FROM THE REDACTION
Higher education is becoming a major world problem since today the market and business are completely dependant on intellect.
Europe faces this problem as well, along with the issue of migration of students and professionals to other countries. As it is known, in 1999 39 European ministers of education met in Bologna with the purpose of solving this problem and signed the agreement, the main objective of which was creation of the single space of European education by 2010. Within the framework of this agreement (Bologna process) it was decided that education would be a three-stage one: bachelor course, master course and doctoral course. And at the meetings in Berlin in 2003 and in St. Petersburg in 2004 the main issues of the doctoral and bachelor courses were settled, it was also determined that switching to European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) would take place ever where, according to which no more than 32 subjects should be studied during the master course, and no more than 15 ones during the master course, besides the names of subjects and their type should be compatible with the European ones, and education should take place by means of syllabuses, i.e. in accordance with a detailed and comprehensive program of the subject, so that a student should know what and how he is studying, while evaluation should be made by means of credits – scores. The subjects should be divided into the basic and optional ones. There should be 5 scores in each basic subject, in the optional one – 2-3, the total of credit in bachelor course – 240, in master course – 120, where emphasis is made on research work. At the same time the purpose of each education level is determined. The credit system gives students an opportunity of changing both the chosen specialty and the educational establishment and of transferring to educational establishments and universities of other countries, and finally the received diploma should be recognized by the countries participating in the process, and the specialist should not have any problems in starting work in some particular country. Much attention is paid to the quality of education and its purposefulness, and a student is given the right and opportunity of getting additional specialty besides the basic one.
What is going on in Georgia’s education sphere is implementation of this process by means of the reform, and the higher education’s reform has the same purpose, including the reform being implemented in Tbilisi State University.
Of course, the process is painful like all reforms, and this issue caused serious debates in the society. With the purpose of listening ton the opposite arguments and fixing the positions, the round table discussion was held in “Tori” hotel. On June 9, in the conference hall of “Tori” hotel the Association of Economists of Georgia, the Federation of Businessmen of Georgia, CASE-Transcaucasia Fund and the Caucasian Resource Research Centre hold an open discussion on the following subject: “The education reform, economy and business in Georgia – problems and trends”, with participation of: rectors of higher educational establishments – Gigi Tevzadze – the Rector of Chavchavadze University, Suliko Kadagidze – the Rector of ESM, Dato Adeishvili – adviser of the rector of Tbilisi State University and representatives of other educational establishments, as well as Mikheil Jibuti from the Association of Economists, university professors, our magazine and the First Deputy Minister of Education – Aleksandre Didebulidze.
The main issues liable to discussion were as follows: what the education reform promises us and whether Georgian professors and teachers agree with it;
– how much education of one student costs to the university and whether the state renders assistance to it;
– why the university is a legal person of the public law; whether the time has come for the Georgian business to take interest in the fate of prospective economists and assist them in receiving of a full-fledged education;
– why Georgian teenagers do not finish their education, and what is the effect of poverty on the education system.
– We would like to draw attention to several directions. In relation to the reform, we believe that some of its aspects deserve supporting. Let us consider the world experience in this sphere in both the developed countries and the ones that are similar to Georgia. We wish to achieve social standards that would be based on knowledge. This will be a frame that we, the organizers, suggest. I ask professor Mikheil Tortladze to formulate the issues that will be considered at our discussion today.
