Georgian schools in the new coronavirus reality
Schools in Georgia closed due to the on March 3 and will not reopen until at least September.
Distance learning is a novelty for Georgia, moreover, the current legislation does not cover this teaching method. Therefore, the education system, has taken several weeks to “enter” the new reality.
There are 593,000 schoolchildren in Georgia. 89 percent of them, or more than 527,000, attend public schools, the rest attend private schools.
For online teaching, several programs based on Microsoft Teams have been created.
In private schools, the Zoom platform was preferred.
The state, for its part, offered schools the Georgian Feedc Edu platform for free, which does not require high-speed Internet.
At the same time, the Public Broadcaster launched the Teleschool program, which offers schoolchildren a television version of the lessons of the national educational program.
Children without a computer or internet
Online learning was not available to all students. About 20 percent of students do not have access to a computer or gadgets. This is more than 105,000 children and adolescents. Thus, the transition to online education has further demonstrated the difficult social problems in Georgia. Thousands of children were in an unequal situation with their peers, and their right to education was infringed.
In such cases, the system turned out to be helpless. Teachers could contact children without computers and their families only by telephone. In addition, other problems have opened up. Including the teachers themselves. Some of them were in a difficult position due to the insufficient level of knowledge of modern technology.
Levan Kvaratskhelia is a physics teacher at one of the schools of the Tsalenjikha municipality in the West of Georgia. He did not have distance learning experience.
“In addition to technical problems, there was also a psychological and emotional factor. Suddenly, schools closed overnight, everyone settled at home – it shocked everyone. I had to learn in the new conditions. And faster than during normal training times.”
Levan has created Facebook pages for all classes on which he uploads his recorded lessons. According to him, this is easier for children to learn from than during online, live lessons alone, which do not always go smoothly for technical reasons. According to him, several of his students have neither a computer, nor the Internet.
“We have a fairly rich mobile operator. I was surprised that it not offer any discounts or waivers during this difficult period,” Levan Kvaratskhelia said.
According to him, online teaching and learning was not easy for not only children, but also for educators:
“It takes more energy to get the attention of the children. In the classroom, conducting lessons is easier. The work day has become irregular.”
Giorgi Chanturia, director of the Education Coalition, believes that everything done by the state for distance learning is only suitable for those who have access to the Internet and technology.
“Together with the Ministry of Education, we are preparing printed materials for children who could not fully engage in the distance learning process. A number of schools, both private and public, have successfully switched to online, but there are problematic schools,” says Chanturia.
After the pandemic
According to education expert Simon Janashia, the problems of online learning are not only limited to students without computers or to technical problems. There are serious flaws directly in the educational process. The number of gadgets in a family, individual space, Internet speed, motivation – all these factors must be taken into account.
“Online courses have their own specifics. And we are trying to transfer ordinary school lessons to an online format, while online learning requires different skills and knowledge. Nobody was ready for the transition.”
The disappearance of school from a child’s life is one of the worst events that can happen because, in addition to education, a child in school acquires the social skills necessary for life, says psychologist Maiko Nanitashvili.
However, she believes that there is a positive side:
“Children are starting to use the Internet space correctly. Getting telecommuting skills. Online learning is not such a difficult barrier for them as it is for adults.”
In the Education Coalition, the forced transition to distance learning is considered a positive event, if only for the study of the education system.
“If it were not for the pandemic, then the introduction of distance learning would take more than one year, since such an education system is not recognized by us. Now we should expect legislative changes, and this is welcome,” says Giorgi Chanturia, Director of the Coalition.
But Simon Janashia does not exclude the possibility that distance learning can please children to the extent that it will be difficult for them to return to normal mode when the pandemic recedes.