Education in GeorgiaAs a former Soviet republic, the country of Georgia has been undergoing decades of economic change and development. This also applies to education in Georgia. Georgians have historically maintained high standards and expectations for education, and continue to do so today.

However, since 2004, the Georgian education system has undergone numerous systematic changes. Over the past two decades, different governments have attempted to improve the quality of the educational system, but reforms have been delayed or impeded by inadequate funding and finances.

Education in Georgia is mandatory for children between the ages of 6 and 14. The educational system is divided between elementary, basic and secondary schools. Vocational education is also available to students.

The World Bank conducted a comprehensive study of the state of education in Georgia to help improve its conditions and transparency in the government sector. It found that student outcomes are particularly concerning in areas like reading comprehension, mathematics and science. These areas are much lower than they should be, especially compared to the world’s leading countries.

Georgia joined the Global Partnership for Education in 2007. During this time, the partnership endorsed Georgia’s Consolidated Education Strategy and Action Plan that covered the period between 2007 to 2011. Georgia does not receive GPE grants. Under this plan, the government was introduced to the per capita financing principle of “money follows the student” in general and higher education. This principle began the process of “per-pupil funding.” Essentially, the process urges the state to provide 12 years of free general education. Primary, basic and general schools are funded by the Ministry of Education and Science. The education is funded based on an amount per pupil.

The establishment of The National Curriculum and Assessment Center in March 2006 is another positive reform implemented through the Strategy and Action Plan. The Center has introduced new curricula for general schools and vocational schools. It is “designed to encourage active learning rather than mechanical transfer of knowledge.” The curriculums were introduced in grades 1, 7 and 10 and on a pilot basis in 2, 8 and 11. Textbooks have been developed in recent years in reaction to the new curriculums.

World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus Henry Kerali noted that the future of Georgia’s place in the world as far as competitiveness is largely dependent on its ability to improve its educational system and to produce a highly skilled workforce through teaching and learning. With these reforms in place, Georgia is working towards these goals, which will improve the quality of life for its citizens.

Melanie Snyder

Hunger in GeorgiaThe Republic of Georgia was one of the most prosperous nations in the Soviet Union. However, the collapse of the Soviet Union also collapsed Georgia’s prosperity. Conflicts and economic deficits ensued and hunger in Georgia became an issue.

A report by Food Security and Nutrition in the South Caucasus stated that Georgia “cannot ensure the population of the country with stable and high-quality or adequate food, even in non-crisis situations.” Market supply-and-demand largely dictates food provision, relying on the physical presence of food in shops and markets. With 70 percent of food being imported into the country, food insecurity and the quality of goods are ongoing issues for citizens.

Though there is economic growth in the country, it is largely unrelated to food-related industries such as agriculture. Agricultural stagnation contributes to the issue of food insecurity as there is no dependable market. More than 50 percent of the population derives income and sustains themselves from the agriculture industry that only accounts for 10 percent of the nation’s aggregate GDP.

There are a few organizations that aim to minimize and eliminate the extent of hunger in Georgia.

The first is Action Against Hunger. They have been involved with hunger in Georgia since 1994, helping 2,754 people gain economic self-sufficiency in 2016 alone. This economic self-sufficiency can help individuals and families avoid hunger in the current food economy and beyond. The organization does this through a focus on the development of long-term food security programs. In at-risk communities, Action Against Hunger identifies income-generating activities and provides training in conflict resolution as well as encourages community participation in water, sanitation and hygiene programs.

Another organization is the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). Their work in Georgia started in 1995 and is concentrated on six priority areas: post-conflict livelihoods and food security, animal health, plant protection, food safety and consumer protection and forestry and fisheries. Overall, FAO puts an emphasis on utilizing natural resources and developing legislation for food safety and trade standards to help the impoverished of Georgia.

Heifer International is another organization that has been supporting Georgians since 1999. They have implemented specific projects in Georgia and within the Caucasus region. In 2007, they launched the Chiauri Dairy Farm Rehabilitation Project and Khashmi Dairy Farm Rehabilitation Project in the Kakheti region.

These organizations, as well as others, raise awareness for Georgians and encourage reform in the country so that widespread hunger does not remain a concern in the country.

Gabriella Paez

Photo: Flickr

Georgia's Poverty RateGeorgia is located between Europe and Asia and has become a crucial junction for trade flows across the two regions. Since the country’s political independence from the Soviet Union, the government has made a considerable effort to increase funding to social sectors and improve the transparency of public expenditure. While the country has made significant strides in recent years regarding human development, Georgia’s poverty rate continues to impede further development.

In 2015, about 20.1 percent of the population of Georgia was recorded as living below the poverty line by the Asian Development Bank. While the country has also experienced significant economic growth over the beginning of the 21st century, it has failed to translate it into equal wealth. Income disparities exist in pockets across the nation. As the country continues to urbanize, large differences between rural and urban areas continue to exist.

