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Government will conduct a computer and language revolution

By Salome Modebadze
Thursday, April 8
“We should launch a linguistic and computer revolution in our country so that we can catch up with the rest of the world, something which is a real challenge. Some may think that the upcoming elections [May 30] are the priority nowadays but I will firmly stress that they are wrong. Elections come and go, they are temporary phenomena, but the most important thing is what we create for our future generations,” Mikheil Saakashvili, President of Georgia, said at the Government session in Kutaisi on April 6 where he told his colleagues that the English language will be taught in the first grade of schools and each first-grade pupil will be given an XO mini-laptop, a potent learning tool produced by the US non-profit organisation One Laptop Per Child, from the next school year in September 2010.

Saakashvili said that this project is part of the broader President’s Gift programme. The XO mini-laptops will be connected in one unique network connecting children throughout Georgia. This will promote the reintegration of children affected by the August War 2008 with those in the rest of the country. Each laptop will provide its owner with full data from the curriculum which will prevent families wasting money on buying a variety of books for their children.

“No borders exist in our country. There are only the demarcation lines of an occupying power. The Government of Georgia is ready to provide all pupils living in the occupied regions with laptops under international control to prevent any misunderstanding. This scheme is part of the new State Strategy on Occupied Territories: Engagement through Cooperation but I wonder whether they will receive the laptops or not. We are offering the people there not only healthcare and people-to-people contacts but also very concrete material things. We definitely understand that it’s a matter of millions [of GEL] in expenditure but still we are ready to support all those children as we consider them to be an important part of our future,” said Saakashvili, who expressed his regret that children are being discriminated against on ethnic grounds in the separatist regions.

As part of the President's language initiative the Government of Georgia plans to invite around 1,000 experienced native English speakers to help Georgian schoolchildren learn the language from the first form as part of the project Teach and Learn with Georgia, launched by the Ministry of Education and Science. Saakashvili also asked all private TV stations to screen English films with subtitles, not voiceover translation, more often and recommended that the Georgian Public Broadcaster launch TV English learning courses to make it easier for pupils to improve their listening skills.

Psychologist Lia Chokheli has spoken to The Messenger about the negative affects of computerisation in the early years of life. “Using computers is an essential part of the modern world but it might be dangerous for small children as it could develop computer addiction among them,” stressed Chokheli. Analyst Giorgi Khutsishvili however had a different viewpoint. “I absolutely welcome the initiative of President Saakashvili to put the whole curriculum on a single laptop for each pupil. This will be an important gesture, especially if the scheme is really offered to, and received by, the pupils living in the breakaway territories. The laptop has no side effects as it does not emit radiation or cause strain and children are already computer-addicted in general as they spend so much time playing various video games. This time they will be engaged in studying,” Khutsishvili told The Messenger.