After hearing from students talking about schools in Georgia, we spoke with officials in the Ministry of Education. These are the people at the highest levels making the decisions that impact every teacher and student in the country. It was very interesting to hear the direction of education in the country. Here are the high points.
Teachers don’t make much money. The pay starts at around $200 per month and increases to $400 if they pass certain exams. Even though the cost of living is much less in Georgia than in the US, that pay still puts teachers below the poverty line. So what many teachers do is conduct private tutoring sessions for students who want extra help in subjects. I mentioned these tutoring groups in my post about the student panel. This tutoring allows teachers to supplement their income and better provide for their families. However, it cuts down the time they have to prepare for their school lessons and grade student work. This leads to poorer instruction in the classroom and student learning being negatively affected.
There are many great teachers in Georgian schools. We have met a few who are outstanding. However, according to both the ministry and student panels, too many teachers focus on the students who are excelling in class and ignore everyone else. This could be 5 or 6 students out of 25 get the teacher’s attention and energy. There isn’t one solution to this problem. Salaries and teacher accountability need to increase. Professional development for teachers is essential as well.
I'm excited that part of my time here will be spent in one school teaching and providing professional development for teachers. It will be a small contribution, but one nonetheless. On Wednesday, my travel partner Mario, a teacher from Chicago, and I will travel across the country to Batumi (on the Black Sea) and spend a week working in a school and experiencing Georgian culture. I’m excited.
"This blog is not an official U.S. Department of State blog. The views and information presented are the grantee's own and do not represent the Teachers for Global Classrooms Program, IREX, or the U.S. Department of State."
Stephen Blan teaches US History at Fort Worth Country Day in Fort Worth, TX and is a 2015 Teachers for Global Classrooms Fellow.