– I shall try to present you in brief the current trends in the education system. The research has been carried out under the auspices of the UN. Mainly the issues related to social and general equality are considered in it. We shall speak about the trends that have taken place in the education sphere over the recent period. In general, it is believed that the country will be developing in accordance with the education system it has. It is the main lever related to the necessity of our country’s economic development. There is also another approach – 30% of the country’s population should have higher education for the country’s rapid development. Only by means of this kind of education it is possible to provide for the rate of economic development. In Georgia this indicator is comparatively lower, it exceeds 22%. I imply the age of 15 and more, since, according to the data of 2002 population census, if we deduct 15-18 age indicator from the total number of population, this indicator will be a bit higher. It should be pointed out that this indicator includes the part of the population that has only a diploma but no real knowledge. Now, as to the market economy. In my opinion, it is necessary to go through other stages before receiving higher education, they are: general education stage, pre-diploma and post-diploma education. The research has been carried out in accordance with these three stages, and the emphasis was put on the influence of poverty on the education sphere and vice versa. Unfortunately we had little material for revelation of the effect of poverty on the population and education. I hope that in future we shall be able to soundly say to what extent the education system is soundly for all stratums of the population. Georgia assumed the obligation related to the development of social equality in the country, and one of its main functions is rendering assistance to such spheres as education and health protection. The development of any society and democracy is nothing if there is no social equality and no verification that the society is developing in the right direction. Let us take a look at the recent trends. There have been radical changes after 2005. What is going on in schools? – In 1990 the number of pupils decreased considerably, which means that in 2002 the population of Georgia decreased by 20% in comparison with 1990s, and the number of pupils in general education schools – by 30%, i.e. a certain number of children remained outside the school. This circumstance has a considerable effect on poverty and criminogenic situation. Before receiving higher education a child should go through certain stages. If children lose their knowledge, we shall have a lot of young people without any profession, and most of them will follow the criminal path, which will have an effect on the country’s economic growth and the development on the development on the whole. It is an important factor that the largest share of those who do not finish school falls on boys and less number of boys chooses the stage of transferring to professional education. The indicators of the town and the country are not equal either. Out of 10% of children that do not go to school, 12% falls on the country and 9% – on the town. The fact that the share of private educational establishments among elementary and secondary schools, in the age group of 7-9, is large, the share of pupils of private educational establishments is also large and in the age group of 11-16 they continue their studies in public schools. On the one hand, education in senior forms of private schools is expensive, and on the other – private schools are still not up to the mark and pupils avoid them. The biggest inequality is still in the professional education system. Again we shall have to speak about the number of boys. Higher education is a logical continuation of the sphere that started at the previous stage. From the viewpoint of higher education, there is a big disbalance in Georgia. 42% of those who graduated from higher educational establishments falls on Tbilisi, and 10.7% – on the country. This fact confirms that different levels of economic development has an effect on distribution of those who graduated from higher educational establishments, and vive versa – the small number of graduated from higher educational establishments has an effect on the total character of poverty in the country.
Genderal disbalace was generated in secondary, primary professional and higher educational establishments. A large number of boys give up their studies, though the majority of those who entered higher educational establishments are boys, which indicates the general disbalance of the population. This fact confirms the effect of poverty on education. A boy has to leave the educational establishment and look for a job. How can these problems be solved? Here is the issue that worries us, economists, most of all – financing of the system. I hail the circumstance that the model of financing has radically changed from 2006. If in 2005 3.2% of the total public expenses fell on education, in 2006 this figure has doubled and made up 8.4%, which is the evidence of the fact that education is one of the state’s priorities. In 2005 education expenses per head made up 1.9 USD, in 2006 – 3.3 USD, but, in comparison with the developed countries, such as the EU countries, in our country 2.1% of GDP falls on education, while in the EU countries – 4.9%, i.e. in the medium term period increasing of these expenses and elaboration of the strategy that will cause increasing of expenses in the GDP will become necessary. In 2001 80% of expenses fell on general education, on higher education – 14%, on secondary, elementary and professional education – 1.6%. Prior to 2006 these expenses were different, this year 28-30% was spent on secondary education, on higher education – 40-50%, on secondary and elementary education – 18-28%. In 2001 212 GEL of state financing fell on one teacher in secondary and general education schools, in primary professional educational establishments – 79 GEL, in secondary professional educational establishments, in higher education sphere – 142 GEL. Thus, we can draw a conclusion concerning changing of the financing formula. We should take into account the difficulties and problems related to higher education. Today in Georgia one cannot speak of radical increasing of private sector’s financing for two reasons: firstly, it took place neither in the past nor it will happen in future – it is stipulated by a high level of poverty. It is natural that private financing will not be increasing rapidly and this forces the state to incur more expenses; secondly – the issue of education service. It is not a secret that it is not high in Georgia, that is why a number of financings is necessary with the purpose of its raising, in particular: materials, conferences, retraining of teachers and professors, their business trips, putting in order of libraries, i.e. all this requires huge expenses that the private sector will not bear, and the main burden is shouldered by the public sector. In my opinion, a medium-term program should be elaborated, which will periodically carry out allocation of funds, and its primary purpose will be the development of the sectors that will contribute to increasing of the general education’s quality in higher, primary and secondary sectors of education. It is a financial formula, making and perfection of which is possible by means of elaboration of medium-term plans.
