On 19 September 2014, the Government of Georgia held a presentation of the National Report of Georgia on the Millennium Development Goals. During the presentation, the Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Gharibashvili, elaborated upon the programmes implemented after his government assumed office. The Prime Minister also talked about inclusive education. During his speech he said: “A special focus is upon the education of children with disabilities. Inclusive education has become mandatory for every public school in Georgia since 2012.”

FactCheck

took interest in Mr Gharibashvili’s statement and looked into the issue of inclusive education.

According to the website of the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia, inclusive education means including students with any special educational needs within the wider educational system along with other students of their age. It also includes teaching students with disabilities using individual or modified education plans.

The aforementioned Report states that inclusive and integrated education is one of the top priorities of the Government of Georgia and, therefore, the funding for children with special educational needs has been increased. Additionally, the Parliament of Georgia ratified a convention on the rights of people with disabilities in 2014 and as a result of this, a strategy and an action plan for inclusive education have been created for the period from 2015 to 2018. In 2014, the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia also launched a pilot programme of integrated classes for children with autism and hearing disabilities in five schools of Georgia. The Ministry also created and published various guidelines and instructions for teachers. These include: Inclusive Education, Methods for Teaching Children with Mental Development Problems, Methods for Teaching Children with Hearing Disabilities, Methods for Teaching Visually Impaired Children and Sport for Children with Special Educational Needs.

The National Centre for Teacher Professional Development created a special training course for teachers. Additionally, work for the improvement of the inclusive education system in Georgia is constantly being carried out.

The Report also explains that, as of today, all of the schools in Georgia have the necessary means, knowledge and skills for inclusive education. About 120 sport and physical education teachers from 55 pilot programme schools underwent special trainings. A total of ten schools in the regions of Georgia and five schools in Tbilisi were provided with adapted sport inventory. Integrated classes were opened for children with autism and also for children who have been hospitalised in the Leukaemia Centre. The infrastructure of over 50 schools was rehabilitated and adapted according to determined standards for students with special needs.

For additional information FactCheck

addressed the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia and requested data about the implementation process of inclusive education. The response letter from the Ministry says that the implementation of inclusive education started in 2005. The Law of Georgia on Secondary Education and the National Education Plan were amended and appropriate work was started in order to create the necessary environment in schools. As of today, the problem of ramps has been settled in 250 out of 2,084 public schools in Georgia and 13 new schools with ramp access will be added by the end of the year. According to the Ministry, all schools will be adapted gradually.

In addition, teachers have been retrained and additional funding has been allocated for the schools where children with special educational need study. Special guides have been created for teachers. These include:

  • Inclusive Education – A Guide for Teachers;
  • Teaching Children with Learning Disorders;
  • Teaching and Concepts, Terms and Theories Connected with Teaching;
  • Sport for Children with Special Educational Needs;
  • Teaching Visually Impaired Children;
  • Teaching Children with Hearing Disabilities.

According to the Ministry of Education, inclusive education has indeed become mandatory for every public school since 2012. In 2014, the Ministry created a monitoring mechanism with the help of the United Nations and the report on its implementation will be available by the end of the year.

According to the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia, a total of GEL 3,344,500 has been spent on inclusive education in 2013, GEL 3,919,830 in 2014 and GEL 4,728,610 is planned to be spent in 2015.

In terms of its study, FactCheck

also contacted a non-governmental organisation, First Step Georgia. This organisation has been working in the field of inclusive education for several years and aims to improve the integration of children with special needs in wider society.

In her interview with FactCheck,

the Director of the Organisation, Maguli Shaghashvili, pointed out that Georgia committed to the implementation of inclusive education by the 1995 Salamanca Declaration; however, the actual implementation process started only in 2005. From 2012, inclusive education became mandatory for every public school in Georgia.

According to Ms Shaghashvili, even though the government has taken steps to implement inclusive education, problems still remain. For example, children with disabilities may be able to enrol in schools but that is just a formality as they cannot attend lessons. There are serious problems in terms of both the infrastructure and socialisation of these children. The learning process and the environment are poorly adjusted for students with special needs. Interaction between the parents and teachers is little. If any other child misses school lessons several times, the teacher usually takes interest in the reason and contacts the parents. In the case of children with disabilities, however, such a similar interest is almost non-existent.

Ms Shaghashvili also pointed out that the issue of grades is also problematic as the grading system is not adjusted to the needs of children with disabilities. The same is true for the learning programmes. Despite the fact that numerous trainings are being held, teachers still find it hard to implement the things which they have learned and appropriately adapt the texts for students with disabilities. There is also a problem of movement in and around the school. The first problem is that not all schools have ramps. The second and more important problem is the issue of the internal infrastructure. Even if a student manages to get into the building, it becomes a problem to move around inside the school as the internal infrastructure is not adapted for their special mobility needs. Another problem is that the schools do not have additional personnel to help these children which is very much different from the foreign practice where children with disabilities have special assistants to help them in their mobility in and around the school. Public transport remains another problem. Some schools may have special buses but in general this continues to present a challenge.

According to Maguli Shaghashvili, social integration is another obstacle facing school children with disabilities with hidden discrimination taking place. Parents are not adequately informed about their rights and feel obliged to the schools which allow their disabled children to study there. Ms Shaghashvili pointed out that it is one thing to say that everyone has the right and is able to get an education but making this happen is something quite different. Even though the government has been taking steps to improve the quality of inclusive education, difficulties continue to exist.

The Director of First Step Georgia positively assessed the 2013 decision of the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia that an additional teacher will be hired for every six children with special needs. She also said that the employees of the Inclusive Education Department of the Ministry are actively involved in the resolution of these problems although much more effective steps need to be taken.

The 2013 study

of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is also notable for this issue. According to the results of the study, 40% of the Georgian population consider a stigma against disabled people as an acceptable social norm. In spite of numerous reforms and positive changes, many children with disabilities remain ignored, unseen and forgotten. “Quick and multidimensional steps must be taken in order to resolve this problem,” says Marie-Pierre Poirier, the Regional Director of UNICEF for Central and Eastern European and the Commonwealth of Independent States countries.

UNICEF calls upon every country to sign and ratify the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and fulfil all of its requirements. It should be noted that Georgia ratified this Convention in 2014. It also formulated a 2014-2016 action plan for providing equal opportunities for people with disabilities which includes the mechanism for the promotion and improvement of inclusive education. However, according to the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia, more detailed information about the implementation and effectiveness of the project will only be available by the end of the year.

Conclusion

Our study found that Georgia committed itself to the implementation of inclusive education by the 1995 Salamanca Declaration. However, the implementation process actually started only in 2005. In 2012, inclusive education became mandatory for every public school in Georgia. Special training programmes for teachers have been implemented, adapted textbooks have been created and work in these fields presently continues. Additionally, the amount of money allocated for inclusive education from the state budget increases with each year. However, according to the organisations working in this field, there are many flaws in the implementation process and it is highly important that these problems are resolved in order to socially rehabilitate children with special needs. The assessment of the National Report of Georgia on the Millennium Development Goals is definitely exaggerated, stating that every school in Georgia is already equipped with appropriate means, knowledge and skills to deal with the problem.

FactCheck concludes that the Prime Minister’s statement: “A special focus is upon the education of children with disabilities. Inclusive education has become mandatory for every public school in Georgia since 2012,” is MOSTLY TRUE.

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