On October 22, a protest rally was held in front of the Parliament of Georgia, organized by some of the practice teachers who failed the summer national exams. Teachers who failed to pass the minimum threshold for their subject competency test, or failed to earn enough credits, do not agree with the government’s decision that they should as a consequence lose their jobs.
“We are teachers who raised many generations. Especially in years of great hardship, extremely low wages, frozen classrooms. But we carried that burden and worked responsibly. Today, we are on the verge of being “expelled” from schools in two months [when replacement teachers are found]. What is our fault?” One teacher told the educational platform EDU.ARIS.GE during the demonstration.
As Davit Peradze, the organizer of the rally and the head of the Teachers’ Coordination Council, told EDU.ARIS.GE, the protesters wanted to offer a legislative initiative to the leadership of the Education Committee so that teachers are not be deprived of the right to teach. According to Peradze, the exam held in the summer of 2021 was the last chance for teachers to increase their status and become “senior teachers.”
“We demand a change in the relevant legislation, so that these teachers are not deprived of their profession, their right to teach is not taken away, and the transition to any new status is voluntary. Then the school, the principal, the pupil, the parent should decide for themselves whether to bring the student to such a teacher or not,” said Peradze.
The teachers gathered at the demonstration claimed that they have a long-term (more than 20 years) experience and practice of teaching and “their knowledge and experience must be used by the future generations of teachers.” They claimed they couldn’t gain the minimum number of points (2-3 points) to pass the threshold for their subject competency test, which is unfair and due to their not having the proper conditions and opportunity to prepare for the exam.
One of the teachers, who teaches physical education, and who has already passed his subject competency test, can’t understand why he is asked to pass the Criteria Basic Skills Test, when he is a professional in his field: “I’m a sports teacher, I have about 200 student diplomas. I have passed my subject. Sport is a specific subject and I don’t understand why I’m asked for the skills of a desk teacher. I don’t work at the desk, I work in the gym and I have results!” he said.
“We have to stay because I, an elementary school specialist, am given tests that are not in accordance with the program I’m teaching. We are not against [them] giving us tests relevant to our diploma and passing them. But there were unscheduled tests at the exam. It was unfair and that’s why we should not be forced out of our jobs.”
“It was a cruel test, disloyal. We are very depressed and upset. We also appealed to the Ministry of Education, but the appeal didn’t bring any results either,” another teacher claimed.
According to the National Center for Teachers Professional Development, a total of 7327 practice teachers were registered for the subject competency test this year, although fewer than 5340 teachers took part in the exam. Of these, 2886 teachers failed to prove minimum competency in their own subject.
In the professional skills test, a total of 5912 practice teachers were registered in 2021, of which 4137 took part in the exams, and the minimum competency was not achieved by 2365.
In 2018, one of the main parts of the teachers’ professional development scheme was changed, according to which teachers who failed the exam 6 times in a 3-year period had to leave the educational system. Based on the changes, practice teachers will no longer be in the scheme from January, and the system now continues the teaching-learning process with three status teachers – senior, head and mentor. Public schools are expected to bid farewell to up to 4000 teachers from January, while up to 2000 teachers have improved their status this year.
The Ministry of Education has not yet commented on the issue. However, earlier in September, Deputy Minister of Education Ekaterine Dgebuadze said that they do not expect a shortage of teachers after the dismissal of practice teachers from schools.
“Many people are ready to enter the system, many have passed the 60-credit program, and many aspiring teachers want to stay in the system, ” she said.
The Deputy Minister once again reminded the teachers that “the system has taken a number of steps to promote their professional development.”