For the first round of England V Georgia, I’m looking at education. Education is what brought me here in a long-winded way since Shota was studying in the UK when we met, so get ready as I dissect the pros and cons…
I want to keep this as concise as possible, so I’ll start at the beginning; children’s education.
In the UK, kids can start pre-school (like a pre-nursery amazing fun time full of warm milk and rocking horses) from the age of 18 months. I remember going to pre-school, I must have been about 2 and a half or 3 and I loved it. I’m pretty sure it’s why I learnt to read and write so fast since there was designated story time. Next nursery from the age of about 3-5. Again, loved it, and I made a lot of lifelong friends at this stage too. Then 5-18 (used to be until 16 when I was at school) is compulsory education, which includes A Levels too.
In Georgia kids start nursery at about 3 years old, although a lot of parents don’t send them until they’re 4 or 5. School starts at 6 years old until 16. Although not completely different from the UK, I’ve noticed kids learn to read and write later here which might hamper them later on in terms of their patience, but speak well. Georgians keep a lot of lifelong friends from childhood, they seem to stay in touch even if they’re not like siblings!
This time spent at home longer in Georgia could be both good and bad. Of course bonding time with parents and grasping their own identity before starting school and socialising is great for their development. Georgian kids are so much more confident than English kids.
I think young kids need more support from their parents but unfortunately the luxury of looking after your kids full time for the first 4 years or so of their life is almost impossible for most parents in the UK and it’s becoming that way for Georgians also now that both men and women make a living.
Parents have much more support from grandparents in Georgia than in the UK as most families live with several generations under one roof. This is a good and bad thing too. On one hand you have the wisdom, experience and traditional aspects that grandparents would bring but then you have the generally more narrow-minded, gossipy things too. Especially since grandparents in Georgia are born and bred under the Soviet Union, it’s halting Georgia’s progression quite drastically when older people are still in high positions.
The same could be said about the UK, but that’s another story.
As far as I understand about Georgian schools, there is quite an equal focus on all subjects, including sport and dance. The public schools are quite unreliable and you’re not guaranteed the same quality all around like in the UK since some don’t even have food or heating for the children, which leads to health problems later on. (Shota just informed me that most Generals recruiting for the army have to decline 80% of applicants because they simply aren’t up to a good level of fitness).
Georgian children learn Georgian and English simultaneously when they start nursery and school. Russian is taught later on in some schools, from about the age of 12. The UK of course disappoints massively on this hit where French, German and Spanish are the main options after the age of 12. I’ve heard they’re starting to introduce these for kids from a younger age but I don’t have much confidence in the quality. When I learnt French at school it was pretty much pointless until I chose it as an optional GCSE then A Level. It’s something the UK should take more seriously in an international world!
Before I move on to higher education, I need to mention one crucial thing. Encouraging critical thinking isn’t something embraced in Georgia, and should be embraced more in the UK.
At school, I was amused at how often they changed the name for ‘Religious Education’ so not to offend anyone. From a young age you’re taught briefly about different religions and cultures which basically teaches you that they’re all the same. As you grow up they introduce the tiniest bit of Philosophy, but mostly focused on Christianity, and a minimal form at that. I got full marks in my exam which explains a lot about me now!
In Georgia however, there are problems in the news recently about kids being brainwashed by Orthodox Christianity. It’s purely political, as the soft power influence of religion is a sensitive issue anyway, let alone when it’s a key reason to align with Russia and their Orthodoxy and hate the gays of Europe…
Despite this, the spirituality of religion is the key theme presented, which is completely lost in UK schools. I feel like I’d have a better grasp of my identity and views if I was taught from a younger age to be more aware and spiritual, not necessarily religious, but definitely not overly-rational either.
I’ll save that for another round, but that’s one of the scary things happening in Georgia at the moment. I just can’t take priests with Rolex watches and Jeeps seriously.
Finally university. Shota explained to me a long time ago how hard it was for him to be accepted into university. There’s an entrance exam that you should sit to see that you’re up to scratch, and even when you are there’s the risk of being declined for having the wrong surname, or having parents in a certain line of work. That’s one thing here that’s a huge strength and weakness of Georgia – everyone knows everyone.
He managed to get to university in the end, and has pretty much continued studying for the last decade. However, it’s not easy for a lot of people even now when corruption isn’t as strong.
There isn’t any kind of Student Loan help in place to help poorer students afford an education. Most of the time grandparents and parents pay for everything, further preventing their child to be independent.
In the UK, leaving to go to university at 18 is when you’re on your own. Of course your parents help you but it’s your first step to being independent and self-sufficient. I only did uni for a year so far but I learnt so much from it and understand myself better because of the space I was given. In the UK, most people are more than ready to leave at 18 but in Georgia people rely on their family members indefinitely.
British education is known for being high-quality, and I agree with my experience although can’t compare having never studied abroad. Many people I know in Georgia have and they’ve confirmed that Western education in general is much harder and broader, so they can back me up.
In terms of family bonding and languages, Georgia zooms ahead. However, key things like open-mindedness, discipline and identity seem lost as kids are encouraged to follow the crowd. Of course the UK isn’t perfect with that too, and I disgaree with most of this 1984-esque stuff going on, but quality and consistency are so far great, which is why I’ll have to give this round to the UK.
I’d love to know your thoughts on this. Especially considering this is just my observation. Also forgive the lack of Georgian photos – I haven’t spent much time taking photos in Georgian schools!