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VerdictFactCheck concludes that Mikheil Saakashvili’s statement is HALF TRUE.

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The Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia launched the Teach and Learn with Georgia programme in 2010. The programme aimed to improve the quality of learning English as well as raising awareness among Georgian schoolchildren on Western culture, values and traditions through language learning and direct communication with Western representatives.

The programme has not been shut down although it continues to function on a more limited scale. The programme budget was GEL 7,600,000 in 2011 whilst it is GEL 450,000 today. A total of 1,500 English-speaking teachers came to Georgia in 2011 but this number has dropped to 33 in 2018. The duration of a foreign teacher’s engagement has also changed. In 2010-2012, the Ministry of Education and Science signed contracts with foreign teachers for a minimum of 20 days and a maximum of three months. The Ministry now signs one-year contracts with them. As for the figures, 3,000 teachers never came to Georgia in any year of the programme’s existence. The highest number of foreign teachers at 1,500 arrived in Georgia in 2011. In 2010 and 2012, 700 and 500 foreign teachers, respectively, came to Georgia as a part of the programme.

Analysis The former President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, on air on Rustavi 2’s talk show, Archevani, spoke about the programme of bringing American teachers to Georgia and stated:

“Ivanishvili has shut down the American teachers programme. Nearly 3,000 Americans used to come to Georgia annually and they were in every village.”

FactCheck

took interest in the accuracy of the statement.

The Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia launched the new Teach and Learn with Georgia project in 2011 with the aim of improving the quality of learning English as well as increasing the level of English language skills among Georgian schoolchildren. Based on the programme’s aims, the foremost priority was to raise awareness on Western culture, values and traditions among Georgian pupils through learning English as a foreign language and with direct communication with Western representatives. At the project’s initial stage, the Ministry of Education and Science offered

volunteer, foreign English-speaking teachers accommodation with local (host) families, medical insurance, reimbursement of travel costs, reimbursement of plane tickets for one leave, a monthly salary of GEL 500 and a safe living and working environment. Apart from the aforementioned aims, the programme had one prioritised social objective:  to get different societies closer to each other and establish important ties between Georgia and nationals of other countries.

The programme maintained an ambitious plan of having at least one native English-speaking teacher in every public school in Georgia. English teachers taking part in the programme have to be native speakers, submit proof of the absence of a criminal record and a health certificate (and additional documents as required). The volunteer teachers had to register

on the programme’s website and attend an orientation training course in Georgia upon selection.

The very first batch of teachers came to Georgia in July 2010. This comprised a group of 700 English-speaking volunteers. These teachers were rotated (replaced with new teachers) every two months (with assignments of a minimum of 20 days and a maximum of three months). A total of 1,500 teachers came to Georgia in 2011 and 750 arrived in 2012. Georgia hosted 48 groups of teachers between 2010 and 2012. New approaches were introduced to the programme in 2013 with the emphasis on the quantity of teachers being removed. There were 150 teachers coming to Georgia in the first batch in 2013 (group 47) and there were 96 teachers in the second batch (group 48). Since that time, the number of incoming teachers has been decreasing almost every year. Only 33 volunteer teachers came

to Georgia in 2018. In addition, the Ministry of Education and Science is expecting five more teachers to arrive (see Table 1).

Table 1:

Number of Teachers Coming to Georgia in the Teach and Learn with Georgia Programme, 2010-2018

 Year  2010  2011  2012  2013  2014  2015  2016  2017  2018
 

Quantity

700 1,500 750 247 125 47 40 41 33 (+5 to come)
Source: Ministry of Education and Science   As the Ministry of Education and Science and its LEPL National Centre

for Teachers’ Professional Development clarified, fundamental changes have been implemented gradually starting from 2013. In particular, the selection criteria for volunteer teachers has become stricter, criteria for monitoring learning efficiency have been introduced (school teachers, pupils, host families are interviewed and their attitude towards the programme is studied). Since 2015, the distribution of volunteer teachers has been based on the request of a school and priority is given to schools in Georgia’s regions. Volunteer Chinese language teachers entered the programme in 2012 and were joined by French and German speaking teachers in 2015. There are plans to host Italian language teachers in 2018 (two teachers have already been selected). In 2017-2018, foreign teachers were introduced to vocational colleges as well. Approximately 100-120 local English teachers are retrained annually.

The selection criteria for teachers have also been changed in accordance with the minimum required qualification. These criteria envision that a teacher must be native speaker of a foreign language, be in possession of a BA degree in pedagogy, didactics, linguistics or foreign language teaching methodology as well as in related disciplines or have a BA degree and teaching experience at the same time. The programme would accept students in the final years of their studies in any of the aforementioned disciplines. Applicants must not have a criminal record, be free from any infectious disease and be adaptable to living and working in a new environment whilst being highly motivated. French and German speaking teachers must know English at the B1 level.

The Ministry of Education and Science believes that the short-term visits and the frequent rotation of the teachers undermined the efficiency of the programme and so it decided to increase the teacher’s work tenure to a one-year period. Contracts of a one-year duration are now concluded between a volunteer teacher and a host family. The work schedule is strictly defined and includes 25 hours of teaching and three hours of community work; that is, teaching host family members or anyone interested in learning English from the local community. Labour remuneration for the teachers is GEL 750 per month and the cost of return plane tickets is reimbursed. Volunteer teachers also have their health insurance and host family provided.

In light of the decreasing number of incoming teachers, the funds allocated by the Minister of Education and Science have also decreased. The programme budget was GEL 7,600,000 in 2010. It currently amounts to GEL 450,000 (see Table 2).

Table 2:

Teach and Learn with Georgia Annual Budgets, 2010-2018

Year 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Budget 7,600,000 9,980,000 5,383,065 1,393,475 1,287,338 506,476 470,000 450,000
Source: Ministry of Education and Science

As illustrated by the table, the large-scale programme as it was in 2011 was eventually transformed into a rather small-scale programme with a limited budget. The Ministry of Education and Science claims that the programme’s initial version of bringing teachers to Georgia for a short duration caused certain problems whereas the new model of the programme is much more effective. It is hard to say which is more beneficial:  a programme based on a large number of teachers or a programme based on a teacher’s duration of stay in Georgia. Given the absence of established mechanisms, FactCheck is unable to make an assessment.