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Brosse Street Journal » Education:

Insanitation and professional education

By Sandro Tarkhan-Mouravi
Brosse Street Journal
Wednesday, May 30 2007
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Thousands of young people study a wide variety of subjects in Georgian Technical University (GTU). In the sixth building alone, titles ranging from Russian language and economics to house construction and computer science can be read on the numerous nameplates.
To locate toilets, however, one doesn’t need any visual sign: smell alone provides the information. Besides, garbage is scattered on the floor in various places and some windowpanes are smashed.
In October 2006, when the Ministry of Education refused to accredit GTU, Georgia’s biggest university, media reported that the official reason was lack of proper sanitation.
However, according to Nino Chubinidze, the director of the National Educational Accreditation Center (NEAC), there were many other reasons. The documentation presented by the GTU administration to the NEAC in order to receive the accreditation had many significant errors, she says.
For instance, about 5,000 students were not accounted for. On the whole, several primary and secondary accreditation requirements were not satisfied, including conditions in the university buildings and the grading system, Chubinidze says.
The NEAC commission discovered students at GTU who had been accepted illegally. Some of them were only 14 years old; some were accepted directly to the second or third year of study, or transferred to GTU illegally. The facts are currently being investigated.
Up to six other unaccredited universities may be involved, according to Chubinidze.
After the loss of accreditation, the rector of GTU, Ramaz Khurodze, resigned. President Mikhail Saakashvili appointed the head of the National Scientific Fund, Archil Motsonelidze, as acting rector of GTU. Education Minister Kakha Lomaia proposed Motsonelidze.
Khatuna Khachidze, a fourth-year economic informatics student, says that she did not see anything done to improve the conditions during the previous years. Since October, when the administration changed, some changes did take place. For example, according to Khachidze, windows in the lavatories were fixed and currently heating is being installed. However, according to her, not much has changed for students.
Sergo Esadze is the head of the Quality Control Department in GTU, which was founded after the administration changed. He refused to answer any questions concerning alleged administrative violations or any other problems in the university.
“We are in the transitional phase now,” he said, “let’s talk later.”

Georgia needs builders
In 2007, because of the loss of the accreditation, GTU cannot accept new students.
In the past, the university officially accepted more than 3,000 students every year. That means that in recent years, at least every sixth first-year student in Georgia studied there.
Furthermore, several technical faculties, such as Faculty of Chemical Technology and Metallurgy or Mining-Geological Faculty, don’t exist in any other university in Georgia except GTU.
According to Maia Gabunia of the National Examinations Center, the only obvious alternative to GTU’s engineering faculties currently is International Black Sea University (IBSU). Not more than 100 students study engineering In IBSU.
Zurab Isaakiani, an assistant professor at GTU, asks, “Doesn’t Georgia need builders?”
Many buildings are being constructed throughout Georgia. A young person who wants to become, for instance, an engineer, probably should go to Moscow or somewhere else now, Isaakiani says. GTU was an important part of Georgian higher education, he said, adding that it is a shame that the administration functioned so badly that even elementary requirements for accreditation couldn’t be fulfilled.
According to Chubinidze, however, if GTU is accredited in 2007, it will be able to accept about 1,000 students in “vocational education” programs in October.
This type of education, which is being introduced in Georgia now, is different from the three-stage higher education (undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degree). However, a student willing to become a scientist, for example, will be able to switch from vocational education to bachelor’s studies later. If accredited, GTU would be able to accept students both to professional studies and bachelor’s programs beginning in 2008.
Chubinidze also argues that out of 3,000 students accepted to GTU each year, only 1,000 actually studied technical subjects. That means GTU had lost its function and the new administration is supposed to improve this, she says.
Gabunia says that, for example, foreigners often had to be brought to large construction projects in Georgia, as there were no local skilled workers. This proves that vocational education is needed, she says.
Isaakiani strongly supports introducing vocational education. Not everyone should become a scientist or an engineer, he says. He also says that there were too many students in GTU and probably in Georgia on the whole and that affected education negatively.
When asked whether he thinks there was corruption in GTU, Isaakiani asks, “Why would a student who can’t even understand his own language, be accepted to this university?”
According to Gabunia, students of GTU had relatively low results in National Examinations.
Before the examinations, students list several universities and faculties where they would like to study, in order of priority. Those who passed the exam with high results and received full financing from the state seldom named GTU as their first choice.
Gabunia says that while the last round of accreditation focused mostly on studying conditions in the universities, in the next one, learning materials will be checked as well.


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