salary doesn’t always seem to be what is motivating these women – but, rather, a commitment to being a good teacher and the idea that these education reforms will help them to become better teachers.  Considering all institutional changes inevitably come up against internal resistance, I think it’s a good sign that, at least in my neighborhood, people are keeping an open mind.

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