Author of the given Essay is the student of Tbilisi State University Salome Gobejishvili.. The Essay was prepared specifically for the contest on “Sustainable Development Goals and Georgia” organized by IDFI in cooperation with UNDP Georgia and with the financial support from the Government of Sweden.
Sustainable development means achievement of short, medium and, most importantly, long-term economic prosperity via use of natural resources in an optimal way. For this, it is necessary to raise productivity, which is determined mostly by human capital. In the age of technology and innovation, an educated society is the best human capital. Therefore, I think the most important Sustainable Development Goal is ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all, because fulfilment of all other goals depends on achieving this one. According to Chekhov, “more clever and educated persons are needed, because humanity strives for better life; consequently, their number will increase until they reach a majority.” Having a quality education system is necessary for the development of any country, including Georgia, which will allow it to contribute to world progress.
Unfortunately, the situation in Georgia is dire. An international study on literacy found out that Georgian results are below average. According to a study by the National Statistics Office of Georgia, conducted in the same year, 26.7% of the population had high education, and 36. 7% had full secondary education. This data points to a problem in Georgia, especially, when, for example, South Korea has a literacy level of 100%, and Finland and South Korea have a student graduation rate of 93%. These countries are in top 10 countries with best education systems. At the same time, many unclear issues remain in the Georgian education system. Is education accessible for all? The problem is not only accessibility, but quality and usability of received education as well.
In Georgian reality, the biggest problem is lack of information in the regions. In many cases, the youth has to go to another village to receive secondary education. The kilometers they have to walk in spring and winter alike is not only the distance between two villages but between reality and perspective future as well. A famous 19th century Georgian writer Iacob Gogebashvili once said that: “school is a double edged sword; if properly ordered, it improves and purifies people, if not - it makes them dumb and wild”. From more than 2000 schools in Georgia only 10-15% comply with standards, the rest are in terrible condition. How can we care about proper education when sometimes the lives of students are in danger?
Inclusive education means quality education for everyone. The jobs should be available to use this education. Not only supply of education should be taken care of, but demand for work as well. American economist Gregory Mankiw provides a simple explanation: In order to survive, the much beloved Robinson Crusoe needs to obtain food, in his case – fish; however, to catch fish, a fishing rod alone is not enough, the bay needs to be full with fish. In other words, a there has to be a place where it is possible to employ the fishing rod and one’s abilities. In order to catch fish, we should think about the bay and the fishing rod simultaneously.
To support the implementation of inclusive education, in addition to creating equal conditions in cities and rural areas, the quality of school books should also be improved. One online article talks about the examples of Vekua and Komarov schools to exemplify the effectiveness of old and new schoolbooks. According to the Chair of the Georgian League of Education, “new textbooks fail to meet standards”. But do we have a better situation at the university level? Everyone should have the right to education; however, not everyone is ready or self-disciplined to pursue high education. Our country devotes less attention to professional education and due to the nation’s mentality we get a lot of university graduates without real education. The most important thing is that the socio-economic situation of a country must also be taken into account when defining the direction and methods of the education system. This means that achieving inclusive secondary education and higher education must be available to many students; however, the path to alternative decent professional education must also exist. As for the situation in higher education institutions, I recently read an interview with a student girl, who was told by her professor that he “did not understand” what a girl is doing on the faculty of Physics and Mathematics. This is also due to improper level of education.
These problems need to be solved not only for the purpose of achieving economic growth, but for ensuring the happiness of the nation as a whole, for self-realization of youth as well as older generations. Continued education is one of the most important factors in this. For this reason, state universities should offer courses in continued education, retraining, etc. Lifelong learning is key to long-term progress.
In short, the success of a country, like that of a civilization, depends on development of mental capacity. To finish on a positive note, a few days ago, passengers of the Tbilisi Metro were given books. The activity aimed to increase readership which is badly needed in Georgia (and not only) in order to return from a virtual world into the real one.
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