Franklin Club: Education as a pillar of prosperity

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Education as a pillar of prosperity

Jun 14, 2022 blog Giorgi Pachuashvili

Modern Education System in Georgia is deeply flawed and cannot produce labor of international standards. Thus, rate of FDI keeps being low at $3.37 million as of 2020. It started shrinking even before the pandemic, being at $7.2 million in 2018 and slightly increasing the following year by only hundreds of thousands, which is not enough. Moreover, without properly educated society, liberal-democratic system is in danger. According to Freedom House report of 2021 our democracy ranking declined by 2 points at 58/100. It had been shrinking for years. General public does not properly pay attention to checks and balances in their own government. Sense of individual responsibility seems low as well, just as trust in one another. These two are intertwined because to trust a stranger, first you must have faith in yourself. As of 2014, Georgia was on the bottom of Social Trust statistics by IPSOS Global at 9%. Recent situation has not been numerated but, as one would observe, no exponential change has been taking place over the years. Hence, Georgian nation lacks social capital that contributes to accumulating material one. The issue can be accounted for by our Education system and the faulty reforms in the latter field. We shall discuss this matter and form respective recommendations.

Let’s observe the main issues. In 2018 PISA ranking put us at 69th position at an average score of Mathematics, Science and Reading – The components for critical thinking, as we can assess. Education spending as a share of total government expenditure was at 13% according to Our World Data statistics of the same year, even higher than that of Estonia and Poland. Albeit, Estonia outmatches us by 58 steps in PISA rankings, Estonia – 64. After analyzing the existing picture, one can conclude that priorities are being chosen imprudently and finances distributed irrationally. Public and private per capita expenditure on education was lower than $400 and learning outcome – 500 respectively. South Korea, by comparison, outpaced 600 in the latter component and spent more than $2000. Therefore, inefficiency of resource distribution in Georgia seems apparent. 

Let’s look at Georgia’s annual budget expenditure in education. The problem is evident from the first glance. Only 40.9 thousand was spent in pre-school education in 2020 and 88 is planned for 2022. By comparison, Estonia spends 5% in this category, while Georgia is nowhere near that number, not even reaching 1%. Although, one of the main components of Estonia’s success can be found in pre-school system. 

While Georgia spends most of its finances on primary and secondary education, more than 800 million, efficiency is still low, as we saw in the above-mentioned statistics. More than some 300 million expenditures are not even classified. Despite all these issues with quantity and quality proportions, Georgia plans to increase its funding without taking into account problems with efficiency. What can be done to cope with such situation?

It must be admitted that one cannot directly control government expenditures, unless he or she represents the government itself but some indirect influence can always be applied and other minimal issues answered, at least in the current environment. 

Firstly, delegated funds must be circulated properly on the school level itself, if we are discussing primary and secondary education, which is the focus of our topic, as the main backwater in overall structure. Local governing institutions, such as parents’ council, for example, ought to be empowered, even if in most cases they are unable to familiarize with this new structure, long-term tradition is to be formed, so that responsibility is delegated properly. 

Secondly, and more unrealistically in current circumstances, but it must be underlined, the government must assume a limited role. The essence that funding comes from public and not some abstract structure above, should be conceptualized. Delegating more decision-making to regional authorities in this field could contribute greatly to the first point and second one respectively. At least, regional actors should be able to distribute finances addressing local issues.

Thirdly, and more realistically, as I see it, on the secondary school level, some non-mandatory subjects can be added to increase plurality of choice. Let us either give private schools right to design this subjects themselves or integrate public schools in such manner as well. This limited system could become a birthplace of innovative ideas that would contribute to our better performance on the world stage. 

As a fourth point, subjects should be attached to credits and exams utilized more efficiently, so that it can be decided, who would better contribute to vocational education field. The latter must be financed properly as well and equated to the upper level education status, so that its attractiveness can captivate intelligent minds.

As a fifth point, resources can be diverted to technological enhancement, such as IT subject learning, tablet or laptop utilization or other innovations. That’s the pathway Estonia implemented with its relatively small budget to the giant actors of the international system. Children must accommodate to the new reality of future. The funds that are to be deemed inefficient at a single objective point, can be redistributed for such equipment. 

As a last point, teachers’ examination system ought to become an independent structure from the ministry, without any partiality. This can either be implemented by means of creating an independent public institution (which is less realistic but what if it worked like public defender’s office managed?) or delegated to a private body that can be financed through tenders. Competitiveness is not guaranteed but at least steps must be taken for even limited foundationalism. This will improve the quality of certified teachers and the efficiency of education on a school level.

To sum up, Georgia ought to spend the least for achieving maximum results, focus more on vocational and pre-school education, add some new elective subjects – thus enhancing pluralism and creativity, create a more flexible examination and evaluation systems, implement technology and design an impartial body of assessment. If at least these issues are to be addressed, Georgia shall rise in PISA rankings and its economy flourish as a byproduct of social capital, as well as its democratic system that is highly dependent on individual prosperity. Some sense of pluralism will always affect quality. As I named the essay, education is the pillar of prosperity, and even more. 

|This essay may not be the official postition of the Franklin Club, An essay is written within the Franklin Club's project Franklin freedom defenders.|