– There are both public and private educational establishments. In this case, if the state has no possibility to maintain a higher or ordinary educational establishment, it may have no private one. A private one may have no such possibility if it does not make a profit. There is another issue – in what situation these educational establishments are in relation to each other. We have devoted 15 years to devoting to proving of the fact that public enterprises and establishments should not have any advantages over private ones. Today in the education sphere we often see that private educational establishments, in comparison with public ones, are in a better situation as far as financing is concerned. When the matter concerns payment for education a private educational establishment can increase it as it is required by the prime cost, and a public educational establishment is restricted from this point of view. It is a fact that contradicts the principle of putting all subjects in equal conditions.
Temur Khomeriki, a professor of Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University:
– Business education is an expensive pleasure, though, in comparison with western fees, it is a drop in the ocean. I wonder how the state will assume business education if this education is necessary for the market? I think that the private sector should assume responsibility for it.
What is the essence of your concept? Does what you said have to do with business education or secondary education in general?
– We have not formulated it in accordance with specialties, since there is a specialty that has to do with business only and it has the right to develop the sphere of its interests, but there is a number of spheres, the financing of which we cannot require from it. I can name you several spheres for business financing, for instance banking sphere that is a strong sector and can render assistance to the state in its financing, education of students that will later on find their place in the banking and financial sphere. It is difficult to say, according to what proportion it should take place, though cooperation is absolutely possible.
The First Deputy Minister of Education – Aleksandre Didebulidze:
– I would like to say that there is the Faculty of Business Management at the University, for which the state allocated 5 million GEL, additional 2 million GEL was allocated by “British Petroleum”, here the matter concerns the master course in English. When we speak about financing, most part of it falls on private sector. It is it that saved higher education, it was our first reform, it started in 1991 and since then the number of people employed in higher educational establishments has increased from 12 000 to 21 000. We should take care of quality of the labor market, what kind of it will be in 4-5 years.
– I would like to draw your attention to another issue. Speaking of private and other specialties, we should decide what we need taking into account the role of the state. There was a time when it was considered that should entrust everything to the “invisible hand”, then a theory was formulated, in accordance with which there are spheres, on competitive environment of which one cannot rely. It is believed so even in super liberal countries. For instance, one cannot infringe upon the health care sphere, but it has a segment – stomatology, which will stand competition and the market can regulate it. The same is in the education sphere, there are priorities in it, which can be committed to the market. Nevertheless, these are theoretical dogmata, but if we switch to financing I can say that the total financing related to education in Georgia does not meet any directions of the education reform’s ambitions. If in the education segment it still maintains something, it is a dead weight that we see in the form of the second and third courses acquired over the past years that pays money. The matter concerns private money in the education sphere. I can speak by the example of Tbilisi State University. The first course costs 1500 GEL, I heard that next year one student’s fee will be 1500 GEL again; the main motive here is that 1500 GEL for the next year is at least a 10% mistake. This year inflation has been 7%, for the next year it is planned at the level of 5%. In other words, these 1500 GEL will be 10% less by the next year, it turns out that for the next year we have planned 10% less expenses for one student. If we take a look at what the expense of 1500 GEL for one student’s training in all subjects in accordance with the international standards means, we shall see that even in the most backward country on average 5000 USD is allocated for this purpose. It is a mistake when we say that we maintain one student on 1500 GEL. We finance a higher educational establishment in accordance with the number of students. At the same time I would like ton say why there is such a discrepancy. Our ministry, except for the Law on Education, does not have any conceptual material or the general vision of the program of higher education in the private system at the level of this law. There are neither parameters nor indicators as to what and when we should achieve. It can be seen that the Law on Education is a living one by the fact that we have changed almost half of it within the period of six months after the changes were introduced it. However, there is no policy related to the higher school that would include these indicators. There is only the Law on Education that depends only on a subject’s personal disposition. We shall not be able to build anything this way. Everything should be prescribed documentarily. I shall point out to you the Law on Budget of 2006 that envisages the directions having to do education for 2006-2009. There is a new document that represents the government’s directions for 2007-2010. What should we understand when none of the documents contain a special program for 2006-2007. It should be presented what the Ministry of Education is going to do in 2007. Its main strategy is to form the system that would provide for maximal inclusion of Georgia’s citizens in the education system. There is no document as to how we should understand it, because for this purpose the financial issue should be clarified, and the form of financing has been abnormal over the past 10 years. It is written about the universities – “a subsidy, a subvention and current transfers”, but it is not known which of them is a subsidy and which is a subvention. Is not shown either, how the efficiency of these expenses should be checked. There given the term – “a jump of a deer”, but it is not pointed out that it “jumped”, how much should we spend, how much it costs to be in the “air” and how much it should pay at the moment of “jumping down”. Without writing and calculation of this the relation between the money and the indicator is lost. It is written – “relations between objectives and money”. It is given in the explanation that single examinations for the master’s degree should be held in 2009-2010. If it is so, preparation of examination tests should start this year.
