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On 9 September 2013, Georgian Dream presidential candidate Giorgi Margvelashvili held a meeting with electors in the town of Sagarejo and discussed his campaign priorities. While speaking about the changes made in the education sector, he stated that:

  • Kindergartens have become free-of-charge starting from 1 September
  • School children were provided with free-of-charge textbooks
  • The Ministry of Education and Science provided school busses taking children from villages to cities
  • Free-of-charge study for 17 disciplines
FactCheck

decided to investigate the truthfulness of the statement of the presidential candidate.

Kindergartens

The Parliament banned the fee for kindergartens by passing amendments to the Law on Local Self-government and the Law on the Capital of Georgia-Tbilisi at a special meeting on 12 July 2013. According to the amendments, organising the activities of pre-school educational institutions as well as determining their educational and working loads will henceforth go under the competence of self-governing units. Tuition fees, tariffs or any other types of fees are banned in these aforementioned institutions. As a result of the decision, the need for the allocation of additional funding by municipalities has emerged. As Tina Khidasheli, author of the legislative initiative, stated, the Ministry of Finance decided to allocate additional funding to those municipalities that will be able to prove the absence of such resources in their budgets.

The decision came into effect on 1 September although the registration process in kindergartens started in July.

The first stage of kindergarten registration for children aged two-to-six years started on 1 July and lasted until 10 July. During these ten days registration was possible only for socially unprotected children. In the next ten days (10-29 July) the process of sibling registration took place. Thus, families having more than one child had an opportunity to register their other children in the same kindergarten. The next stage started on 29 July and will last throughout the entire year.

The enforcement of Parliament’s decision created the problem of insufficient places in kindergartens. The banning of fees has resulted in an increase of demand; in some cases, parents were not able to register their children in time. As the director of the Tbilisi Kindergarten Agency mentioned during an interview with Kviris Palitra,

it was impossible to take additional measures in time which resulted in the problems of insufficient places in kindergartens.

Apart from Tbilisi, the same problems in other Georgian cities were also widely encountered. Liberali posted information about these problems in Rustavi. According to the reports, newly free-of-charge kindergartens meant that the number of applications increased from 600 to 3,500. The cities’ infrastructure and school personnel were not ready for this quantity of applicants. Samkhretis Karibche

reported the same problem in Akhalkalaki kindergartens.

During an interview with Netgazeti,

the Head of the Public Relations Office of the Tbilisi Kindergarten Agency, Sopho Khoshtaria, mentioned that by 22 July there were no vacant places in 165 kindergartens located in Tbilisi. Therefore, there was a possibility that a certain number of children would not be able to go to kindergarten in September. The problem of registration also existed last year; new factors, however, specifically concerning the newly free-of-charge kindergartens, made the problem of insufficient places even more acute. According to Khoshtaria, the process of registration is continuing on a regular basis as vacancies appear. For example, if a child is absent from kindergarten for five consecutive days and the parent does not submit an appropriate health certificate attesting to the legitimacy of the absence, the child is expelled and a new vacant place emerges.

Netgazeti

reported that more than 40,000 children were enrolled in Tbilisi kindergartens. Particularly, children of the ages of two-to-three years encountered problems of admission in nursery schools since most of them were being registered for the first time this year.

Tbilisi City Council discussed this issue on 23 July. During the sitting, Ramaz Sulamanidze, Director of the Tbilisi Kindergarten Agency, argued that the construction of new kindergartens will solve this problem. Tbilisi kindergartens have a capacity to serve 45,000 children while the demand is at about 70,000. The City Council also discussed the possibility of the allocation of GEL 70 million for this purpose and the restoration of old, unused kindergartens.

. . . Parliament indeed decided to ban the fees of kindergartens on 12 July 2013 although municipality infrastructures were unprepared for this decision. Kindergartens could not meet the increased demand which meant that some applicants were not able to register. They either had to forego the service or apply to private kindergartens. Under these circumstances, FactCheck evaluates this part of the statement as HALF TRUE. Free Textbooks

The decision regarding the distribution of free-of-charge school textbooks throughout Georgia for the 2013-2014 academic year was publicised on 8 April 2013. According to the Ministry of Education and Science, 650,000 students from 2,084 public schools would get school textbooks free-of-charge. Based upon the decision of the Ministry, however, the programme would not cover the students of private schools provided they were not living below the poverty line. The Ministry reported to pay the amount of GEL 100-160 for a full package of textbooks for one student per household per year and the amount of GEL 200-320 for two students.

