Issue 2, 2019. April-May

   

GEORGIA GOES ALL IN ON EDUCATION - WAY TO FREEDOM INITIATIVE


The Georgian government has promised to invest one-fourth of the state budget, or about six percent of the country's GDP, into "unprecedented support for education" by 2022. The announcement was made in a special presentation in March.

"Through investing one-fourth of the budget in education, Georgia will become one of the most educated nations in the world," Bakhtadze said at the presentation.

The launch of the initiative, titled Education - Way to Freedom, is the fulfillment of one of Bakhtadze's main promises when he was appointed prime minister of Georgia back in June 2018.

Tweeting about the initiative at the time, Bakhtadze said: "GovernmentGeo by 2022 will allocate up to 6% of GDP to edu reform.

"Human Capital development its the principal building block of sustainable economy and progress-minded nation. This sweeping reform will boost Econ growth and transform Georgia into a regional leader for education and innovation."

The prime minister justified the expenditure by arguing that it is only a very-well educated generation of Georgians which will be able to deal with the country's pressing issues.

"We face various challenges: the occupied territories, poverty, infrastructural problems, thousands of internally displaced people and a need for investments. We will be able to respond to the challenges only with an educated generation," Bakhtadze said in February 2019.

In the run up to the launch of the program, Bakhtadze unveiled a five-year plan for education reform in September of last year while speaking at the Academy of Ikalto - an ecclesiastical academy established in between the 11th and 13th centuries in the eastern Georgian region of Kakheti.

His plan proposed to revamp the education system of the country at all levels, to address infrastructural issues, raise teachers' salaries, fix the country's national exam system, raise teacher qualifications and introduce new teaching methodologies to schools across the country.

As for salaries, the government hopes to triple teachers' income by 2023 to about 1,500 lari, with teachers with higher qualifications enjoying salaries upwards of 2,000 lari. In 2018-2019 alone, 10,000 teachers will be given increased salaries.

The importance of vocational education has also been a cornerstone of promised education reform.

"Vocational education and life-long learning is one of the priority areas of our reform. We are introducing a system which will help individuals of any age to adapt to a fast-changing world," Bakhtadze noted in September.

New teaching methods in Georgian schools are also on the agenda. A new, modern curricula and approaches to teaching will be introduced n 50 public schools by the end of the 2018-2019 school year, with another 2,000 schools across the country following suit by 2023.

The country's Unified National Examination has also received attention, and will be cut back to just three compulsory subjects instead of four. The exam will feature Georgian language and literature, a foreign language and a third subject determined by a student's desired field of study.

One of the most important aspects of education reform, Bakhtadze has noted on a number of occasions, is that young people will no longer have to go abroad to get a good education.

"No country or economy in the 21st century will be successful without building on the creation of human capital.... our objective for educational reform is to strengthen human capital in Georgia, to create systems which will place Georgia among the developed economies," Bakhtadze stated.