Saakashvili closes down Russian schools in Georgia
The new school year in Georgia might bring considerable changes to the educational process. President Mikhail Saakashvili and the ministry of education have reportedly taken the decision to close down all Russian-speaking schools in the country. The so-called “Russian sectors”, schools where students of different nationalities study together with Russian being used as the primary language of instruction, will be also closed down, according to reports from the Georgian media.
The situation is still unclear in those regions of Georgia where Georgian is not the first language for its inhabitants.
In usual Georgian-speaking schools, Russian will be taught starting from the seventh rather than the third grade, and there will only be two lessons per week.
Earlier, on Saakashvili’s initiative, it was decided that English would be start being taught from the first grade. The president explained that English would help Georgians to become a part of modern society. During his meetings with schoolchildren, he has repeatedly stressed the need to study foreign languages.
“We are not against the Russian language,” Saakashvili said in April. “If tomorrow Russian becomes a universal language for communication, if the Chinese, Norwegians, and Americans need Russian to succeed in life, we will have to study it as well.”
He also said that when choosing a foreign language as a subject for their exams, 70 percent of this year’s graduates preferred English, and only 10 percent preferred Russian. Last year, Russian and English got 40 percent each, he noted.
Jettisoning Russian from the educational system seems to be part an important part of state policy in Georgia. Movies in Russian had already been banned from theaters, and Russian language programs can only be shown only be shown on TV if they are dubbed or accompanied by Georgian subtitles.
If reports about the closing down of Russian-speaking schools are confirmed, it could only serve to exacerbate the already strained relations between Moscow and Tbilisi. Relations between the two countries rapidly deteriorated after Georgia’s aggressive actions against the breakaway republic of South Ossetia in August 2008, and they are yet to improve. All diplomatic ties were officially severed as well.
Speaking at the State Duma on Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he was skeptical about Georgia’s statements on “the possibility of resuming a dialogue” between Moscow and Tbilisi. “We’ve heard much about proposals to resume talks,” Itar-Tass quoted Lavrov as saying. “But every time they come to nothing. Georgia never takes any steps.”
At the same time, Russia has not completely cut off contact with Georgia on every level. There is only one exception, the minister said: “We do not maintain a relationship with Saakashvili.”