According to the information obtained by FactCheck,

school textbooks are published by the following ten companies: Ltd United Georgian Printing House Favourite and Print & MVP, Ltd Unique Learning, Ltd English Book House in Georgia, Ltd Publishing House Intellect, Ltd Reguli, Ltd Logos Press, Ltd Sidi, Ltd Newspaper Sakartvelos Matsne, Ltd Bakur Sulakauri Publishing and Ltd Diogene.

The Ministry of Education and Science declared that a total of 5,819,778 textbooks were printed and GEL 16,323,630.26 spent for this purpose. However, we were not able to get any answer from the Ministry to our question about the exact number of students for whom the books were printed. According to the decree of the Minister, the programme aims at distributing all of the textbooks approved by the National Curriculum Guidelines for General Education for the 2013-2014 Academic Year free-of-charge for eligible students.

The Ministry of Education and Science was required to distribute used textbooks in some schools owing to the lack of supplies although noted that the overall number of the used textbooks amounted to nomore than 0.1% of the textbook total. The distribution of the used textbooks is required only in schools with high enrolment and where the number of new textbooks is insufficient.

The process of distributing free-of-charge school textbooks started in 2010 although the programme covered only socially unprotected students from grades 1-12. According to the Ministry’s information, the state allocated GEL 8 million for this programme.

Within the framework of the abovementioned programme, the number of beneficiaries increased from 2012 when the Ministry decided to distribute textbooks to the victims of the August 2008 war, socially unprotected families and large families with more than three children. The school textbooks were given to large families having three or more children in secondary educational institutions and who are not property tax payers. According to the former Minister of Education, Dimitri Shashkin, during this period more than 180,000 beneficiaries received free textbooks.

The decision of the Ministry of Education and Science about distributing school textbooks free-of-charge throughout the country caused a protest by publishing houses and textbook authors. A part of the publishers and authors appealed this decision to the State Chancellery and another part of them – to the Constitutional Court as they regarded this as a violation of their intellectual property rights.

The publishers spoke about the negative effect of this decision in an interview with Liberali

as well and commented on the financial problems it makes for the publishing business. As the Director of Logos Press, Lasha Beraia, declared, the income of the publishing house will decrease by three times meaning that it will not be able to afford making investments in new projects.

As Bakur Sulakauri put it, different from other publishing houses, his does not depend solely upon the textbook market although he did comment that his income will decrease by one-third as a result of this decision.

Jumpstart Georgia, an NGO operating in data journalism, built an infographic based upon the issues around the decision of the Ministry to distribute textbooks free-of-charge.

FactCheck

has investigated this topic earlier. According to our research, the distribution of the free-of-charge school textbooks is accompanied by an agreement with the parent/legal representative and is regulated by Decree #103/N of 5 August 2013 of the Minister of Education and Science of Georgia. The Decree covers all the criteria and appropriate points evaluating the possibility to reuse textbooks for the learning process. During the evaluation procedure of the textbook, if the overall points following the criteria for rating the condition of the textbook are less than 9, the textbook must be replaced.

It is worth mentioning that the evaluation criteria for determining whether or not the owner properly looked after the textbook do not provide an accurate picture about what can be regarded as significant, medium or insignificant damage to the book and so this opens the floor to various interpretations.

According to our research results, assuming the students return the textbooks in a 9-point condition, there is a high probability that the same books will not be returned in the same condition the next year and, therefore, within two years they will be regarded as “useless.” An analysis of the aforementioned Decree and the agreement with the parent/legal representative does not show what the state will do in this case; that is, impose the reimbursement of the cost on the parent/legal representative or print and replace the textbooks at its own expense. We were not able to receive a relevant and comprehensive response to this question from the Ministry of Education and Science.

