The FINANCIAL — The leading private high schools in Georgia are analyzing the market opportunities and are reconsidering their price polices for the coming year. As Marcus T. Cicero, Great Roman Orator and Politician, said “There are more men ennobled by study than by nature”.
But how much does it cost today and how much will it cost in 2009 to receive western standard secondary education in Georgia? The FINANCIAL tried to answer this question by interviewing the leading private high schools’ representatives in Georgia.
“I want to be very sensitive to the financial situation in the country. We’re having a meeting next week with our board, which includes a number of bankers and other businessmen who are mainly Georgians. I personally think we shouldn’t raise the price,” Richard Lussen, Director of Guivy Zaldastanishvili American Academy in Tbilisi, told The FINANCIAL.
“USD 8,000 is a lot to pay, especially during a financial downturn. We’ll probably hold the price steady rather than increase it.”
“Our tuition fee here is not small, but it’s not out of proportion either. Last year we sent 27 graduates out of 45 to the United States, with a total of USD 650,000 worth in scholarships,” he says.
“The average comes to USD 26,000 per year. Last year our tuition was approximately USD 8,000 for Georgian parents. For non Georgian we charge more. If a parent pays USD 8,000 each year, that’s a total of USD 32,000 in 4 years. Many of those kids that went to the United States got even larger scholarships, some of them getting full scholarships which are from USD 42,000 to 45,000. If you look at USD 26,000 it’s not too far from USD 32,000. So in one year basically the parents get back what they had spent in 4 years,” Richard Lussen says.
The school was started in 2001 by Guivy Zaldastanishvili. He left Georgia in the 1920s. He grew up in Paris then went to the U.S. to Harvard Business School, was a successful businessman and then came back to Georgia after the Soviet Union broke up. He wanted to give something to Georgia and created this school with Dr. Donald Thomas.
It opened in 2001 to provide quality American style education in English to Georgian students and also to serve as a model for the reform of Georgian education.
“Despite the fact that we raised the tuition fee annually, this year we won’t increase the price. The current financial crisis has negatively influenced different sectors including private high schools. Correspondingly, our price which is GBP 2,200 for Basic School and GBP 3,000 for College will probably not change. In 2009 British Connection is going to focus more on quality management and improvement rather than expanding the capacity,” Manana Tevzadze, Joint Director of British Connection (BC), told The FINANCIAL.
“In 2007 5 of our pupils went to Milan and 6 to the University of Buckingham. From those 11 people 2 got 50% scholarships and 1 got a 60% scholarship. As for 2008, 21 pupils filled out application forms and have already received conditional offerings from possible universities. At British Connection we also have a rating system which enables the students with the highest scores to study here either totally free or with 50%, 40% and 25% discounts,” Tevzadze adds.
BC private secondary school Academic was set up in 2003. It teaches students between the ages of 12 and18. The school is divided into the Basic School (forms 7 through 9) and the college (forms 10 through 12). Academic runs a six-year programme designed for interactive learning. Programmes are run in small classes of 12 to 14 students, for 5 one-hour periods a day.
Not all of the private high schools are going to keep the current price. As Natia Janashia, Principal of British-Georgian Academy explains, the prices are most likely to increase at many Georgian private schools due to the recent political and economic developments in Georgia and in the world.
“Our current tuition is GEL 4,900 (USD 2,934) for grades 6-9 and GEL 6,900 (USD 4,132) for grades 10-12. Annually, we offer ten scholarships which are awarded to students who demonstrate exceptional academic achievement, leadership in school and extracurricular activities. In addition, every year some of our students receive scholarships to study at one of our partner residential schools in England (St. Mary’s in London, Wycliffe in Stonehouse or Box Hill in Dorking). We also offer tuition discounts to the children of our teachers and staff to study at the Academy,” states Natia Janashia.
“At the moment, we have a total of 140 students at the Academy. While we are planning to open a junior school in September 2009, we would like to remain a small school for a number of reasons. Small schools and classes are places where teachers and students can get to know one another, develop trust and caring relationships, and learn to work together. Small schools, as compared to large schools, foster a sense of belonging, productive personal and learning relationships among students and teachers, greater participation in school life,” she continues.
These three leading high schools are trying each to offer different programmes and opportunities to Georgian parents who want their kids to study in U.S. and European Universities.
As Richard Lussen told Levan Lomtadze, reporter of The FINANCIAL, the largest part of the investment was put into the training of human resources. The first group of teachers that was hired consisted of 6 people. They were sent to the United States to Simmons University and Harvard University, where they got advanced degrees in education. This included teaching methods, psychology and all other aspects needed for western standards of teaching. In total there were 3 groups consisting of 6 teachers who underwent a year of training in the United States.
