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Pupils discover big changes on opening day of school year

By Salome Modebadze
Thursday, September 16
The school year 2010-2011 began in Georgia with the distribution of novelty gifts on September 15. Congratulating the teachers and pupils of the newly opened public school in village Digomi, the President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili presented the first-graders with mini-laptops, connected in one unique network. The village Digomi School, financed by the World Bank, is among the pilot schools where the children will study the main subjects and English from net books connecting children throughout Georgia. “All the 3 000 public schools of Georgia will be fitted and equipped with this modern technology within three years. I have given my word to the Georgian society that all the schools in Georgia will be like they are in Holland and Germany and I will keep my promise,” the President told the teachers.

There have been around 3 000 mini-laptops distributed among the children of Georgia under the terms of the pilot programme 'My First Computer' among which there are three public schools in Tbilisi: 53rd, 1st experimental and the village Digomi School. The President also greeted the specially trained Resource Officers, and got familiarized with the high level safety system that is equipped with 32 video cameras. The refurbished class rooms, gym and modern canteens were refurbished by the company “Gogli-Mogli” who have created the necessary conditions in public schools. School children will now be able to buy food with credit cards provided by TaoPrivateBank.

Stressing that the more they work, the more they will be paid, Saakashvili encouraged the teachers to be fully qualified in order to earn the relevant money for their professionalism. “I am really thankful to the teachers who have passed the certification exams with success. But more training for improving their language skills will be necessary for all teachers aiming to get an extra GEL 200 for the minimum level of English. The new generation of school children differs from their predecessors – they have different interests and are more informed. It will be pleasant to work with; the teachers should give them the relevant knowledge as the greatest resource of a country is the educated people. We should take care of this generation and none of the states will manage to overcome us,” Saakashvili said praising the gifted Georgian children.

In the frames of the project Teach and Learn with Georgia, aimed at helping Georgian school children learn the English language, native English speaking teachers have also started working with their Georgian colleagues. The English language will be taught at public schools from the first form and the pupils welcomed this news graciously. “It’s been my first day at school. I had six lessons at different classes but everything has been fine. I’m sure my visit to Georgia will be a success,” one of the foreign teachers told the media. “First I was a bit nervous because I didn’t know how the pupils would react to me but after having an interesting conversation with them I realized that everything would be all right,” another teacher added.

There have been around fifteen new private schools opened in Tbilisi this year which, according to the Mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava, will positively affect the development of public schools thus creating a healthy, competitive environment among the schools. Minister of Education and Science of Georgia Dimitri Shashkin explained that the innovations within the educational system, both in the process of studying and with regard to the new subjects and assessment, are aimed at improving the level of knowledge in children. “The subject of civil defense, security and sport will be included in the curriculum. In addition, the number of lessons in scientific subjects will increase,” said the Minister. From January 2011 the Tbilisi pilot schools will provide integrated teaching of dance and music. As for assessment, the grade of students’ knowledge will be calculated according to homework, class work and summary tests.

The younger pupils seem to be happy in their new stage of life with their mini-laptops, Resource Officers and English speaking teachers. Meanwhile, the elder generation has a different concern about the innovations offered by the state. “Well, actually all the pupils have been feeling stressed due to the surveillance systems all around the school. We are being put under serious scrutiny which makes us feel we are the prisoners,” 17 year-old Giorgi told The Messenger. “I think these changes will be good for the new generations – it will put an end to the laziness. But unfortunately elder pupils will find it difficult to become accustomed to the strictness. On the whole, I definitely welcome the changes and hope that we will overcome any possible difficulties concerning the surveillance cameras and the Resource Officers,” 16 year-old Tata added.

Analyst Soso Tsiskarishvili compared the changes within the educational system to conditions in prisons. Stressing that the Minister Shashkin has been trying to introduce the “rules of prison” to schools, the analyst spoke of the negative affects of the innovations on the internal school life. “The Resource Officers have been distributed to schools where they may face difficulties with the elder pupils in various ways. The forms of punishment the pupils may face in case of disorder look like those of a jail. Besides that, those very officers may become a kind of agent between the highest educational institutions and the school administration thus causing tension between the sides. All those surveillance systems just create an imbalance between the school administration and the teachers who need to look out for the pupils’ educational development,” Tsiskarishvili told The Messenger.

Explaining that the pupils should keep away from the computers and become more obsessed with books, the analyst suggested that the innovations within the school life should be selected with great care. “Inviting teachers from abroad is a positive move but why is the Government of Georgia is forgetting the 10% of ethnic minorities who can hardly speak Russian and have remained without translators to at least to communicate with the doctors? Each language has been the wealth of the universe so what about the people studying German, French or Italian? Why should they remain out of universities just because of their poor English? We don’t teach proper Georgian, we have rejected Russian and now want to force people to learn English. I think that the new school year has brought some hope but at the same time there could be dangerous consequences for the nation,” he added.