Wachtang Sartania

Georgia is one of the countries of the southern Caucasus. Politically it belongs to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), which brings together the successor states to the Soviet Union. It is thus one of the countries in transition engaged on the difficult process of moving towards democracy and a social market economy. Educational reform plays an important part in that process. - Professor Wachtang Sartania is Rector of the Sulchan-Saba Orbeliani State Pedagogical University in Tbilisi. Together with representatives of the Pedagogical Universities in the neighbouring states of Armenia and Azerbaijan, he has set up a network under the inspiring name of Prometheus, in which UNESCO also plays a leading role. Joint projects are discussed and evaluated at regular conferences. Alexander Sannikov, UNESCO Regional Advisor for Europe, acts as the point of contact: mf.desprin@unesco.org - In 2001, the IIZ/DVV opened a new project office in Georgia, headed by Ludmilla Klotz, who can be reached at klotz@iiz-dvv.ge

A System of Lifelong Learning - Aims and Direction of Reforms in Georgia

Education and science as a whole are closely tied to social and political developments in the country. Scientific and technological advances call for highly qualified specialists who can guide the process of change. The need for specialists is particularly great in innovative fields, while the so-called liberal professions are losing their former ideo­logical profile. The concept of highly skilled employment is changing as a result.

Technical terms such as technology-oriented training are becoming current in many countries. This reflects the importance not only of the general level of education, but also of relevant knowledge of the new technologies. Alongside the expressions “white collar workers” and “blue collar workers”, the new term “gold collar workers “ has come into being. It refers to the training of specialists in new technological fields that reflect the changing requirements of the economy.

The Need for Structural Reforms

The main issue in the 19th century was illiteracy, and the chief aim of education was to overcome it. In the 20th century, universal school education was the principal goal. But the 21st century has begun with the call for a system of Lifelong Learning.

The development of an uninterrupted system of continuing education has become a necessary integral element of a modern society. To neglect it is to place the training of specialists at risk and to debase the skills that are taught.

The task of government is to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the education system. This calls for sustained reform of all sectors of the education system. Structural reform is seen as one of the long-term goals of reform. Its objectives include the creation of a new relationship between education and the economy.

Current reforms are frequently incapable of solving problems that have built up over time. There is thus a need for fundamental reforms which can lay the groundwork for future developments. These reforms must necessarily be wide-ranging. A key priority is to adapt the new education system to the goal of Lifelong Learning, which is not solely concerned with the adult phase of life.

The provision of ongoing continuing education is nonetheless crucial if individuals’ skills and knowledge are not to be devalued in the face of the social changes brought about by scientific and technological progress. This process has happened largely spontaneously so far in Georgia, chiefly through individually organized self-training and vocational continuing education. The system of uninterrupted education now needs to take on an organized form.

International Influences

The concept of uninterrupted education has now gained general ­acceptance, largely through the active involvement of UNESCO, other UN agencies such as the ILO, and other institutions concerned more generally with the organization of employment, science and education in various countries. Lifelong Education is the only really profound new idea, and it requires thought and analysis, especially if it is to be developed into a system.

In response to the demands of the economy, the main elements of a system of uninterrupted education are the initial training of specialists at all levels through school, vocational and higher education, and their subsequent continuing vocational education. These should be available universally to all. Otherwise, there is no question of achieving the reforms.

Systems of school education are currently being reformed in all post-communist countries. It is noticeable, however, that higher education institutions are still paying far too little attention to the continuing training and retraining of their graduates.

The universities can be the academic centres that will provide the theoretical basis for further reforms. This was the view already taken by the Commission on Education for the 21st Century set up by UNESCO under the leadership of the former President of the EU Commission, Jacques Delors.

Implementation of Reforms

This necessary reform of education and training is also called for by civil society institutions, including NGOs, and is indeed urgently requested by the donor community. In the latter case it is understandable that state educational institutions are still identified with the practices current during the period of the command economy.

It should be recognised, however, that some reforms were carried out once Georgia regained its independence in 1990. In higher education, the situation changed: institutions were freed from the pressure of state political ideology and gained the right to be independent. This enabled the higher education system to reorganize in response to the demands of the market.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the important tasks of educational policy development, administration, initial and continuing education, and research, can only be accomplished if the state, the civil society and the universities work together.

We regard the following steps as necessary in order to resolve existing problems:

  • A common policy on education needs to be developed, together with an overall plan for the entire education system.
  • Particular attention needs to be given to the area of vocational and higher education, in addition to general school education.
  • The necessary legislative basis for the entire education sector should be further developed.
  • Attention should be given to the rehabilitation of the Pedagogical Universities, and financial support given.
  • Education is the most important sphere for investment by the state and international organizations.
  • Active teaching methods should be introduced more widely in higher education.
  • Vocational guidance, education planning and division of human resources are of importance to the state.
  • Educational standards, examinations and marking systems need to be devised for all levels of education, for both schools and higher ­education. The state should take a lead in this.

These steps would make a real contribution to a policy of equality and democratization The state has a coordinating role in accomplishing this mission. Significant progress would be made towards the creation of an attractive educational environment, which is a prerequisite if people are to be willing to pursue Lifelong Learning.

The Role of Higher Education

In comparison with the newly founded private universities, the older state institutions still possess in my opinion a better material and technical basis, and greater academic weight in teaching. Their new-found independence gives universities the chance to expand academic education. They must play their part in delivering continuing education and retraining for their graduates.

In our view, higher education establishments should play a competitive part as the institutional basis of a system of uninterrupted education expands. International organizations and donor countries supporting educational reform in post-communist countries should direct their efforts towards the state universities, which are trusted by the population.

The universities should thus become major centres for the training of specialists. They can offer the facilities for uninterrupted education, enabling specialists to update their vocational skills in response to the requirements of ongoing challenges and innovations.

The universities can act as main partners in the field of international cooperation, through student exchanges, research on course content, and the establishment of institutes operating at an international level. The Sulchan-Saba Orbeliani State Pedagogical University is willing to do so, and places great hopes in future collaboration with the Institute for International Cooperation of the DVV in the Caucasus.

The universities should in addition fulfil their primary intellectual and social mission, which includes the propagation of universal values and the preservation of the cultural inheritance.