TBILISI, Georgia. 1 June 2017. On Child Protection Day in Georgia UNICEF calls for speeding-up the reform of the education system in Georgia.
Quality learning is critical in the development of societies and individuals, and helps pave the way to a successful and productive future. Low-quality education is the main challenge. This can be seen in Georgia’s low ranking among international student assessments, such as the PISA and PIRLS. About two-thirds of all 15 year-old students in Georgia do not meet the baseline standards in reading, science and mathematics. Poor student performance can also be seen in the high dropout rate on the secondary level, and their inability to meet the demands of the workplace later on. This situation leads to intergenerational cycles of poverty, and undermines the capacity of the government to develop a globally competitive economy based on skilled labor.
“Georgia’s progress and development depends on its human capital, and quality education acts as the foundation for improving people’s lives and sustainable development,” says Laila Omar Gad, UNICEF Representative in Georgia. “Ensuring inclusive and quality education for all is one of the Sustainable Development Goals that the international community set to transform the world we live in, and to make it a better place. UNICEF provided support to the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia in curriculum and teacher development for many years, and we are grateful to the Estonian government for their continued support in this process. However, more decisive actions are needed to further improve teacher quality, system efficiency, and to revise the existing curriculum to address the needs of contemporary society, and to provide not only a subject matter knowledge, but also to teach the relevant life skills.”
The low participation rate in preschool education is a contributing factor to the weak performance of the Georgian school system, and indirectly contributes to the frequently-mentioned deficiencies characteristic of the country’s workforce. The quality of the Georgian preschool system is also a challenge. According to the School Readiness Study conducted by the Georgian National Curriculum and Assessment Center in 2011, only one-third of children who attended preschool institutions meet the cognitive standards expected of them.
In 2015, 62.3% of Georgian children between the ages of three and five years-old attended kindergarten. This number in itself is unsatisfactory (the OECD average of kindergarten attendance in this age group is 80.6%, and the EU-27 average is even higher at 82.6%), yet the inequality in access to preschool education is even more alarming. Almost 70% of children from rich families attended kindergarten, while the percentage of children in the poorest families is 51.8%. The overall kindergarten attendance rate of children in urban areas is higher than in rural areas (67.6% vs 55.1%).
The National Education Management Information System does not report the number of out-of-school children, and children at-risk of dropping out. Anecdotal evidence indicates that the main reasons for drop-out at the secondary level can be attributed to extreme poverty, low skills, poor level of motivation of children to learn, and child marriage. Mechanisms regulating the potential drop-out rates need to be established. Second chance education Programmes should be introduced in formal and non-formal education institutions to ensure that out-of-school children can enter or re-enter institutions that provide quality and inclusive education.
Both the quality of education and Georgia’s future depend on if and how the critical issues related to the professional development of teachers are addressed. Teacher-related reforms have the most significant influence on the achievement of a country’s education and development goals. The two key issues related to teachers in Georgia are low teacher quality, and an ineffective system of teacher deployment and management.
UNICEF recommends increasing teacher salaries as a means to raise the quality of initial teacher education; to make the system of teacher deployment and management more effective, and to attract high caliber students and university graduates.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.