Alexander Jejelava believes, all children learn best through playing
Photo UNISEF Georgia
A ‘cool guy’ with the modern views or a dilettante? Alexander Jejelava has been heading Georgian Education Ministry for almost 6 months and has always managed to be in public eye and Mass Media’s spotlight. Nearly all of his interviews stir public debates and cause mixed reactions. Some people like Jejelava, others sharply criticize him. To put it short, his personality leaves almost no one indifferent.
Before he took the Minister’s office, he had been the chair of the Management Academy, conducting trainings on management, sales, project management and leadership issues. He also worked for several Georgian organizations, focusing on human resources, sales and management.
Those, who object Jejelava’s appointment for the Education Minister’s post, believe, his ‘businesslike’ background is inappropriate for the Education Minister.
We have picked up several of his interesting statements, which, as we believe, reflect the Minister’s vision best:
What should a new school be like?
“An old school used to be a school of memory. Before the Internet appeared, the school’s task had been to train one’s memory. Whereas the modern school is the school of thinking…thus, the national curriculum needs to be unburdened. Children learn best through childhood: through play, friendship, sometimes even through mischief etc. Children at this age should not be overburdened. Specialization is good in the upper grades – for a person, who is sure, he is going to become a philologist, it’s unclear, why he should learn some complex components of physics.
In this regard, the Minister is expected to introduce computer games in schools. For example, a computer game based on Shota Rustaveli’s ‘The Knight in the Panther’s Skin’, through which school students will learn this literature piece. Jejelava is going to introduce similar game-based teaching method in the rest of the subjects – history, chemistry, biology etc.
Hooray! No more learning by heart!
“It is believed that a teacher should provide a student with education in a right way. However, it’s not just teacher who plays an important role in that. If you aren’t interested in a content, a subject-matter of something, you couldn’t be forced either to listen to or learn it. Whereas we’ve reached that point where content is absolutely inconsistent with the reality. For instance, could you explain me, why does a child need to know and learn by heart the passages from Georgian literature works? Of course, you couldn’t explain it, since there is no explanation to that.
What kind of Georgians the mankind needs?
“Our primary and the most important task is to form a harmonious person. What the market demands are liberal values, freely and critically thinking people. As far as the market demand is concerned, we shouldn’t limit ourselves solely to the labor market. What does market need in a broader sense? I believe that people, who are not self-realized from the professional point of view, can’t achieve harmony and happiness. A person should be happy and harmonious in relationships, should have a healthy lifestyle, should be environmentally friendly not only to the nature, but to the people surrounding him and the world that we are building.
You don’t know? Find it on Youtube!
“I studied in Soviet school. There was a lab, but we were told: don’t enter it, don’t touch anything. If children want to learn, they will find the experiments on Youtube and learn through them. In good schools, a teacher would bring a containers, a student – a pot and a school principal – a flask, so they have the lab. The problem lies in students themselves. It’s hard to be a teacher if a child is unwilling to learn.
Google-teacher and Natela teacher should make friends
“Google-teacher has become a rival to all teachers worldwide, including Georgian ‘Natela teacher’, who hasn’t had any rivals for 40 years. Now, there are both of them, Natela teacher and Google-teacher, in class, and Natela teacher is in a very serious trouble. If a student raises a question that Natela teacher has no answer to, she should feel free to look it up on Google. There is nothing shameful about it.
Teachers’ names should boom
“It’s a crime on our part that for 25 years we’ve been casting stones at teachers, remembering about them only when a student failed at the exam. Personally I intend to bring more value and appreciation for a teacher and it’s not necessarily linked to salaries. Those, who think that salary is a motivation secret, would better throw away those 50-year-old management books. Besides, those, who start working in school for the sake of money, have taken a wrong path.
Teachers don’t need tests
“A test barrier for teachers will be lifted. However, that doesn’t imply that everyone will move to the next level. For instance, if you get 85% and I get 15%, none of us have failed the text, simply you will be granted credits that will correspond to 85%, and I will get those, corresponding to 15%. My credits won’t be enough to move to the next level. So, what am I supposed to do? I should proceed with it, take one more test, make publications, get engaged in social activities and gain enough credits. There won’t be any teachers, who’ve failed the tests. And also, I want the word ‘test’ to be removed from the system. You can’t test a person, who has been tested by life for 30 years, who has raised generations and is now raising their grandchildren. He/she is an experienced person and shouldn’t be tested, but it’s OK with validation of his/her proficiency.
Electronic school textbooks
“Schoolbag weight has caused serious problems to many people. There are 3 options: the first one – a lightweight book standard. Total weight of a schoolbag, including textbooks and copybooks, should not exceed 3kilos. We are already working in this direction and the textbooks will have less weight in future.
The second option is to reduce the load of the lower grades’ program–if school students have less subjects daily, they will have to take less books along with them. And the third option- to introduce electronic textbooks as a voluntary alternative. If a family decides so, a child will work with paper textbooks at home and will take a computer to school. In other words, he/she will no longer have to carry books to and fro.
“New elements are included in the Mendeleev’s periodic table every year, physics and math are undergoing fundamental changes, to say nothing of the technologies. Electronic textbooks allow to update information, stressed Jejelava, who is planning to update school textbooks, in general.
When Newton doesn’t know his own law
“A school textbook author should take into account the teachers, students and other parties’ corrections of mistakes, remarks and suggestions. It hasn’t been so until now. Therefore, for 6 years, we’ve been using the Physics textbook, where the Newton’s Law is given in such a way that even Newton would object it.
Higher education only for those with higher academic performance
“The major problem of higher education institutions is that the entry bar is set too low. Too many people are allowed to enrol in higher education institutions. Higher education is called so because it isn’t universal and it should be only for the chosen ones. The funding system is also inadequate. What funding should be linked to is whether your alumni are good or bad, will they be further employed or not. A super student, who is studying super at super university and a person, who enrolled in some university faculty just to avoid a military draft, are equally provided GEL2,250 funding, said the Minister.
In his words, the uniform national exam system is unlikely to change at this stage.
“This system change requires preparation. The system is actually operating by inertia. We will have to hold public debates on this issue, to adjust to it, test it and only afterwards move onto a new system
Komble- a bad shepherd, Spiderman-a good teacher
“Komble (Georgian folktale character, a shepherd) is a thuggish and bad shepherd. I have 2 major claims to him. Komble had 2 sheep. Why should a shepherd have just 2 sheep? If you give it a thought, you’ll understand that it’s because he is a bad shepherd. He isn’t engaged in sheep tending…
‘Superman’ and ‘Spiderman’ aren’t funny characters. They are the teachers, the children’s heroes. Consequently, we have to think over all those issues, be it the heroes, or the fairytale characters, children’s literature, school textbooks or academic process etc. The most important is that we shouldn’t take anything as a fact. We should consider, what is better for our children…we should shift onto an absolutely new level, discuss all those things, including fairytales, school textbooks, teaching methods etc.