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English Language Teaching Continues

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, September 12
Minister of Education and Science of Georgia Dimitri Shashkin spoke of a “linguistic revolution” to the diplomatic corps, representatives of international organizations and civil society gathered at the Courtyard Marriott on September 9. Presenting the achievements of the program Teach & Learn with Georgia (TLG) the Minister and TLG Program Manager Maia Siprashvili-Lee discussed the annual impact of the program on improving the level of English at Georgian schools.

Shashkin emphasized the importance of the program which according to the Minister has ensured the “success of educational reform” in the country. “We can proudly say that we have made a linguistic revolution at Georgian public schools,” Shashkin said stressing that the Georgian pupils had a wonderful opportunity to learn English from native English speaking teachers, while the Georgian teachers could improve their professional skills. “The fact that two-thirds of university entrants chose English as their second language at the Unified National Exams means that the revolution has been a real success!” stated the Minister.

Strengthening the English language learning process through TLG at Georgian schools is among the main priorities of the Georgian government. The native English speaking teachers with their local colleagues have been teaching the pupils together at public schools all around the country.

The main goal of Teach & Learn with Georgia is to improve English language proficiency through recruiting English speaking teachers for Georgian public schools. The authors of the project also rely on exchange of information, experiences and cultures to create significant ties between Georgia and other countries from different parts of the world. “This project is important not only for the Georgian people but for the foreign teachers as well. I was so amazed with Georgian hospitality that I would probably stay here longer,” one of the English teachers stated.

The MES continues reforming the English language teaching process. There was also a memorandum of understanding signed between the Ministry and Macmillan publishing house in 2010. In order to archive further goals and improve the strategy of the program the Ministry would alter English textbooks for the 1st to 6th graders based on recommendations of the English speaking teachers. These pupils will use Macmillan textbooks from this academic year onwards while schoolchildren between 7th and 12th forms will benefit from similar changes from 2012-2013.

On the day of the conference, the Labor Party expressed its concerns over the prices of the school textbooks. Worrying that most families will not be able to afford to buy all the necessary books and stationery for their children, the opposition party discouraged the government from putting such high prices on the books. Talking of the danger that children may get an insufficient education, the Labor Party encouraged the officials to distribute more books for free.

“The books cost parents from GEL 100 to 260 per child, while the prices on other school equipment (notebooks, pens, pencils, etc) are also high,” Nestan Kirtadze, International Secretary of the Labor Party said, suggesting the elimination of taxes on printing materials which would automatically reduce the value of the books. Kirtadze explained that the MES has been supporting the business interests of monopolist publishing companies by issuing new books each year as part of their constant reforms.

Calling for UNICEF to monitor the educational environment in the country, Kirtadze emphasized the importance of the “national political issue which is connected with the future of the country”. “The terrible price on school materials is not only a social problem or human rights issue, the PR campaign of the MES and the government claiming that the books are cheaper this year is totally bogus,” Kirtadze said referring to the MES announcement that none of the books would cost more than GEL 10 for pupils of the 1st to 6th grades. The cost of books for other pupils has not been worked out yet.

The Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) also demanded an increase in the number of socially unprotected families who should get school textbooks for free. Jaba Samushia, CDM member of Tbilisi City Council, stated that there are some families which may not satisfy the state's level of poverty to receive free books, but still face great problems in their everyday lives. Meanwhile the First Deputy Minister Koka Sepherteladze and Majority Deputy of Mtatsminda district Archil Gegenava delivered school textbooks and extra curriculum literature to around 40 families of Mtatsminda district. The MES is getting ready for the new academic year by paying special attention to socially unprotected families “because the Ministry’s goal is to provide equal learning opportunities to all schoolchildren in Georgia,” Seperteladze said on Friday.