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How inconsistent education reforms deteriorated Georgian students’ performance

By Levan Abramishvili
Friday, December 6
This week, Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) released a 2018 global survey results, which assesses the extent to which participating 15-year-old students have acquired the key knowledge and skills essential for full participation in society. The previous survey was carried out in 2015. PISA is carried out worldwide by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in member and non-member nations.

According to the data, Georgian students’ performance has deteriorated in all three categories – reading, mathematics, and science, compared to 2015 results.

In reading literacy, the main topic of PISA 2018, 15-year-olds in Georgia scored 380 points compared to an average of 487 points in OECD countries. On average, 15-year-olds scored 398 points in mathematics compared to an average of 489. As for science, the average performance of 15-year-olds was 383 points, compared to an average of 489 points of other countries.

In all three areas, girls perform better than boys. For example in the reading literacy category girls perform better than boys with 38 points (OECD average: 30 points higher for girls).

Socio-economic status is important in reading performance and explains 9% of the variance in Georgia (OECD average: 12%).

The average difference between advantaged and disadvantaged students in reading is 68 points, compared to an average of 89 in OECD countries. However, 12% of disadvantaged students are academically resilient (OECD average: 11%), which means that students achieve good educational outcomes despite adversity.

From year to year, the Georgian education system has been unable to effectively deal with the emerging challenges, instead, there has been a steady decline in the quality of education in both international and national assessments.

Another alarming statistic is that almost 11,200 children aged between 5-17 are out of school, according to the national study on Child Labor in Georgia, conducted in 2016 by the National Statistic Office. These children cannot even benefit from the probably substantially faulty system of education that Georgia has to offer.

One of the main problems facing the Georgian education system is the lack of consistency. Just last month the Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Georgia Mikheil Batiashvili resigned. He was the 18th minister responsible for education after Georgia gained independence in 1991.

Each minister that came to power had a desire to radically change the education system. Some of the initiatives were better than the others, but due to frequent changes in governance, none of them had the opportunity to fully reach their potential.

Therefore, building a stable team focused on educational improvements is essential to improving Georgia's quality of schooling. As well as depoliticizing the entire system, so that goals are firmly set and exempted from political changes in the country.

Lack of concrete vision has led us to this day, where thousands of children are out of school and those who are part of the system get barely enough skills to be ready for the very demanding labor market.

Quality pre-school and school education is essential to the well-being of our society. Many social problems that we are facing today are produced and reproduced by the faulty education system. The system creates a significant disparity between those who live in the city, have access to private tutors and those who are deprived of all the privileges. It also determines who gets to be successful and realize their potential.

Fixing the education system with long-term solutions that take into account modern challenges would be one very important step forward. However, without a major overhaul of systems such as social security, healthcare, housing policy, employment policy, etc. we can’t guarantee that children leaving school will have access to all the resources to create a dignified life for themselves and their loved ones.