The state language of Georgia shall be Georgian, and in Abkhazia it will also be Abkhazian, according to a change in the Constitutional Law of Georgia on October 10, 2002.
"In Soviet times the state language was Georgian and Russian. That's why people didn't need to learn Georgian before. Now Georgia has independence and it became more important to learn this language," said David Karkashadze, a representative of the movement For Saving Science and Education. "The language problem of national minorities in Georgia is in their living situation and the fact that they haven't had communication with people outside of their surroundings."
According to the National Assessment and Examination Center, last year about 32,000 university entrants took part in the examinations, and only 26 Azeris could enter Georgian universities.
Amiran Shubitidze, the head district administrator in Marneuli, said that if minorities wanted to be integrated into society, they needed to know Georgian. Before, people thought that if they learned Georgian, they would lose their culture and history. But now ethnic Azeris living in Georgia are sending their children to Georgian schools.
"There were 68 students in first grade in 2005, and 54 in 2006. Because parents send their children to the Georgian schools," According to Omar Yusifov, deputy director of Nakhudri secondary school," pointed out Omar Yusifov, the deputy director of Nakhudri secondary school.
Kamandar Ismayilov, head of the Marneuli Region Educational Resource Center, estimated that Marneuli has 11 Georgian, 10 Armenian, 8 Russian, and 53 Azeri schools. About 1100 Azerbaijani pupils study in Georgian schools in Marneuli.
Pupils in Azerbaijani schools have three hours of Georgian language lessons a week from first grade until 11th grade. Before 1992, the Georgian language was taught starting in the fifth grade.
He mentioned that from 890 graduates from Azerbaijani schools in Marneuli, only 17 of them could enter Georgian high schools in 2005.
While being in Marneuli for the celebration of the beginning of spring holiday Novruz, President Mikheil Saakashvi said that state posts would be available for Azeris who spoke Georgian. Nino Burdjanadze, the chairman of the Parliament, said on the Language Day of Georgia that the government should not give up on the teaching of the non-Georgian population.
Georgi Martashvili, a representative of National Assessment and Examination Center, said: "I don't know why the government decided to put in a rule that all the entrants have to pass exams in Georgian if they wanted to study in the high schools of Georgia."
Last year there were two types of tests. One was much more easier and was intended for non-Georgian schools. But this year all pupils have to pass a standard form of the tests. But the new changes give to non-Georgian schools the right to choose Russian as their foreign language, even though they have already graduated from Russian schools. Also they have the opportunity to pass geography and history in Russian, too.
Guranda Chavchavadze, executive director of the foundation Multi-Ethnic Resource Center on Civic Education Development mentione "Our foundation specializes in teaching Georgian language to national minorities from ages 18 to 45." Our students are eldest people, they all want to find job, that's why they learn Georgian with diligence.
"Our pupils know how important learning Georgian is, because it's the obligation of everyone to learn Georgian who lives here," said Elman Jeferli, director of the Marneuli city boarding school. "I suggested extending Georgian lesson hours from three to five or six to the inter-parliamentary committee of both countries because I think it would be more effective for learning and communicating."
According to Zaur Khelilov, executive director of the NGO Civil Integration Foundation, there are 456 non-Georgian schools in Georgia and 70 percent of them are situated in the regions outside Tbilisi. An estimated 137 of them are Azeri schools.
His organization is going to hold a training project for teaching pupils from non-Georgian schools. "We are going to include about 50 schools in Kvemo-Kartli for one month this summer," said Khelilov.
Also designed to integrate the non-Georgian population into society is the NGO "Multinational Georgia's "Bilingual Education Project," which supports seminars showing teachers new methodologies for bilingual education.
Leyla Bayramova, a parent of one the exam applicants in the Marneuli region, her son couldn't enter the Georgian high schools. She considers his problem a lack of Georgian language skills, because he couldn't understand the test questions, which were in Georgian.
Last year, 51 students graduated from Marneuli city boarding school, but none of them could enter the Georgian high schools. Some of them entered Azerbaijan universities; some went to Turkey.
"The total sum of children entering universities abroad is not known because the Ministry of Education and Sciences don't demand this information from us. But in Soviet times, this information was kept in the data base of the ministry and regional departments of education," said Ismayilov.
Ramilya Musayeva, one of the students at the "Multi-Ethnic Resource Center on Civic Education Development, said that she comes to learn Georgian grammar, because she knows Georgian in domestic level. "I'm a lawyer, and if I want to find job suitable to my specialization I need know Georgian well," she mentioned.