... The government took the decision to distribute free-of-charge school textbooks throughout Georgia for the 2013-2014 academic year. According to the information of the Ministry of Education and Science, this programme will provide 650,000 students of 2,084 schools with the free-of-charge textbooks but it does not cover the majority of students from private schools. The Ministry reported to print a total of 5,819,778 textbooks at a cost of GEL 16,323,630.26. However, we could not get any answer on the exact number of beneficiary students. The Ministry also did not respond to the question on tenders announced for textbook printing and the procedures of selecting the printing houses. In the case of damaging a textbook, the parent/legal representative is obliged to replace it with an identical edition. Therefore, we conclude that this part of the statement is MOSTLY TRUE. Busses The Ministry of Education and Science launched a new project entitled School Accessibility from 2013.

The project aims at providing the means of transportation for those public school students having a sizeable distance to walk to school. According to the information of the Ministry of Education and Science, public schools were provided with transportation from January 2013 and within the framework of the project 15,288 students of 335 public schools were served. Starting from the first semester of the 2013-2014 academic year, school busses will serve 906 public schools and 44,356 students.

Therefore, we conclude that this part of the statement of the presidential candidate is TRUE. Free-of-Charge Study for 17 Disciplines

According to the decision of the Ministry of Education and Science, the amount for student funding has increased in the state budget of 2013. This decision made it possible to completely finance the learning process (four years) at the undergraduate level for 17 disciplines being taught in state universities.

Discipline Field/Specialty
Agricultural Sciences Agronomy
Education Educational Sciences
Engineering Energy and Electrical Engineering
Construction
Science/Natural Sciences Mathematics
Physics
Chemistry
Biology
Social Sciences Economics
Humanities Archaeology
History
Georgian Philology
Philosophy
Interdisciplinary Studies Architecture

According to the Ministry of Education and Science, funding will be provided for students enrolled at higher educational institutions having doctoral programmes in the abovementioned disciplines and fields/specialties. The list of funded programmes and institutions was published by the National Examination Centre.

The decision to finance only the higher educational institutions established by the state was criticised by a segment of society. They argued that this decision does not correspond to the market demands and puts private higher educational institutions in a non-competitive situation.

... Student funding has increased in the state budget of 2013 giving the opportunity to render completely free-of-charge the four-year undergraduate level programmes in 17 disciplines in state universities. However, taking into consideration the fact that the programme does not cover the same fields in private universities, FactCheck concludes that this part of the statement is MOSTLY TRUE.

Conclusion After investigating the truthfulness of the statement made by presidential candidate Giorgi Margvelashvili, FactCheck

determined that Parliament made a decision to ban fees in kindergartens on 12 July 2013. As a result of the decision, the demand has significantly increased on free-of-charge kindergartens. While analysing the situation in various cities of Georgia, we conclude that in most cases the kindergarten infrastructure appeared to be unprepared for meeting the increased demand which created problems during registration.

The decision about the distribution of free-of-charge school textbooks throughout Georgia was announced on 8 April 2013. According to the Ministry of Education and Science, 650,000 students of 2,084 public schools would receive the free-of-charge textbooks. The Ministry reported to print a total of 5,819,778 textbooks and spend GEL 16,323,630.26 on the printing. However, we could not obtain any answer about the exact number of beneficiary students. The Ministry also never responded to our queries about the tender and procedures of selecting the printing houses. In the case of a failure to comply with the contract between the state and parent/legal representative, the latter is obliged to replace the damaged textbook with an identical edition.

The Ministry of Education and Science launched a new project entitled School Accessibility in 2013. Within its framework, 15,288 students of 335 public schools were provided with school bus transportation to and from school. Starting from the first semester of the 2013-2014 academic year, the free transportation service covers 606 public schools and 44,356 students.

The amount for student funding has been increased in the state budget of 2013 that made it possible to fully finance the four-year undergraduate studies in 17 disciplines. The project will cover only state universities.

Therefore, FactCheck

concluded that the statement of Giorgi Margvelashvili about:

  • Kindergartens have become free-of-charge starting from 1 September
  • School children were provided with free-of-charge textbooks
  • The Ministry of Education and Science provided school busses taking children from villages to cities
  • Free-of-charge study for 17 disciplines
is MOSTLY TRUE.