Preprimary & Primary Education
Preprimary Education: The Georgian government works to develop the personality of children through pre-school programs. There are two types of preschool programs: nursery schools for babies age one and two, and kindergarten for children age three to six. In 1989, during the Soviet period, preschool was free, and 42 percent of eligible children attended kindergarten. In that year, there were 2,431 preschool programs with 213,396 pupils, or an average of 87 children per institution.
By 1993, there were 1,921 preschool institutions with 105,975 students, or 55 pupils per institution. By 1995 there was a further decrease to 1,272 institutions serving 79,200 pupils, or 62 pupils per institutions. Prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union, preschool institutions were established at factories and other organizations, and children of employees were cared for during working hours in those institutions. The economic depression following Georgia's independence made that impossible, and the number of preschools in factories and other work sites decreased from 805 to 47. In addition, during the Soviet period, food was given to preschool institutions, while after independence schools were required to pay for their own food.
Private kindergartens have developed to replace the official or governmental schools that existed prior to the change in government and the economic crises. There are also many nonregistered preschool institutions operating in private apartments. The government does not have specific data about these schools, though some estimates of the total enrollment in kindergartens of all kinds suggest that in 1997-1998, approximately 926,000 students were enrolled in public and private kindergartens. By contrast, the government reports its kindergarten enrollment for that year at 75,000. Other sources suggest that kindergarten is much less than universally available, and that it is a sign of prestige and privilege to send one's children to kindergarten.
The preschools are open from September through August. Many charitable organizations are also establishing preschools for younger children. The state-operated preschools receive some subsidy from the government, but parents are expected to pay part of the cost.
Primary Education: The Georgian government attempts to keep records on the percentage of children who enroll in school, compared to the data on births. In 1997, nearly 89 percent of children born in 1991 (and thus of school age) had enrolled in first grade. For the period from 1990 through 1998, there were 512,256 children in grades one through six. That number dropped for the 1995-1996 school year to 429,864. In 1996-1997, primary school enrollments were 435,797. In 1997-1998, the figure was 442,265.
Students in the primary grades study about 7 subjects, compared to 15 in the upper grades. Primary school subjects include native language study, math, fine arts, music, physical education, natural studies, Russian, and literature. All grades also have a free period for extracurricular activities, but the Ministry of Education plans to introduce new courses in religion and culture, which may take up this time. The school day is approximately three hours in the primary grades.
The methodological approach in all disciplines is highly teacher and textbook centered, rather than attempting to engage children through more active learning or research-oriented activities. In the fourth grade, for example, educational strategy focuses on copying, solving exercises with the teacher or individually, applying rules, and recalling.
As Georgia tries to distance itself from its Soviet legacy, the ministry is placing more emphasis on humanities, specifically Georgian history and culture, and less on math, science, and Russian. They have increased the number of hours spent studying foreign languages, humanities, the history and geography of Georgia, and Georgian language and literature. The constitution requires schools to provide education in the Georgian, Russian, Armenian, Azeri, Ossetian, and Abkhazian languages. Georgian is by far the predominant language of instruction, however, especially since many Russians have migrated back to Russia, and South Ossetia and Abkhazia have declared their separation from Georgia.
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