Those living in rural Georgia earn much of their income through the agriculture sector. Only 27 percent of rural dwellers earn their income through salaried work and 28 percent of rural incomes come from social payments. As the country’s agriculture production has become stagnant in recent years, much of the poverty today can be attributed to the agricultural sector which tends to account for around 45 percent of rural household income.

Georgia’s poverty rate also tends to be impacted by household sizes. Households with children have higher chances of falling into poverty than those without children. In rural areas of Georgia, around half of the children live in poverty, which is significantly greater than in urban areas.

In Georgia, one in every five children lives in poverty and one out of six live at the minimum subsistence level, according to UNICEF. These children that live in poverty also experience less educational opportunities than their peers living in wealthier families. The UNICEF representative of Georgia, Laila Omar Gad, professes that “We need to invest more in reaching the most vulnerable children, or pay the price in slower growth, greater inequality, and less stability”.

While large pockets of poverty remain, Georgia’s poverty rate has decreased by 14.4 percent in only four years, between 2010 and 2014. This result is partially due to the increase in the employment rate of those living in poverty from 50.7 percent to 56.6 percent over the same period.

Improving living conditions through economic activity has proven to reduce poverty in the country and should continue to be a tool to improve the living conditions for the people of Georgia. The World Bank Group has noted that the fiscal policies, inclusive economic opportunity creation and the deeper analysis of the rural economy all have driven the poverty reduction in Georgia.

To continue on the path toward development, Georgia must continue to engage in poverty alleviating policies while also working to ensure equal opportunities for all.

Tess Hinteregger

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in GeorgiaLocated in Southwestern Asia – just between Russia and Turkey – lies the sovereign nation of Georgia, a former member of the Soviet Union. With a size hardly larger than the U.S. state of West Virginia, Georgia’s population teeters just above 4.9 million. Here are the most common diseases in Georgia:

Ischemic Heart Disease
A condition characterized by narrowed heart arteries which reduce blood flow to the heart, ischemic heart disease can ultimately result in untimely heart attack. Also known as coronary artery disease, ischemic heart disease was assessed to be the most fatal of the common diseases in Georgia in 2005. By 2015, it was still the most fatal, and the prevalence of deaths by the disease had actually increased by 1.4 percent.

Cerebrovascular Disease
Cerebrovascular disease refers to disorders affecting blood flow to the brain. Such disorders often result in aneurysms, carotid stenosis, intracranial stenosis, vertebral stenosis, stroke and vascular malformations. In 2015, cerebrovascular disease was the second most fatal common disease in Georgia, and had been for the past decade. However, the disease had fortunately decreased in prevalence by 0.9 percent within those 10 years.

Hypertensive Heart Disease
Hypertensive heart disease is a disease of the heart that results from elevated blood pressure. In Georgia, hypertensive heart disease was the third most fatal disease in 2015. This is a drastic change from 2005, when it was only the fifth most common cause of death. The decade unfortunately saw a staggering 145.6 percent increase in prevalence of the disease.

As heart disease has been a consistently growing problem in the country, the Georgia Department of Public Health has decided to participate in the national public health initiative called Million Hearts. The organization’s primary goal is to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes.

Through partnerships with community organizations, local health departments and hospitals, the Georgia Department of Public Health is addressing heart disease and aiming to reach ambitious goals for improvement. If the Department of Public Health addresses ischemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease as well, surely these common diseases can also begin to see improvement in Georgia.

Shannon Golden

Photo: Flickr

Located in the sub-Caucasus region, Georgia is home to about four million people. Just like many countries in its region, certain diseases are prominent in Georgia. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works close with the Georgian government in order to tackle the top diseases in Georgia. Alongside Georgia’s National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC), the CDC focuses on detecting and responding to major disease outbreaks in Georgia, such as measles and rubella. However, the fatal diseases are the ones that are less likely to be detected in day-to-day life. Here is a list of top diseases in Georgia.

Top Diseases in Georgia

  1. Ischemic Heart Disease: Making for 36 percent of deaths, ischemic heart disease is by far the most dangerous of the top diseases in Georgia. It refers to restricted blood flow due to narrowed heart arteries. This results in less blood and oxygen going to the heart muscle. Symptoms include heart attacks, which are often fatal.Roughly 10,000 people per year die from ischemic heart disease in Georgia. For the highest annual mortality rates, Georgia is placed in the top 15 for ischemic heart disease. Experts say that ischaemic heart disease is caused by risk factors such as smoking, poor cholesterol levels and diabetes. There are also genetic and stress factors to the disease. In order to improve mortality rates, Georgians need to watch their eating and smoking habits.
  2. HIV/AIDS: Some top diseases in Georgia are exacerbated by the lack of medical treatment and diagnoses. In 2015, there were roughly 10,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Georgia. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), AIDS is prominent in Georgia due to the lack of diagnoses. If a person goes undiagnosed, they put others in danger of the disease. It is estimated that 48 percent of people living with HIV in Georgia are undiagnosed. The WHO is working closely with the government of Georgia in order to stabilize this epidemic. This includes getting HIV/AIDS patients proper medical treatments and educating Georgian citizens on the disease.
  3. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: Also known as chronic bronchitis or emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is one of the top diseases in Georgia, taking the lives of thousands every year. It is a progressive disease, meaning it worsens over time. Symptoms include coughing and breathing problems, which can eventually become fatal if untreated.Smoking is one of the major factors of COPD, with up to 75 percent of people who have the disease either being a smoker or ex-smoker. In Georgia, almost half of the male population regularly smokes, which likely contributes to the high mortality rate of COPD.