The Rector of I. Chavchavadze University Gigi Tevzadze:
– If you have an idea what preparation of a general skills test for those aspiring for the master’s degree, you should know that it is not a simple matter. Several thousand questions should be prepared and there should be a complete database.
– Mr. Mikheil, the figures cited by you, to put it mildly, do not represent the facts.
– Which ones, for instance?
– First of all, we have exactly prescribed expenses for 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011. In particular, in the budget of 2007, which will be submitted to the parliament, all the figures are given. You can see that in 2006 the expenses made up 340 million, and 2007 they will make up 394 million GEL, which in fact means a 10% increase. As to general education, you are absolutely right, the number of pupils, unfortunately, is decreasing year by year, since children give up their studies. The struggle for keeping each child at school has started. It is also a fact that even in backward countries financing of one student makes up 5000 USD. I have European countries’ data for 2003-2004: in Romania 1900 USD is spent, in Poland – 2800, in Latvia – 3000, in Sweden – 1300. In 2005 there were 3200 second hand computers in Georgia, at the end of 2005 – 5600, in 2006 – 9160, i.e. their number trebled within a period of one year. By the end program we should have 30 000 computers, which means approachment of the country with the town. When a country school will have 5-6 computers connected to the Internet, any pupil will be able to get information.
– I want to be exact when the matter concerns expenses, since the total education expenses of the GDP in Georgia make up 2.5% in 2006, which is 2-3 times less in comparison with any country. That is why now this sum makes up 2.7%. In 2010 it will make up 3%. Based on it one can draw the following conclusion – the sum allocated for education in the country’s GDP is not sufficient for reaching of the education standards we are oriented for. In this case there arises another issue – how effectively the allocated sum is being spent and whether it is spent in the right direction. One cannot a hundred of 10GEL programs having 100 GEL for each one. Then it is better to implement one 100 GEL program and get a result that would be meant for 100 GEL. There is another issue – whether calculation of this money will have any significance when there are still no national educational standards in Georgia. Should the international standards recognized by you be the national ones?
– National standards exist in general education. As you know, we have standards in three professions, which are regulated by the legislation. Mr. Mikheil, you are the president of the association and you should be glad that the state does not establish these standards and exoects it from you.
– At the Ministry of Education they are considering what kind of accreditation, space, etc should be envisaged for a student in the educational standard. Is there this space in higher educational establishments? In Georgia we have no funds for creation of acceptable conditions for professors. We should take into account that Georgia’s higher education system is oriented for a comparatively cheap education. In the process of humanitarian education it concerns jurisprudence, philology, when it is possible that there can be more students in lecture rooms than in studying if such expensive specialties as medicine, experimental physics, power engineering, etc. There are very broad and narrow specialties. Unlike other countries, in Georgia more than 60% of specialties fall on the ones that do not require expensive equipment. It is one of the saving ways in Georgia, since as many students as possible should study these specialties. When, for instance, the country is oriented for agriculture, technique, preparation of one student is comparatively more expensive.
– Mr. Mikhail, you have said that the state should increase education expenses in the GDP, at what expense do you think to increase these expenses?
