Member of the United National Movement, Sergo Ratiani, discussed the certification process of public school principals in Georgia at the plenary session of the Parliament of Georgia. Ratiani believes that the competition for school principals does not only seem unfair but also has reached a deadlock. According to him: “There are more than 2,000 schools in Georgia and only 900 contestants have obtained certificates after seven months of competition.”

The MP also explained that a total of 3,000 contestants participated in the competition but only 1,600 of them made it to the second stage. However, of this number more than 600 contestants were not able to pass the interview. The evaluation criteria of the interview were quite obscure, the interview itself was very short (only 15 minutes) and there were no guarantees that all of the procedures and norms of the competition were met or that process was fair. As a result, 1,000 Georgian schools have principals who are recognised by the state as incompetent and not qualified for their jobs.

FactCheck

took interest in the certification of public school principals and verified Sergo Ratiani’s information.

The procedures for selecting public school principals are regulated by Decree No. 25/N of the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia dated 24 February 2011. The selection competition for public school principals consists of two stages; the first stage foresees the certification of the candidates while the second stage involves a presentation of the certified candidates to school boards of trustees to be elected as school principals. According to Article 1 of Appendix 1 of the abovementioned decree, the stage of certification is also twofold and consists of the registration/testing step (conducted electronically) and an interview with a special committee convened based upon an individual administrative legal act of the Minister of Education and Science of Georgia. Those candidates achieving the minimal threshold set for the required competences to be employed as school principals are then interviewed at the second stage of the process. This process comprises 60% of the overall grade.

Based upon Decree No. 25/N the certificate of candidacy for a school principal is valid for seven years after the list of certified candidates is approved. In addition, according to the selection competition of school principals, directors are appointed for the term of six years.

Based upon the data of the Ministry of Education and Science, there is currently a total of 2,084 public schools in Georgia. For further research on the certification issue, FactCheck

addressed the Ministry with respective questions. The response from the Ministry reports that the competition for the selection of public school principals started on 25 July 2013 and lasted until 26 December 2013.

A total of 3,107 applicants participated in the competition while only 1,617 passed through to the second stage. The certification stage was fully covered by only 981 candidates (including the winner of the same competition of 2012). Currently, the certified candidates have not yet been presented to the school boards of trustees for appointment. This procedure is planned to be accomplished by the end of 2014 as soon as the certification competition is finished in its entirety and candidates for all public schools are identified. According to the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia, at the moment only seven schools have certified principals who received their certification in 2011. The rest of the schools are directed by interim principals.

Herewith, it should be underlined that based upon the information provided by the Ministry, there is no difference in terms of the remuneration for certified and non-certified principals. In addition, it is unknown whether or not any changes are planned in this respect after all public schools are provided with certified directors.

In order to further verify the length of the test and the interview as well as the dates of the examinations and the experience of the previous years, FactCheck

addressed the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia for a second time with a request for respective information.

According to the letter FactCheck

received from the Ministry, based upon Paragraph 1 of Article 5 of Appendix 1 of Decree No. 25/N on the Approval of the Competition for Selecting School Principals of the Minister of Education and Science of Georgia, dated 24 February 2011, the registration dates of the first stage of the certification process were defined based upon an individual administrative legal act of the Head of Information Systems of Educational Management (LEPL). According to Paragraph 1 of Article 7 of the abovementioned decree, the period of testing should be defined not earlier than ten days after the registration is completed.

Based upon Decree No. 1.1/190 on Registration Dates for Participating in the Competition of Public School Principals of the Head of the Information Systems of Educational Management, dated 25 July 2013, the dates for registration were defined to be as follows:  from 25 July, 12:00 to 7 August, 20:00. The Ministry of Education and Science reported that the abovementioned information was displayed on the websites of the Ministry and Information Systems of Educational Management as well. In addition, the websites also contained information about the tentative dates of the test.

