On Monday, Tiko gave us an overview of the Georgian education system. It is surreal to think that it wasn't all that long ago that Georgia was a part of the Soviet Union. Because of this, many classrooms still resemble the traditional classrooms of the Soviet period (i.e. teacher in front of class, students silent and in rows, rote memorization, etc.) This is beginning to change with the new education reforms, but the change has not happened overnight. What was MOST surprising to me was that students who want to go to university (which most parents want for their children) must attend private tutoring sessions after school. Because regular school day classes are not leveled (Honors, AP, etc.) and classes have between 25-30 students with very little, if any, technology, teachers do not differentiate for different styles of learners, and do not provide students with one-on-one assistance. Their school days are shorter than ours (from about 9am-2pm with no lunch break,) so the vast majority of teachers tutor from 3pm until late evening (Tiko tutors until 9pm!) Students may see several tutors every day. If their parents cannot afford tutors, it is very difficult for students to adequately prepare for the university entrance exams, so parents take out loans and/or work extra hours at their own jobs to provide their children with these private tutors. Education is extremely important to Georgians and it is clear that they prioritize it over anything else (there are no after school clubs or activities.)
|7th grade Classroom in Tbilisi|
On Monday, we also got to speak to some representatives from Teacher's House, which is responsible for Teachers' Professional Development. I was fortunate enough to ask these women about my research topic which is technology integration in the classroom. While they explained to me that technology use is slowly increasing in the schools, it is mainly limited to a computer class that the students take in their elementary years, instead of being integrated in every subject area. There is only one computer lab (if that) in every school, but there are usually not enough computers for a single class, the computers are old and in disrepair, or the teachers lack adequate training to implement technology effectively. Most classrooms still have chalkboards, and there are usually only one or two projectors in each school. There is a new emphasis on STEM education in Georgia, so there is a lot of hope that technology integration will continue to improve.
|The Georgia Cohort at the Open-Air Museum!|
|18th century Georgian home|
|Our tour guide <3|
|Corn and wine storage|
Finally on Monday, we got to visit the Open Air Museum of Georgian History. It was so fascinating to hear about life in the 18th century from our kind Georgian guide, and walk though old houses from the time period. The other teachers and I have decided to make a little visual quiz for all of our students with all of the pictures we took. Students will have to guess the purpose of each item Georgians used (and in some cases, still do!) Stay tuned for the quiz!
|Exterior of K-12 school in Tbilisi|
By far, the best experience I have had so far on this trip was today's visit to Public School 52 in Tbilisi. All schools in Georgia are K-12, although the older students and younger students are usually on opposite sides of the building. When entering the building, it was obvious that the school was going through renovations. There was graffiti (look closely for American references in the pictures below,) as well as dilapidated corridors and staircases.
Some areas of the building had already been renovated and were very nice, especially in the primary grades area. The teachers, administrators and students were so excited for us to be there and a photographer followed us around the building, so we felt like celebrities! We were lucky enough to observe a 7th grade English class who showed us some of the activities and games they played to learn English. We even got to play a "speed dating" game with the students where we sat in rows facing each other, asking and answering questions about ourselves. I was very impressed with the students' ability to understand me and respond correctly in English! When we visited the elementary classrooms, the students were so eager to show off their English skills by counting to 10, singing their ABC's and saying "Hello, my name is___." Students stand when an adult enters the room, and they also stand when they are called on to answer a question. They also raise their hands, holding up two fingers only.
A little one showing off his skills :)
|Getting to know the students!|
7th grader leading class review on careers in English!
|My favorite picture! They were so happy to see us!|
|Brand new computer lab that is rarely used|
|Ministry of Education|
We also were fortunate enough to visit with officials in the Ministry of Education today on the topic of inclusion. While inclusion is a fairly new concept in Georgia, they have clearly come a long way in trying to ensure that EVERY child receive an education. Unfortunately, they are facing many challenges and it was humbling when the officials asked us to share our thoughts and experiences on special education and inclusion. They have a long road ahead of them, but it certainly seems like great strides are being made in this area of education.
We ended the day with a panel discussion at "Women's Fund" where representatives from several Gender Equity organizations shared their challenges and success stories related to equal treatment for women and girls. While girls are encouraged to get good educations and even to go to university, this is not translating into career opportunities. Most highly skilled jobs go to men, and when women do choose to have careers, they make less than men in every field. When one "young feminist" was asked how society defined the "perfect Georgian woman" she answered, "In one word? Obedient." Mariam, a 17-year-old civic activist, has even had parents show up to her gender equality meetings to pull their daughters out for being a part of something so controversial. I left this meeting so inspired by what these young women were doing to influence the change they want to see in their communities. These women are proof of how quickly things are changing for women in Georgia.
|Teen civic activist, Mariam|
So...this was quite a long post. What experience that I shared resonates the most with you, and what is your opinion on the topic? (i.e. education system, women's status in society, etc. OR comment on a video or picture!) Look forward to seeing lots of comments from my super intelligent students! :)