The FINANCIAL -- Finding 33 million GEL as a result of education budget optimization is
one of the biggest achievements of the three weeks that he has been in
power, according to Giorgi Margvelashvili, Minister of Education and
Science. Besides financing universities, the money will be spent on scholarships, social aid, financing PhDs and rehabilitation of schools. The Ministry is now working on finding money for the increased financing of teachers. How the additional GEL 10 million will be spent in universities will be known in two weeks.
Q. What are the main changes that the system has experienced during the last three weeks?
A. The main change was the depoliticizing of the system. This means abolishing the mechanism which was ruling the sector and was especially evident in schools. We are now running a reconciliation process as well. Lots of people who were fired for their political views are returning to their jobs. We are creating a special commission which will work on these problems. People will now be hired for their qualifications and not their political views. Abolishing politicizing isn’t difficult. But building a system focused on efficiency of professionalism is more difficult as everything was established on politics.
Q. Which part of the education system has the most problems and how do you envisage the solutions?
A. Difficulties are present everywhere, from secondary education to science. Secondary education isn’t dependent on the Ministry in terms of management. But protecting standards is our responsibility. Nowadays protecting standards is tough for many schools. We have to help them in solving this problem. Another big problem in schools is that teachers are confronted according to their political views. We have to abolish this not only because we need to, but also because growing a new generation in such a situation would be simply depraving. With raising the qualifications and financing of teachers we are trying to increase the prestige of being a teacher. We’d like more people to be interested in this profession. There are problems related to the issuing of books. At the moment I am not talking about their content, but their price. If there were to be demand from society to review the content, then we would discuss that as an issue as well. School officers have already been depoliticized. They are working only for the safety of the school and won’t have functions of control or reconnaissance.
The academic freedom of professors is suspicious as well. They also confirm that university staff members were under political control and persecution.
As for science, lots of scientific institutes were lost after the end of the Soviet Union. At this initial stage we have to re-found them.
The whole system, with its main components of politicized government, insufficient financing and new systems of qualification needs to be built. Management at schools and universities should be entirely changed, since the whole accent was on military management. Procedures are ruling in such systems and individuals have a small role. Now moving the main accent to people is difficult for us. We started several initiatives including abolishing school exams or doubling the financing, but the reaction to all these has been confusion. I understand that this is because before us nobody asked people what to do, just gave direction. Now we are interested in their points of view and trust their qualifications. At the beginning they had the feeling that we were arranging a conspiracy against them. My aim is to make teachers and professors understand that the system is becoming free and this is a great responsibility for them.
Q. What are your options for spending the now-doubled financing? Who will take part in making this decision?
A. At the moment I have almost doubled the state financing of universities and we have to decide how to spend this money. The main questions which we have to answer are: which students should get extra financing? Should only socially unprotected or the most successful ones get money or is there no difference between them at all? Which faculties should get the money? Should only state universities get the financing or private ones as well? Etc. We have been looking for answers to these questions for three weeks already but all in vain. It has so far only caused confusion in society.
The state does not have the right to define the amount of tuition fees. We can define the highest margin of tuition fee at state universities only, but we are not working on it yet. If there will be demand from universities on this issue, then I will definitely discus it.
Q. We know how entrance exams will be held in 2013. Do you plan to change them in future years?
A. There won’t be any dramatic changes. The entrance system is not ideal but is successful and trusted by society. So in this situation it is not worth changing a well-built system. There are numerous other issues to be improved first.
Q. Do you plan to fire school directors? It is said that they were largely appointed for their political views.
A. There will be no mass dismissals of school directors. Hiring or firing school staff is not the Ministry’s responsibility. We should set the standards which will be obligatory for all directors. Where any concrete individual will be appointed is not our responsibility. Local society knows this better. They will control the qualifications of directors as well. The only thing we can do is to create a healthy system, which will soon be available.
Q. How do you see the future of school officers?
A. Their functions have already been changed. Now school officers are only responsibile for the safety of the school. Having a school officer won’t be an obligation. Each school will decide themselves if they need school officers as people who control the safety and if so, how many they need. This will be decided locally as well.
Q. You said that studying English will be necessary at schools. What about Russian? Will it be returned to schools’ curriculums?
A. Studying any concrete language won’t be an obligation for schools. English is the international language and is a necessity as part of the process of globalization. But pupils who would like to study Russian, Chinese or any other language should decide for themselves. We will abolish politicization in this issue as well. At the moment people think that Pushkin and Dostoevsky are bad because Russia has annexed Georgia. We will make people stop thinking in this way and after that they will have the free will to decide if Russian is necessary for their careers and futures or not.