– The expenses allocated in the GDP for education do not provide for the level of education existing in the developed countries. However, it is necessary to find out determination of and concentration of the sum in the points that provide for this level. For instance, the medical institute under Tbilisi State University should not have been established when there is neither money nor base for this purpose.
– In general, I would like to tell you that it causes damages to the higher education when universities are subjects of public law.
– It is true, a higher educational establishment should not be a legal entity of public law. In passing of the Law Higher Education it should have been written from the very outset that it would be unprofitable.
Aleksandre Didebulidze, the First Deputy Minister of Education:
– As to the standards, it is recognized in the European countries that the system that existed in many countries, including Germany, was not good and perfect, that is why it has become necessary to elaborate competitive mechanisms. I would like to point out that we imitate the EU countries. It has been said here that Georgia is a poor country and that is why the education system here is not up to the mark, but the European countries are not notable for it either. The Europeans are rich and can afford the luxury of moving in this direction. I would suggest a model of radical liberalization to education workers and would advice to place the emphasis on the private sector and private financing. In modern world one can become competitive this way only. In globalization epoch we should compete with other universities of the world. The level of education in Georgia is low, that is why Georgians go abroad in order to receive education there. If we want to raise its level, we should not hope for the state only. I will add that “Bank of Georgia” has already started to grant credits for receiving education in higher educational establishments. “Bank Republic” is going to do the same. We can speak about searching for alternative ways. Banks will grant credits for the universities, in which, in their opinion, education is really possible. This is an important factor in the matter of inculcation of the competition system. The state, on its part, also takes measures aimed at reduction of interests on loans. The steps planned by the state can be seen. There is a possibility of increasing of expenses in the GDP, we just have to look at everything realistically. If there are more than half a million cars in Georgia, it is a fact that there is the resource for increasing of expenses.
– It is very good that new products are created. Banks are granting loans because they see the prospect of receiving profits. However, this does not justify the state. Speaking of the state we do not imply budget financing, neither we imply only the Ministry of Education speaking on the budget and the education reform, but we imply legislative and judicial power. In relation to the reform, I shall draw you an example that is unintelligible for me: in spite of a great number of changes in the law, workers do not understand whether it is a transfer or a competitions, since it is not unambiguously written down in the law. Thus, we imply both the parliament and ourselves. I have a concrete question – is it normal or not that there are one professor for every 50 students? A virtual figure was taken as a criterion, which we be real in four years.
– As to competition and market regulation, the fields of science that are not marketed are regulated by the competition. You have mentioned virtual figures, what is being done in higher educational establishments does not give us the ground to think that we have lack of professors, especially when the university’s budget can afford it. The state allocates enough money in order to start new programs with the assistance of new professors and finish the programs that have already been started by means of the old ones, and it does not matter whether they have passed through thy competition or not. Each university has an opportunity of hiring professors with old programs. It is true that that there will be difference in the status and salary of the professors that won in the competition and were hired according to the contract, but there will be no discrimination. That is, they can receive the same income as before without any competition, and participate in the competition every year. The assistance from the state really exists, but the problem is that how it is used by concrete universities and subjects of public law. In spite of the fact that the university is a subject of public law, it is free enough. The Ministry of Education will not be able to interfere with its decisions. The state gives all universities an opportunity to go through the so called “transitional period” easily.
Dato Adeishvili, adviser of the rector of Tbilisi State University:
– I would like to say directly that the reforms at the university and the competitions carried out within these reforms are implemented in accordance with the requirements of the Bologna process and reformation of Georgia’s higher education. The new system envisages the following:
Firstly, remuneration of professors will be increased almost three-fold;
Secondly, not only the university but the faculties as well will have a completely independent administration in studies, scientific work and conferring of degrees within the framework of the Bologna process. The era of a real university administration begins;
Thirdly, the main emphasis in education will be placed on receiving of maximal knowledge by the students and harmonization of this process with the European and western educational systems;
Fourthly, integration of the university and its faculties into the European space.
I also want to point out that competition is the initial stage of this process and an important one at that. Here the professorate at its own discretion determines the education program, which is based on the international experience. It sets the guidelines both in education of students and in scientific-research activities. That is why I consider some manipulations with figures as incorrect, also important is the fact that none of university values, from both human-professional and scientific-pedagogical points of view, will be lost.