“The whole programme including training, housing, and transportation cost about USD 2 million, over USD 50,000 per teacher. The renovation of the building was done basically by our Georgian board of trustees. Simmons University, Harvard University, the U.S. State Department, and Exeter Academy all provided support for the undertaking. The total cost was around USD 2.5 million,” claims Lussen.
“Our classes are interactive which means that student’s participation is demanded. So students have to think critically. We have a modern facility which is unlike most of the schools in Georgia. We have a library with over 6,000 volumes and over 12,000 items. It includes connections with information services that allow students to do research here. American Academy offers a physical education programme. This is really what a top of the line high school would offer in the United States at a very reasonable price. The exact same education in the United States would probably cost USD 30,000.”
“This team works on college counselling. They’re in touch with the students and advise the parents. Seniors get advice on taking SAT examinations. We’ve developed personal contacts over the past few years with many colleges, not just through e-mail. Kids are sent to the United States, Europe or to leading universities in Georgia. Students are assured of being able to find a place in a quality university in Europe or the United States or Georgia.”
The studying at Guivy Zaldastanishvili American Academy takes 4 years. Pupils start at the 9th grade which is for 14-15 year olds and they go on to the 12th grade. In the future we are going to add 7th and 8th grades.
“American Academy is not a school just for the elite. It offers programmes for families from lower incomes. We created a summer school that teaches English as a second language and math. This year we’re bringing 40 scholarship kids who will pay nothing for 4 weeks. Some of the kids are from the regions and if their English improves the school will give the best performers scholarships if they can meet our entrance requirements.”
“As for the employees who work here they pay 8% of their salary for their children to attend the Academy, if they qualify. The price is tied to salary so that people are going to be paying a fair amount,” continues Richard Lussen.
“Our school enables future students to participate in the examinations of the leading European and U.S. Universities such as the University of Manchester, Queen Mary University of London, University of Buckingham and so on. They won’t need to go through any additional examinations and will benefit from the same exam preparation as the British students do.”
“During the four years of our school’s existence, we’ve developed into one of Georgia’s most successful schools, with a reputation for academic excellence and amicable atmosphere. Being the branch of the Study Centre BC, the only registered centre of Edexcel international in the Caucasus, provides a route to the best universities in Europe and the USA. British Connection is consistently ranked in the top 3 institutions in national evaluations of academic standards and discipline,” says Tamar Japaridze, one of the Directors of BC.
“In addition to our commitment to ensuring every student’s academic success, we also promote our students’ development as whole persons. We encourage them to actively participate in extracurricular activities: drama, sport, journalism, music band, student scientific conferences, art, debate club, and travellers’ club. We also cultivate many opportunities for our students to practice leadership, to participate in and contribute to school through the Student Council activities,” the Principal of British-Georgian Academy, told our reporter.
“In Georgia, democracy is still a baby learning to take its first steps. For a democracy to develop and flourish in Georgia, it is essential to improve the quality of and level of democratic representation and participation among young people in dialogue and decision making about important issues that affect the young generation. The Student Council at the Academy gives a unique opportunity to our students to practice just that: active democratic decision-making and participation in the life of the Academy, a place where they spend most of their time.”
British-Georgian Academy has a number of international partners in the UK. Every summer students have experience spending time at one of the Regent schools.
“Newbury Hall, an international tutorial college dedicated to delivering first-class GCSE and ‘A’ Level courses is where our students can go to prepare for college-level study in the UK. Buckswood School, another BGA partner, is a secondary school and a language school where our students can spend a trimester or a summer to improve their English.”
“We strive to help our students develop their analytical and critical thinking skills, lifelong learning skills, initiative, and responsible and independent decision making, the skills that have been neglected in traditional schools for years,“ Natia Janashia said.
“The results of the financial crisis will be seen when we have our first open house. If the number of applications is the same as in the last year, then I can say the crisis hasn’t affected us too much. We are the only high school of our kind not only in Georgia but also in the whole of the Caucasus. The point is that there is a real need for the kind of education we provide and I don’t think we are going to suffer too much. We can only take 55 students each year. There are a million and a half residents in Tbilisi, thousands of who are smart and well qualified. So while that pool may diminish a little bit I don’t think it will get too small. I’m very optimistic about our future,” conlcluded Richard Lussen.
Written By Levan Lomtadze