Overview of the education sector and identification of challenges faced by ethnic minorities and socially vulnerable groups

News | Research | Economics and Social Policy | Pressing Issues 10 October 2022

The increase in the quality of education is essential for the country’s economic development. The Constitution guarantees the possibility of education, and it is crucial that the state create equal conditions for receiving education for the population living in the country, regardless of ethnic origin or social group. This will help the country develop qualified human capital and promote the integration of the population into the labor market. In 2008, the action plan for the integration of vulnerable groups for the years 2009-2014 was created with the support of the OSCE. One of the goals of the mentioned plan was to ensure access to education for ethnic minorities. In addition, in August 2015, the Action Plan for Civil Equality and Integration was approved, which includes increasing access to quality general education in the native languages ​​of the country and ethnic minorities.

 

In 2015, Georgia started the process of integrating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) into its national policy agenda. Goal 4 refers to quality education, which means ensuring inclusive and equitable education and creating lifelong learning opportunities for everyone.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the challenges facing the education sector, and with disruptions in distance learning, the Present Value (PV) of Learning Losses for the Georgian economy estimated by IDFI has reached GEL 55 bln. The report aims to identify current challenges facing ethnic minorities and vulnerable groups and to propose countermeasures for stakeholders.

 

Main Findings

 

- In 2021, spending on education, science and vocational training was approximately GEL 2.2 billion, 3.6% of GDP, with 1.2% of the spending going to inclusive education in 2021.

 

- Georgia is distinguished by ethnic diversity. According to the 2014 census, 13.2% of the population of Georgia are ethnically non-Georgian citizens, mainly representatives of Azerbaijani (6.3%), Armenian (4.5%), and Russian (0.7%) nationalities.

 

- Based on the data for the 2021-2022 school year, non-Georgian language schools account for 10% of public schools in Georgia (207 throughout Georgia).

 

- 54,325 pupils in Georgia, 9% of the total number of pupils, go to non-Georgian language schools. 47.7% of non-Georgian pupils speak Azerbaijani, 26.5% speak Russian, and 24.5% speak Armenian.

 

- The demand for special teachers has increased. The number of pupils with special educational needs (SEN) in public schools is increasing every year. In 2021, the number of pupils with special educational needs exceeded 10,500, which is 21times higher than in 2012.

 

- Access to vocational education for ethnic minorities increased after they were given the opportunity to take vocational tests in Armenian, Russian, or Azerbaijani languages. In 2021, 250 applicants were enrolled in vocational education institutions on the basis of non-Georgian language testing, which is 17 times higher than in 2016.

 

- The number of persons with special educational needs in vocational institutions was increasing until 2016, but then this trend changed. In 2020, the number of students with special educational needs in vocational education programs dropped to the lowest number (164 students with special educational needs), an indication of the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

- The share of persons with special educational needs among suspended students is increasing every year. In 2021, 37% of students admitted to vocational education programs had suspended status. 2.5% of them are students with special educational needs, which is the highest rate in the last nine years.

 

- Access to higher education for ethnic minorities has increased. There is a "1+4" program, the popularity of which is growing year by year. From 2010 to 2018, the number of ethnic minority students in Georgia's higher education institutions increased 5 times.

 

- The language barrier is one of the most important challenges for the integration of ethnic minorities, and the pandemic has exacerbated it. Before the pandemic, the number of students enrolled in the state language and integration program was growing at a slow pace, but the COVID-19 pandemic caused a sharp decrease in applicants to 2,059 (-42%, YoY).

 

- Another main challenge of ethnic minorities is the lack of teachers, especially qualified ones. In Georgia, 309 vacancies for teachers in 2018-2022 remained unfilled. As for the qualifications of teachers, by 2021 only 27% of teachers have been retrained.

 

- Conducted focus groups revealed that challenges for ethnic minorities are language barriers, insufficient number of teachers, poor translation of textbooks, school dropouts and employment problems. And challenges for persons with SEN are an insufficient number of special teachers and psychologists, lack of appropriate infrastructure and resources.

 

Recommendations

 

- More financial resources must be allocated to the education sector.

 

- Reducing the number of pupils in classes will help improve the effectiveness of the learning process, as opportunities to monitor the students will increase.

 

- The general education system needs fundamental research-based reform.

 

- The state should develop a plan for emergencies in order to reduce the impact of unpredictable events on the educational system.

 

- For the effectiveness of the education policy, it is essential to plan and conduct events that involve parents to a greater degree in the educational process.

 

- Assess the specific needs of teachers, so that their training is carried out according to these needs.

 

- It is important to increase the number and availability of Georgian language courses.

 

- In order to solve the problem of textbooks, it is necessary to involve a philologist and a subject teacher.

 

- It is necessary to conduct an information campaign on early marriage as a barrier to education for young people.

 

- To involve both ethnic minorities and persons with SEN in economic activities, it is necessary to provide internship and employment programs.

 

- It is necessary to ensure the contracture of infrastructure and adapt it according to the needs of persons with SEN and PWD. Additionally, there should be a psychologist and a speech therapist in schools.

 

 It is important to plan and conduct events that will increase parents’ involvement in the educational process.

 

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