Teacher Training in Georgia
This summer, the St Giles Educational Trust organised and supported the delivery of a two-week Teachers of English Course (TEC) for 20 teachers from IB MTHIEBI, a school of the European University in Tbilisi, Georgia. Two teacher trainers, Tanja Schwarzmann from London Highgate and Vivienne Emery from Brighton, delivered the programme in Tbilisi, and Tanja told us about her experiences in her first week…
The teachers are really motivated and eager to learn, so the teaching is really good fun. In a brief discussion at the beginning of the course, it emerged that they hoped to gain a more in depth knowledge of up-to-date teaching approaches and methods and how to introduce greater variety into their lessons – which is what we had planned for. This is very important for them as most of them do not have any formal teaching qualifications and so they are left simply following the course book. It’s really nice to hear that some of them are planning to go abroad to take a CELTA course – so this TEC course is a little taster for them.
It’s also interesting to find out about the education system in Georgia. I was very surprised to hear that even in private schools the directors and teachers have no say in which course book they use and how to structure their syllabus. They have to use books which are approved by the government of Georgia – the books even have a ‘seal of approval’ in them. The problem is that the material is far too difficult for most of the learners. For example, children at the age of 10 are expected to study the 3rd Conditional and the Present Perfect tense using ‘yet’ and ‘just’ – concepts which are far too difficult to understand for a 10-year-old child. Some of the teachers said that they lack the knowledge to simplify the materials and that they don’t really have access to many extra resources to help learners to improve. Hopefully, the TEC course will help them with this. So far we have received very good feedback from the teachers and, to be honest, Vivienne and I are learning as much as they are.
As for Tbilisi itself, it’s a city of great contrast. Initially when we arrived I thought: Wow, this place is really in the process of development. There is a lot of new infrastructure around and building work seems to be take place everywhere. The harsh reality, however, is that 70% of all people in Tbilisi are unemployed. We were told that the government 10 years ago made many big changes: they ensured that everyone had electricity, that people had access to the internet and they tried to create new jobs by building new infrastructure – in a sense, fighting for their independence and moving away from relying too heavily on Russia. But there is not a lot of money floating around in the country. In a way, the government was spending money that did not exist – so last year Georgia saw a change in government again. They want to save money but the downside is that they are very much pro-Russia. We were told that especially the younger generation feels that this is a massive step backwards when all they want is to be a country that can stand on their own two feet. All this though doesn’t change the fact that the locals are very friendly and welcoming and that the countryside and the historic town are stunning.
Salome, the woman who is in charge of the project here, is looking after us very well. She and two other people who work at the school sometimes take us out for little tours away from the capital. This week we drove up a mountain and went for a walk around a beautiful lake which was followed by drinking some delicious Georgian wine!
So overall, we’re having a great time here teaching and sightseeing and are learning lots from the TECs and the country itself.