Issue 2, 2017. April-May

   

MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN EDUCATION: MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE GEORGIA

Georgia's $140-million Compact with the U.S. Government's Millennium Challenge Corporation is investing in education - developing the human capital Georgia needs to create a competitive economy in the 21st century.

Human capital investment is key to creating a skilled and educated work force that can contribute to economic development. That means the development of human capital by ensuring the provision of demanded skills and knowledge benefits not only for individuals but also the entire economy of a larger community or a country. For a country like Georgia, with the GDP per capita of $3,766.60 and an unemployment rate of slightly more than 24 percent, the knowledge based economy requires consolidated efforts from the government, corporate sector and international community. Hence, among many legislative and policy reforms, the unified commitment of the governments of Georgia and the United States to reduce poverty through creating economic growth in Georgia resulted in signing the Second $140 mln Compact with the U.S. Government's Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) in 2013 which is implemented by Millennium Challenge Account-Georgia (MCA-Georgia). MCC is an innovative and independent U.S. foreign aid agency that is helping lead the fight against global poverty. The Compact is an international agreement signed between the government of Georgia and the MCC and ratified by the Parliament of Georgia. The Compact has historic significance for Georgia's economic development as it seeks to increase Georgians' earning potential by addressing weaknesses in the quality of education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and strengthening Georgia's ability to attract investment in fast-growing sectors such as energy, construction, agriculture, information technology and transportation/logistics. MCC's compact aiming at the development of human capital in Georgia is in line with the country's national economic development strategy elaborated by the government of Georgia and will increase the competitiveness of the private sector as a major driving force for economic development. Consequently, to increase the impact and sustainability of the Compactt, MCA-Georgia works on developing partnerships with the private sector to promote private investment in and around the Compact-funded educational projects in STEM disciplines.

The second Compact is the U.S. government's and the American tax payers' largest investment in the field of education in Georgia thus far and aims at responding to the constraints of economic growth by supporting the enhancement of STEM-education quality and the wider public's accessibility to benefits through implementing projects in general, vocational and higher education. Consequently, the key goals of the second Compact are to improve Georgia's general education quality through infrastructure improvements to learning environments in Georgia's regions, provide training for educators and school managers, to lend support in conducting classroom and national assessments, and to bolster participation in international education assessments; strengthen linkage between in-demand skills and the supply of Georgians with technical skills relevant to the local economy; and to support the development of high-quality STEM programs in Georgia.

Improving General Education Quality Project

The General Education Component's goal is to rehabilitate public school facilities in the regions of Georgia, design infrastructure operation and maintenance (O&M) programs, support teacher and school management professional development, implement national assessments, and fund the participation of Georgia in international assessments. As part of the Compact, MCA-Georgia plans to rehabilitate up to 100 public schools in the regions of Georgia and improve the learning environment for over 37,000 students by 2019.

Industry-led Skills and Workforce Development Project

The Compact aims to improve the linkage between market-demanded skills and the supply of Georgians with technical skills relevant to the local economy. Investments to support technical vocational education and training ("TVET") are necessary to address labor market demands to reduce unemployment and promote economic growth in Georgia. Grant programs and the technical assistance component are implemented under the MCC Compact with the goal of improving the linkage between industry-demanded skills and the supply of Georgians with technical skills relevant to the local economy in the fields of engineering, science, and technology. In 2016, a total of $12 million was granted to ten Georgian TVET providers for the implementation of industry-led skills workforce development projects.

STEM Higher Education Project

The Compact enables Georgian students to acquire U.S. education and diplomas without leaving the country. The project's objective is to introduce U.S. educational programs in STEM disciplines in Georgia and develop the capacity of Georgia state universities. The project is being implemented together with San Diego State University's (SDSU) main campus, winner of MCA-Georgia's international tender. Programs are implemented at three state universities - Ilia State University, Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, and Georgia Technical University. Since 2015, students have been able to enter the following bachelor's programs at SDSU: Computer Sciences; Computer Engineering; Electric Engineering; Chemistry/Biochemistry; Civil Engineering (new program, to begin in 2017); .Construction Engineering (new program, to begin in 2017).

Currently, a total of 206 students attend classes at San Diego State University Georgia. The student body includes students from Tbilisi and all regions of Georgia, as well as 12 international students from six different countries, and American exchange students from the San Diego campus in California. Infrastructure rehabilitation and equipping is ongoing at SDSU's three partner universities. Since 2015, 2,960 square meters area has been rehabilitated and equipped. At TSU and GTU, chemistry, computer, electric engineering labs and auditoriums have been opened. Organic- chemistry and computer-engineering auditoriums have been set up and equipped.

It is estimated that due to the enhancement of human capital in Georgia, by the end of the Compact in 2019, up to 1.7 million of Georgians will have improved their lives.

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