Teach and Learn with Georgia (TLG) is an English language program started by the Ministry of Education in 2010, among other wide-ranging education reforms. Then President Mikhail Saakashvili was personally involved in the launch of the program, making compulsory English language instruction a centerpiece of his “educational revolution.” Ministry reports make clear that TLG is intended not only to improve English language proficiency, but also to promote development more broadly by exposing Georgians to Western values and culture. 

The program invites native speaking “volunteer” teachers to work in Georgian public schools teaching English and introducing new methodologies and ideas. In the first year of implementation, 1,000 volunteer teachers were recruited to Georgia through TLG, and the program touted their impact as a great success:

“TLG is indeed a ‘linguistic revolution’ with significant results over the period of one year – out of 4,200 local English teachers, up to 3,000 teachers had an opportunity to interact with native English speakers, get acquainted with modern teaching methodologies and techniques; up to 50,000 local students have improved their English level proficiency; more than 1,500 local host families and communities hosted foreign volunteers with an amazing possibility of cultural and traditional exchange.”

Despite calling these teachers “volunteers” the program offers accommodation with a local host family, provides medical insurance, covers travel costs and one flight home per year, and compensates them approximately $300 per month. That salary is roughly three times as much as Georgian public school teachers earn.  Despite calling these volunteers “teachers” the program requires no teaching experience or training whatsoever.  The eligibility criteria are merely that candidates be native English speakers with two years of post-secondary education and a clean criminal and medical record.  Indeed, TLG teachers interviewed for this project had no prior experience in teaching.  They were interested in seeing the world, and the program offered them a chance to do so.  Although the program purports to track progress in areas such as lesson planning and preparation, co-teaching, teaching methods, classroom management, evaluation of student outcomes, school administration support, and extra-curricular activities, the teachers indicated that there was nominal oversight of or support for pedagogical efforts.

“Teach and Learn Georgia is a good program and I hope it’s a worthwhile investment in Georgia’s future… In a way, though, it’s like buying an espresso machine before you’ve built a kitchen. There are so many obstacles preventing this cadre of foreign teachers from doing their jobs effectively, and I often wonder whether the government would be better off focusing on fundamentals first — buying books for all students, training teachers in modern techniques (as opposed to the translation-and-memorization doctrine that is currently rampant), paying Georgian teachers a living wage, better accountability metrics, etc.”

--James Norton, TLG teacher from the United States

 

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