In 1960, the Georgian poet Ioseb Noneshvili lauded teachers as role models and pillars of society who were endowed with the “light of knowledge.” But his patriotic vision collapsed with the Soviet Union: in today’s Georgia, becoming a teacher is no longer every “child’s wish.” This shift in attitude has potentially profound economic ramifications for the aspiring European Union member.
Complaints about low teacher pay and prestige can often be heard in the United States and Europe as well. But for this small, South-Caucasus country, they come with particular urgency – without skillful teachers to educate its future workforce, Georgia’s ambitions for pulling itself out of poverty and into the European Union become less realistic.
According to official data, Georgian teachers earn on average just 360 laris ($205) per month, the lowest salary among public employees. Salaries do not generally change based on experience. To compensate, many teachers earn extra income through home tutoring – even for their own students.
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Monica Ellena is a Tbilisi-based freelance journalist, who has worked previously as an elementary school teacher in Italy and a university instructor in Georgia.