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03.04.15 - 09.04.15

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President Margvelashvili and Cartu-International Charity Foundation Unveil Plans to Usher a New Era in Georgia’s Public Schooling

From the ISET Economist Blog (www.iset.ge/blog)

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Author:  Eric Livny, ISET President

A little-known experiment launched in 2009 is about to revolutionize Georgia’s countryside. “Teach for Georgia” (TG) is a small program administered by the National Center for Teachers’ Professional Development, seeking to stream new blood into the public education system. With a tiny annual budget of 212,000 GEL, TG was initially conceived as a publically funded “startup”, an attempt to think and act out-of-the box. Though starting small and mainly focusing on schools in remote mountain communities, TG has always been seen as potentially the Next Big Thing in Georgia’s faltering education system.

In essence, TG provides an alternative approach to teacher recruitment and training. An approach rooted in the observation that Georgia’s pedagogical universities are unable to attract young talent, becoming, instead, a refuge for students achieving the lowest scores on the national student examination test. An alternative, provided by TG, is to target university graduates and mid-career professionals who consider retiring or taking a break from their daily routines. Individuals carefully selected from a large pool of candidates (almost 300 in 2015) go through intensive pedagogical training organized by TG and get placed as teachers in remote and often desperate communities in the Georgian highlands. TG offers decent compensation (up to 1000GEL/month for teaching in isolated mountain locations). Far more importantly, however, it helps people find or redefine their purpose in life. Over the past 5 years, almost 550 TG teachers have gone on to serve in villages and small towns from Svaneti and Ajara to Racha and Samtskhe-Javakheti, serving as role models, teachers and community leaders.

Given TG’s phenomenal success, its budget was quadrupled by the Georgian Dream administration from about 500,000 GEL in 2012 to more than 2.1mln GEL in 2015. But a true revolution is lying ahead. With Cartu-International Charity Foundation and the Open Society Institute (OSI) of the Soros Foundation agreeing to invest 3.2bln USD in TG’s national rollout over the next five years ($0.8bln in 2016 and $0.6bln in 2017-2020), the program will go on record as the most successful education-focused startup in Eastern European history. A joint statement issued this morning (April 1, 2015) by President Margvelashvili and Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Cartu-International Charity Foundation unveils the principal elements of a “deep and comprehensive” reform to be implemented in Georgia’s public schooling system already next year.

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