Georgia switches to English

An opposition party in Tbilisi claims the authorities want to make English the dominant language in Georgia.

­The Labor Party on Friday dismissed what they call a policy to make English the main language in the small republic located in the Caucasus. Forcing children to study a foreign language at the age of six means they can lose their “national identity,” Secretary General Iosif Shatberashvili said.

Several dozens of teachers from the US, Canada, Britain and New Zealand came to Georgia on the same day to teach English in secondary schools. They are participating in the program “Teach and study in Georgia,” which President Mikhail Saakashvili started a year ago. The program has attracted more than a thousand teachers, and the authorities expect 500 more teachers by the end of the year.   

The opposition says the government “ignores Georgian and is doing everything to make English the dominant language.” Without knowing English graduates cannot get their diplomas in universities, and state bodies do not hire them, Shatberashvili told reporters.   

He stressed that the authorities want to declare English the state language. “As a puppet of Anglo-American imperialism, Saakashvili turned the Georgian language into the primary target,” the Labor Party leader said. He urged students and teachers to “abandon English until the suppression of Georgian is stopped.”  

Ironically, Georgian is yet to be declared the state language. The parliament is not in a hurry to consider a draft law to that effect, the politician noted. The Labor party also opposes the government’s decision to introduce the compulsory study of English for first graders starting this year.   

Meanwhile, the authorities are continuing their policy to “optimize” Russian-language education. There are only 40 Russian-language secondary schools left in Georgia out of 2000 schools. The majority of young people do not know Russian.  

The “optimization” of the language education has also left only 15 out of the previous 46 Russian-language sectors in Tbilisi’s schools intact. The country’s capital will have only two Russian-language schools. The education ministry has explained that the number of students wishing to get a Russian-language education has been declining in recent years.

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