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In Georgia, old schools find new ways to teach young children

© UNICEF Georgia/2009/Degen
Irina Julukhadze (left), 5, whose family fled their village during the conflict in and around South Ossetia, Georgia, attends classes at Tbilisi No.1 Kindergarten.

By Guy Degen

In the run-up to the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child – a landmark international agreement on the basic human rights of all children – UNICEF is featuring a series of stories about progress made and challenges that remain. Here is one of those stories.

TBILISI, Georgia, 9 June 2009 – At Kindergarten No. 31 in the Georgian city of Rustavi, many teachers still conduct their classes using methods developed during the former Soviet era.

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Teaching and activities are highly structured. Children are quiet and orderly. When asked a question, they stand and recite answers often learned by heart. Around the classroom, there are very few toys and games to offer stimulation for young minds.

However, changes in early childhood learning methods are in progress here.

Pilot classes, new methods

Kindergarten No. 31 is one of many kindergartens in Georgia where UNICEF is helping to improve early childhood education. In pilot classes, teachers trained in new methods are offering children more interactive and dynamic early learning environments.

These classes are filled with the laughter and talk of excited pre-schoolers. The children are learning through playing. There are more educational activities, and games and toys are available to stimulate child learning and curiosity. Parents are also actively involved in the learning process.

“At first, some teachers were worried about learning new methods,” said Kindergarten No. 31 Director Shorena Pularia. “But now they see the results and want to know more.”

The right to quality education

Every child has the right to quality education to develop his or her personality, talents and mental and physical abilities. UNICEF is helping local Georgian municipalities offer pre-school education to disadvantaged children who previously were excluded from the education system.

“I think it's important for every child – regardless of where they're coming from in the country, regardless of their economic and social background, disability or ethnicity – that they have access as soon as possible to a stimulating early learning environment such as a kindergarten,” said UNICEF Deputy Representative in Georgia Benjamin Perks.

At Tbilisi's Kindergarten No. 1, new early education methods are well established.

For Irina Julukhadze, 5, one of the children there, a caring and stimulating learning environment has made a big difference in her life. Irina's family fled their home in the village of Achabeti last year because of the conflict in and around South Ossetia, Georgia. Her family is still living in a collective centre for displaced people.

At first, Irina found it hard to interact with other children. Now, her teachers say she's thriving.

Importance of teacher training

Through better teacher training, UNICEF is aiming to not only improve teaching methods but show teachers how to identify learning difficulties or signs of trauma a child might be experiencing.

“Training enables teachers to learn how to develop individual plans for children, how to consider children’s individual needs and talents, and how to apply it in classes,” said Kindergarten No. 1 Director Teona Chulukhadze.

By supporting Georgia's Ministry of Education as it develops a comprehensive policy for early childhood learning, UNICEF is helping to ensure that Georgian children have access to the education and care they need.




April 2009:
UNICEF correspondent Guy Degen reports on new early childhood education programmes in Georgia.
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