Many of these top diseases in Georgia can often be treated through preventable care or healthier lifestyles.

Morgan Leahy

Photo: Flickr

Georgia is a nation well-known for its conflict with Russia over provinces South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008. Georgia is a former member of the Soviet Union, and South Ossetia and Abkhazia declared independence from Georgia shortly after it left the Soviet Union. However, neither Abkhazia nor South Ossetia is fully recognized as independent from Georgia internationally. Their declarations of independence resulted in conflict with Georgia.

Nine Facts About Refugees in Georgia

1. As of mid-2015, there were more than 250,000 “refugees and other persons of concern to UNHCR” in Georgia. This includes refugees, people in refugee-like situations (who have not been formally recognized as refugees), internally displaced persons, asylum seekers and other stateless persons.

3. The 2008 conflict created 150,000 Georgian asylum seekers. Fewer than 1,000 Georgian asylum seekers had been accepted each year globally since the early 2000s.

4. More than 1,400 refugees from other countries were accepted into Georgia in 2015. The majority of them were from Iraq and Syria.

5. Since Russia’s second invasion of Chechnya in 1999, about 12,000 Chechnya refugees came to Georgia. Russia has made claims that Georgia hid Chechnya rebels, but Georgia has deemed those claims as false.

6. The International Criminal Court started investigating the war crimes of South Ossetia, Russia and Georgia in and around South Ossetia in order to bring justice to over 6,000 victims. Still, it is doubtful the victims will receive reparations.

7. There are almost 300,000 internally displaced persons in Georgia due to the conflicts with Abkhazia and South Ossetia over the last 20 years. Five percent of the population is internally displaced.

8. During Georgia’s conflict with Abkhazia in 1992-1993, both sides terrorized civilians based on which group they were from and this led to many displaced persons.

9. The EU voted in February to allow Georgians to travel visa-free into the EU for up to 90 days. The EU was concerned this could cause an upsurge in Georgian migrants overstaying illegally, therefore it reserved the right to reinstate visa requirements if needed.

These are just nine facts about refugees in Georgia. Refugees in Georgia are affected by the conflict in South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Russia.

Jennifer Taggart

Photo: Flickr

Despite the harsh ramifications from the global economic crisis and major political challenges, Georgia has remained a leader in the Caucasus sub-region for education, specifically in positive student learning. Georgia’s education programs and reforms are recognized worldwide. As of 2014, Georgia has had a secondary school net enrollment of 92 percent, just above the U.S., which sits at around 90.5 percent.

In 2007, Georgia partnered with the World Bank and UNICEF to create the Consolidated Education Strategy and Action Plan. This program ensures early childhood development, preschool education, general education, higher education and non-formal education in Georgia, while simultaneously including education for children with special needs.

Things began looking grim when, in 2008, Georgia was politically challenged by the Russian Federation and suffered internal government issues. Additionally, the Georgian economy was at a low, with almost 60 percent of the population living below the national poverty line and a quarter of the population making less than $2 per day, affecting the education in Georgia.

Nevertheless, Georgia’s government continues to focus on its educational reform. In 2008, the program department of Georgia was established in the Ministry of Education and Science. This agenda prioritizes programs such as the Safe School Initiative and Education Resource Centers. According to the World Bank, enrollment rates have only been improving.

As of 2016, advancement is seen in poverty. Twenty-one percent of the population is below the national poverty line, a staggering difference compared to prior numbers.

UNICEF notes that Georgia likely prioritizes education partly due to the country’s lack of natural resources, which leaves the future of the country dependent on its human capital.

Even still, there are festering problems in Georgia’s system, despite the government working hard to ensure quality education. Severe inequities of the enrollment and attainment rates between the rich and poor persist, likely due to entry fees. Ethnic groups and children with disabilities are lagging behind.

Improvements have been made to make up for this, such as the Education Strategy and Action Plan for Children with Special Needs, but there is still room for progress.

Henry Kerali, the World Bank regional director for the South Caucasus, notes, “Georgia’s prospects to compete in the global economy will largely depend on its ability to produce a highly-skilled workforce via improved teaching and learning.”

Morgan Leahy

Photo: Flickr