On 14 August 2013, Information Systems of Educational Management posted a reminder about the dates of the test on its website while the Ministry of Education and Science posted the test schedule on its website. The test structure was also published on the Ministry’s website as well as the reading list for preparing for the examinations and samples of the test. Based upon the letter FactCheck

received from the Ministry, the interview dates were defined to be 28 October-26 December 2013. The letter also explained that the interview schedule should be published on the Ministry’s website no later than five days prior to the interview day.

As for the situation in the previous years in respect to the certification procedures, based upon the information of the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia, the competition started on 25 February 2011 (the registration dates were 25 February-20 March) and lasted until 30 June after the respective list of candidates was presented to the Minister of Education and Science of Georgia.

Additionally, the Ministry stated that the certification process has been in progress every year with the number of candidates having been produced through a systematic process. In light of this information, a logical question, then, is to ask about the low number of certified candidates generated despite the certification competition having been conducted every year. FactCheck

continues working on this question and will endeavour to offer readers comprehensive information as soon as possible.

In order to understand what was meant by Sergo Ratiani when speaking about the obscure character of the interviews, as well as to find out if he obtained any additional information around this question, FactCheck

also entered into contact with Ratiani. According to the MP, interviews were conducted in an individual manner; that is, separately with each candidate, which is different from the process of the previous years. As Ratiani believes, 15 minutes is insufficient for evaluating the skills and capacities of a candidate. In addition, he noted that during his private conversations with several candidates, the individuals mentioned some general questions they were asked during the interview that would provide no grounds for an assessment of their professional capabilities.

Further of note is the fact that the interview stage of the competition process is as follows based upon the Decree of the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia, dated 24 February 2011, that regulates the procedures of the competition for public school principals:  “The applicant chooses one topic from the examination programme and prepares a five-minute presentation on it.” However, Decree No. 101/N of the Minister of Education and Science, dated 22 July 2013, that amended the abovementioned decree, no longer imposes any restrictions concerning the presentation length.

For a greater understanding of the issue, FactCheck also contacted school principals and verified the questions about the competitions with them as well. FactCheck

contacted 14 principals selected through a random sampling from the list provided on the website of the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia.

Of the 14 interviewed principals, five did not pass through to the interview stage, three of them had participated in the competition in 2011 and one had never participated in the competition before. Three of the interviewed principals successfully completed all stages of the competition, two passed through the testing process but then failed to pass the interview level. Nevertheless, both of these last two candidates successfully completed the testing stage for a second time and are now preparing for the interviews which keeps them in the running for a school principal position.

FactCheck

inquired about the content and length of the interview with those candidates who were interviewed. All five candidates indicated that the interview mainly covered topics such as their educational background, accomplishments achieved during their previous principalships, goals which were not achieved, obstacles encountered and overcome, future career plans, personal visions of the development of education, leadership,  opinions about professional training for teachers, work ideas and plans if they are successfully appointed, etc. The interviews were conducted in an individual manner and lasted for ten-15 minutes.

Conclusion

The research showed that as a result of the five-month competition (and not seven as mentioned by Sergo Ratiani) for selecting public school principals only seven Georgian public schools currently have principals appointed according to the respective rules. Specifically, these are school directors who received their certificates in 2011. The remainder of public schools are directed by interim principals. The competition of 2013 produced 981 successful candidates although this list has not been submitted to school boards of trustees for final approval. The Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia plans to provide all public schools with certified principals by the end of this year. Of note is that certified principals presently have no information about whether or not they will remain in the same schools in which they are working at the moment of if they will be moved. There is currently no information regarding criteria for solving this issue.

Despite certain discrepancies in Sergo Ratiani’s statement, he is mostly right when describing the situation concerning the competition for positions of school principals.

Therefore, FactCheck concludes that Sergo Ratiani’s statement:  “There are more than 2,000 schools in Georgia and only 900 contestants have obtained certificates after seven months of competition… there are only 1,000 candidates to be school principals for 2,000 schools in Georgia…” is MOSTLY TRUE.

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