On January 27, ISET students delivered yet another policy seminar. A presentation entitled “The Quality of Secondary Education” was delivered by Mariam Chachkhiani, Lika Goderdzishvili, Dika Khidesheli, and Tevos Matevosyan under the supervision of a senior research fellow in the Education and Social Policy Center at ISET-PI, Zurab Abramishvili. During the presentation, the students overviewed the current situation and indicators of the quality of secondary education in Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, with further emphasis made on problems facing Georgia.

At the beginning of the presentation, the students showed a short video on the Finnish education system, “where learning is meant to be fun”. Students have no homework, with both short school days and semesters. The Finnish system perceives standardized test-based system (like in US) to be studying for test; it does not encourage students to learn. Another important point is that private schools do not exist in Finland, and Finnish people think that neighborhood schools are the best.

After showing this role model of a successful education system, the students explained the fundamental importance of education. They stated that through education, people gain knowledge and skills, which enable them to become productive members of society, and teachers have always been seen as the people who bring civilization to remote regions.

The students then discussed the reforms that the Government of Georgia (GoG) implemented in 2005 in order to change the old Soviet-style acceptance procedures. The implementation of the new model is considered one of the most successful reforms in the country, as it was developed and implemented by the National Assessment and Examinations Center (NAEC). The NAEC monitors the system, which is fair, transparent, uniform, and based on the principles of meritocracy.

As with any sector, measurements and rankings carry a certain role to quantify things and present them in a manner which allow the comparison of any sectors or indeed the quality of a country. The students showed the examples of PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) scores and compared it to TIMSS scores in different countries. Furthermore, students then compared student/teacher ratios in different countries.

Following this, the students highlighted the main problems related to secondary education in Georgia, specifically ‘shadow education’ and the low salaries of teachers. Low salaries force teachers to search for the alternative ways to get additional income by offering private lessons to students, which takes the form of the shadow education market. In 2006, the range of private tutoring is 76% in Georgia; this indicator is even higher for Azerbaijan (92%). Another important challenge is the geographic challenge, ie. the gap between the quality of education in rural and urban areas.

Finally, the students proposed several suggestions for policymakers. First, policy-makers can encourage teachers to work hard and improve the quality of classes they deliver by increasing their salary; in addition to fixed pay for good and certified teachers, teachers should be given bonuses based on their performance. Furthermore, pensions of teachers should adequately reflect the achievements of their careers. The students also suggested an increase in funding for the “Teach for Georgia” program, and recruit students who receive government scholarships to become teachers. The presentation was followed by questions from the audience and a lively discussions.

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