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Mass resignation of School Heads

By Salome Modebadze
Friday, November 12
On November 10 the heads of several public schools in Tbilisi resigned suddenly after the protest rally by 12th formers demanding the abolition of the newly introduced school-leavers’ exams. According to the Minister of Education and Science (MES), Dimitri Shashkin the school authorities made their decisions without the Ministry’s intervention. “The principals addressed the relevant Boards of Trustees about their decisions and received confirmations of their resignations. They seem to have shared the responsibility for the organisation and welfare of the academic year which they hadn’t properly ensured,” the Minister said stressing that under state law the MES is not authorised to fire school principals.

The resigned principals refused to give any public comment but according to information released by Tea Tutberidze, representative of the Freedom Institute, they had been summoned by the General Inspectorate of the MES and were forced to sign resignation documents because of the rally. Wondering why all eight principals would have decided to resign at the same time, Tutberidze spoke of the anomaly of the Minister’s claim that, according to Tutberidze seems to be unaware of Article 14 of the Law on General Education. “All pupils have the right to spread their ideas and suggestions using the school territory and resources in the framework of the law. This can’t be a reason for dismissal of their school principals,” Tutberidze said stressing that the MES had side-stepped the law by forcing the principals to sign the documents and the Minister should answer for that.

Sharing details of the issue with 24 Saati, Tutberidze mentioned how the school heads had been forced sign the resignation documents. They were also told to leave their bags and mobile phones at the entrance of the Chairman of the Inspectorate, Irakli Andriashvili to avoid any records of the illegal act. “Unfortunately the directors of the Public Schools numbers 173, 131, 151, 117 and 63 signed the document immediately while the directors of the 2nd and 149th schools refused to obey the demand,” Tutberidze told the media.

Maia Giorgadze, headmistress of Public School No. 149 said how she had been summoned by the MES together with several other colleagues on the evening of November 9 and how they were told to file their resignations because students from their schools were participating in the rally. “I was called by the General Inspectorate and informed that the school didn’t need a principal whose pupils hold rallies. They told me to address the Board of Trustees with my resignation,” Giorgadze told media. Called by the Inspector the following day, Giorgadze still refused to sign the document and showed the authorities that her pupils were not at the rally. The next step, which according to the Freedom Institute member Tea Tutberidze can be made against Giorgadze, is the possible intervention of the General Inspectorate at her school. “This step will undoubtedly be followed by “violations” which will become reasons to force the principal’s eventual resignation,” supposed Tutberidze.

The main reason for the principals’ dismissal was the Facebook-generated rally, were hundreds of 12th formers demanded the abolition of plans to carry out school-leavers’ exams at the end of the current school year. Students protesting in front of MES complained that it would be difficult for them to pass eight exams because they have not learned some of those subjects. Saying they were more geared towards university entry exams the pupils explained that they would be happy for the exams to be in selected subjects chosen individually by the students. However the MES is not changing its decision and the 12th graders will have to demonstrate elementary basic knowledge in the school-leavers’ exams. These exams, according to the Minister Shashkin are necessary for to show that the students have passed the average level of general education (which according to international surveys is quite low). Only pupils passing all eight obligatory exams will receive school leaving certificates.

The school-leavers’ exam programme adopted in March 2010 gives students more time to prepare for their final school year according to the MES. The CAT-type tests will be held in eight subjects: Georgian language and literature, foreign language, mathematics, history, geography, physics, chemistry and biology. According to information released by the MES special “Abituri” classes to revise all the material covered as part of the National Curriculum will be held in all these subjects. Each pupil will have to answer at least 15 of 40 questions in each subject. The tests will be easy and the training material will be uploaded to website of the MES in Spring 2011.

Gia Nodia, Professor of Political Science at Ilia State University and former Education Minister found the protest rally’s motives “ridiculous”. “There is no need to over-dramatize the fact of the protest rally itself,” Nodia told Maestro TV on November 10 but also disapproved of Shashkin’s overreaction in forcing the school principals to resign.