Caucasus can be described as the cultural crossroad among the different civilizations. That is why here are found various ethnicities, with different characters, beliefs, etc. Caucasus has experienced complex difficulties over the period following collapse of the Soviet Union as it faced serious reveals of strong ethnical nationalism. The most prominent, bloody conflicts emerged in this region are conflicts of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia and Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan, those stay even unresolved.
Needless to say that the roots of these conflicts are more complex than only the problems ethnical minority encountered but the aim of this article is not to analyze broader political complications. Here the focus is given to properly implementation and protection of vital minority right- right of education. As community agrees with existence of correlation between the protection of minority rights and risks of consequential clashes is considerable. From this point the article examines the importance of education right as it represents key factor insuring minorities' political representation, getting and interpreting the information properly and objectively, access to higher education, as well as perception themselves as equal members of the society. All this means acceleration of integration and contribution to building stabile state.
Georgia has wide experience in dealing with educational problems particularly when it concerns minorities. While carrying out new educational reform Georgia had to foresee previously discussed approach and finally worked out various special programs. So it would be tempting to overview Georgian experience in educational field next to international conventions and legislation.
The Education Rights of National Minorities
An existence of correlation between the international minority rights and peace and stability is widely accepted idea. The world community agreed that minority rights constant disregarding, suppression and exclusion increases the risk of consequential clashes between majority and minority communities.
During the 1990s number of international framework for the protection of minority rights were elaborated and international instruments were adopted.
The right for every person to receive education can be assessed as the most central principle of human rights law. Consequently minorities should have complete opportunity to enact their own educational institutions and moreover seek and get state supporting for accessibility of education in accordance with domestic law.
The Convention against Discrimination in education clarifies importance of recognition the rights of representatives of national minorities to accomplish their educational activities, including the continuation of school study. This right is not exercised in a manner which prevents the members of these minorities from understanding the culture and language of the community as a whole and from participating in its activities, or which prejudices national sovereignty [â€¦] That standard of education is not lower than the general standard laid down or approved by the competent authoritiesâ€¦"
More complicated is whether states accountability to provide minorities with the language they speak. While a number of international instruments address the right for minorities to receive education in their native language, they at the same time emphasize the responsibility of national minorities to integrate and participate in the society as a whole.
For example, the Hague Recommendations Regarding the Education Rights of National Minorities highlights the responsibility of national minority to integrate into wider national society.
Thus, appropriate education is beneficial to national minorities, of course with active assistance of the state by strengthening judicial bases and collaborating effective educational system. International recommendations state this view as well and discuss the states responsibility to offer primary education in the minority language while including the state language as a compulsory separate subject. At the secondary level, minority languages can be stay as the language of instruction, with compulsory state language. As regards higher education, the recommendations state that minorities should have an opportunity to get education in their own language "when they have demonstrated a need for it and when their numerical strength justifies it."
Protecting education right in Georgia from the perspective of the new educational system
Number of projects comes into force in Georgia in order to strengthen educational conditions in accordance with international justice. Their importance are really outstanding bearing their results and especially active role in maintaining loyalty from the ethnical minorities' side and faith in governmental structures, faith in that government is capable to do something useful regarding their problems. And exactly the most prominent problem is connected to lack of opportunity to get appropriate knowledge and education to express themselves maximally in making political decisions, to be involved in cultural life and other fields of social activities.
One of the project I would like to discuss is named "Ilya Chavchavadze" (funded by a World Bank loan) which aims at such an ambitious goal as creating a new, effective system of teaching and assessment within the framework of overall school reforms. The reform that has been carried out in educational system supported to work out new curriculums. As a result new textbooks were designed for academic year 2006-2007 for 1st , 7th and 9th classes. As a part of the project it is intended to be new textbooks for the other classes as well.
During the transitional period form old education system toward effective policy increased the level of education by implementing new methods and standards. In this direction the project " Future Starts Today" introduced advanced approach by sending teachers to non- Georgian schools in Samtskhe-Javakheti. On their side they played an important role in fulfilling the goals of civil integration during introduction new educational system.
The most significant moment of the reform is that it foresees getting the non-Georgian schools in overall general education environment. This aims at stopping the incompatibility of curriculums caused when non-Georgian-language schools were using textbooks from neighboring countries.
Another program that has been realizing integrates students and teachers into the civil sphere and establishes friendly relations between schools. This program began in 2006 year and involves more than 100 schools.
The reform concerned higher education encouraged young people to complete their studies in higher education institutions and take part in national exams. For this purpose the ministry of education launched special preparation program (in 2005), which helped students of different ethnic minorities to prepare for the national exams. By giving state grants to students from ethnic minorities government tried to increase access to higher education.
Minority enrolment at universities represents important issue for the new administration. In this purpose the new Unified National Exam (UNE) has been established for university admission. Previously exams were organized by institution themselves and these institutions decided the admission requirements as well. The previous system was known especially for its corrupt dealings and with no faith in its objective nature. Unlikely new process itself has won great public trust. Admission requirements have been determined by National Exam's department. Firmest element in this reform is continuing supporting special preparatory courses in the Georgian language for minorities to prepare them for the UNE and foresaw paying a stipend of 100 GEL.
The importance of multilingual education lies in its effective ways of supporting integration through education. The High Commissioner takes the view that the key to reducing risks connected to minority isolation lies in the creation of genuinely multi-ethnical society though a process of integration respecting diversity. Exactly education is power or instrument that reveals the firmest way in assistance this process by supporting the minorities to participate fully in political and economical life. It is through education that children deepen their knowledge of their own language and culture. It is through education that children first learn about cultures and traditions of their groups in society. And furthermore, it is through education that contributing to reconciling conflicting objectives.
As far as Georgian is de facto and de jure the official language in the whole territory of the country national minorities are taking it seriously and show increased interest in studying Georgian language. This positively changed attitude is largely determined by the government's position to support popularization of official language.
Education for ethnic minorities is affected by language-in-education policy which can be described as following:
Minority languages not allowed in the classroom or on the school grounds
Dominant language teachers assigned to minority language areas so they cannot use the learners' home language in schools
Minority languages allowed only to supplement school language, as necessary, for teaching new concepts
Minority languages allowed as a subject (with time restrictions); no political support provided
Political & financial support for developing minority languages
Difficulties Georgian educational system faces are generally connected to proliferation of official language and increasing the number of members of ethnical minorities who speaks Georgian. In this context improvement of teaching of the official language at schools and higher education establishments represents key factor to ongoing educational reform.
Like many countries Georgia encountered problem connected with education of ethnical minorities. Georgia could to finance all the projects form the state budget (around 2 million GEL annually out of which 15% is foreign aid). In spite of the high mobilization of the Ministry of Education and Sciences for achieving these goals Georgia is in need to get active assistance of the international community.
Georgian experience shows that solving problems of this kind is not easy but not impossible. It requires a more determined policy and long-term, well-thought-out action plan and realizing significance of rapid solution from the countries with similar problems.