About 1,800 secondary schools in Georgia opened their doors in September to more than 650,000 pupils this year. At 100 of those schools, work has begun on implementing education reforms.
Such reforms have taken place in all post-Soviet countries, although the character of this reform and details differ depending on the country. All these countries have problems connected with the systems and quality of secondary education, but differ in their timetable and degree of necessity for these reforms.
Is there a real necessity to carry out such radical reforms, and is there any guarantee of its efficiency? Since the former Soviet curriculum was changed only once in 30 years, the necessity for reform is obvious.
"The main aim of reform is to create a system of general education that must function in the regime of self-perfection that can immediately respond to all changes in the area of knowledge, especially during work on the curriculum. That didnít happen in the Soviet system of education," said Levan Gakheladze, the head of the press department of the Ministry of Education.
Starting this year, an educational board made up of a board of directors and a pedagogical council will prepare the curriculum. It will create a self-regulating system of education and management. Teachers will begin to choose their own methods of instruction on the basis of the National Curriculum, a document covering distribution of hours for all stages of general education, terms and recommendations that are necessary for organizing education environment, minimum and maximum workload of pupils, list of skills and knowledge to be mastered by a pupil at the completion of every form, and a description of the means for acquiring those skills and knowledge (Law of Georgia on General Education, April 8, 2005).
"I very much like the new reforms. The new curriculum of junior schools (forms 1-4) is really good. In my opinion, the curriculum of senior schools (forms 5 and higher) needs a revision, especially the subjects of language and literature," says teacher Kati Gelagudashvili.
According to the new law, children will study 12 years instead of 11, of which the first six years are primary school, the following three years are basic school, and the last three are secondary school. The academic year will consist of three semesters instead of two, and the 1-to-10 grading system will replace current the current 1-to-5 system.
The 12-year general education plan was approved to spread out the workload for pupils. It will also help with the ratification of Georgian certificates of degree in foreign countries. In Europe and some other countries, the 11-year Georgian general education plan was considered incomplete.
"It is very good that our certificates of degree will be accepted abroad," said Tamuna Diasamidze, the mother of a second-former. "And I welcomed this innovation. But there are other things that canít be called good. I donít know what reforms they are going to carry out this year. Last year there were 45 pupils in my daughterís class. I think it is horrible. I donít understand how a teacher can manage this. It is unreal that she can give consideration to all these pupils. But the school administration promised that there wouldnít be more than 25 pupils in a class this year."
Starting this year in Georgia, children who are not living with any parents will study in ordinary schools. The government plans to cancel classes held in orphanages. There was not a law regulating this issue in Georgia before.
The new law also provides equal education for all children. For the first time, children with handicaps have the right to learn in ordinary schools.
According to a poll conducted by the marketing research company BCG, 90 percent of the population approve of the reforms that are carried out in the education system, 8 percent disapprove, and 2 percent do not yet have an opinion. The poll was conducted from January through April of this year under an order from the Ministry of Education.
But how can one guarantee the reformsí efficiency? And where can one find the reasons for the recent poor results in Georgian schools?
Almost half of Georgian fourth-formers canít read and write, and 83 percent do not know that it is necessary to put a period at the end of a sentence, according to a speech that Minister of Education Alexander Lomaia gave to journalists last year.
Schools in Georgia suffer from poor heating and bad food. According to the Center of Strategic Research of Georgia, 6 percent of the national budget in 1997 was spent on education; 3.8 percent in 1998-1999, and 2.9 percent in 2000.
"These are one of the lowest figures in the world. This year the government set aside about 6.5 percent of budget funds for education," Gakheladze says. "There are no more debts to teachers (for salary not paid). The government paid off all their debts for past years. Starting this year, a teacherís monthly salary is doubled to 100-120 lari (about $55-66)."
"It is not much," he admits. "But we canít offer more yet."