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School Reform: What’s the problem? (Part II)

February 25, 2008

Journalistic Survey
Nona Suvariani, Tbilisi

The institute of the tutorial board, which was established as a result of educational reform, is another current but separate topic for discussion. Experts concluded that these boards failed to achieve their started goals. They have been totally ineffective. First of all, the articles providing for tutorial Boards were inserted in the law without complete consideration. And other than a two-year preparation period for implementation that was mentioned into the law, and was not done accordingly and the decision was immediately made to elections. Consequently, the members of the tutorial board were not sufficiently trained to do their jobs.

Manana Nikolaishvili said that several organizations were in charge of that issue however, only “Liberty Institute” was able to address the problem to a substantial degree.    “Of course the Liberty Institute could not manage to finish the job in the limited time; they could not train members of tutorial boards of 3,000 public schools throughout all of Georgia. They only trained chairpersons but not all at the listed schools. Finally we received unprofessional tutorial boards, and these were empowered to govern the entire school system: they should estimate the time-tables, tuition process, policy and strategy of the school, financial-budget situation of the school, etc.”

Manana Nikolaishvili considers that the tutorial boards would not have succeeded even if they were better trained.

“How can a hypothetical institution, which meets only three times a year, is able to effectively govern, plan and control such a difficult organization as a school?  It is an impossible task. They claim that it is American model. However, that is not right and it is far from the truth.  Teachers from no country would not accept similar management. I have met many American experts and talked with them on the issue and they tell me things are organized in a totally different fashion; they also became interested in the on-going reform Georgia. When they explored it they went crazy; schools are not run in this way in America.”

Manana Ghurchumelidze presents another argument for the failure of the tutorial boards. Board members who were trained by Liberty Institute and the Trade Union were the first to be fired by the new directors. The small number of people, who were not fired, at least thus far; they were only provided with one-year employment contracts.

According to the law tutorial board has power to stop the contract of the director. But here we encounter with another problem because board members, including the chairperson, can be fired by the director. Similar cases have already been observed. The chairperson of the Tutorial Board of the Public School # 140, who opposed the contract presented, was terminated from his job.

Consequently, the tutorial board cannot implement its function because after opposing the director h/she will be forced to leave his or her position.

Anyway, why time-limited contracts were drawn up at every Georgian Public Schools when it was not required under the law? We asked this question to the directors of several schools and they answered the following:

What terms did you envisage in the contracts you have signed with teachers?

Grigol Murghulia, director of the Public School # 24. We drew up two-year-contracts.
Eka Kiskeidze, director of Public School # 78: I signed six-year-contracts with teachers.
Nana Dolidze, director of the Public School # 100: I signed the contract for 18 months.

Why do you think that the term you selected is the best?

Grigol Murghulia: Our decision was based on mutual agreement.  We thought that the contracts should have complied along side of the testing process that was initiated by the government. It was planned for 2008 and then delayed to 2009. Now it is postponed yet an undetermined period of time.

Eka Kiskeidze: I do not think that it is the best period of time for a contract. I would prefer it to for one year based and this would provide a sense of stability.

Nana Dolidze: I could have drawn up longer-term contracts too but I do not think that I have violated their rights. Every organization employs personnel based on the term of a contract. If the staff is motivated and works hard, every employer will continue the contract for another term and into the future.

Did you know that you could draw up permanent contract too?

Eka Kiskeidze: I did not have similar problem; teachers were satisfied with the contracts. I signed six-year contracts because I am also elected for the same period of time. However, I could draw up shorter and permanent contracts just as easily.

Grigol Murghulia: We have discussed that topic but our teachers are aware that we have some goals and how these objectives need to be seriously considered. Generally it does not make any difference whether a teacher has a two or three year long contract. The point is that his/her labor was adequate to based on the required qualifications.

Nana Dolidze: Generally I know that we could sign permanent contracts but in this case I do not think it is reasonable as directors are elected for six years as well.

Manana Nikoleishvili thinks that reduction of teachers is a secret order given from above. It has two reasons: first of all current government has come into office through revolution and it bears some responsibilities in the sphere of educational reform.

“They have taken the responsibilities towards those youngsters who were running around with flags during the revolution. Now they have graduated from high schools and they need to find employment. The motivation is very simple: to employ thousands of youth in the education system.”

Another reason is that because of contracts every teacher is under pressure. S/he will always be afraid and do his/her best not to the teaching job. For example, we can mention the previous presidential elections when teachers were taking children to the demonstrations in support of Mikhail Saakashvili, and this was done without having the parents’ permission.

Maia Liparteliani draws her attention to another contributing factor. Director, who lack professionalism, make their problems simpler by signing limited contracts. It is that simple.

“They will wait for a year and if they do not like a teacher the latter will be fired without having to give an explanation. Thus, the administration prefers to employ teachers with poor qualification are always under threat of being sacked, and this is best accomplished with a year to year employment contract.”

“It enables us to discuss the situation impartially; and that means that nobody will be able to find out the reason for firing a teacher after a year. Teaching is a profession which should depend on qualification and experience and not on time-limits that are subject to the whims of a director.”

“There are many other faults on the Law on Compulsory Education and Labor Code. All these mistakes have encouraged directors treat employees in selfish way.

Despite all the above-mentioned circumstances and contributing factors it is clear from both expert and representatives of the Trade Union that teachers actually have the opportunity to now protect themselves. There is the Georgian Constitution, international and local non-governmental organizations, which will support them in defending their rights as professionals.

However, unfortunately, the question is whether the teacher wants to protect their rights or not?

Manana Nikolaishvili pointed out that there are teachers who prefer not to protect their rights; and there are others those who engage in playing double standards and can accept all conditions that they faced in their jobs.