If you know me personally, you know that I have a severe love obsession with books. The first thing I fretted over when packing for my first year of college was how many books I could fit into our tiny car. Half of my belongings packed up before I left for Georgia was just books. I have to keep a tight grip on the part of my budget for books or else I can easily get carried away.
Now, I’m in a new country with its own language and its own books. I, of course, had to buy a big dictionary for my class work and lesson plans. Then I bought a small children’s book to help me learn Georgian. Just last week, I found a cook book of traditional dishes in Georgian I can translate. My Georgian bookshelf is growing.
There are wonderful little book sellers at the Poti market. Some have books in English as well as Georgians. The problem for me is that I see these sellers everyday walking home from school. When I go back to the US I won’t be able to get books that are written in Georgian, especially at these prices. The cook book I got would be $30 in the states. Here it was only 19 GEL which is closer to $12. I could buy Harry Potter or even The Hobbit in Georgian and spend less than in the states. The temptation is almost endless here.
At the same time, some of my students can’t get their English books for class. Students are required to find and buy all their books outside of the school. It isn’t like attending college where you can just use a number of websites like Abebooks.com or amazon.com to find a cheap copy. Textbooks here are limited to mostly used books sold back and forth between the different markets in many of the cities. You can’t always find the version you want or a book with all the pages. I don’t know how families are able to find the books that they do. I certainly can’t find all the books I need for class at the market. I had the Resource Center help me order them.
The Minister of Education is well aware of this problem. He has worked hard this past year to work out a deal for better English books at a cheaper price for all schools. At the meeting we had in Zugdidi where we, TLG volunteers, met him, he explained the new changes. Teachers will get a free pack of books and resources. This is great because teachers spend even more money on books than students and often can’t get all of the resources like test booklets. The books for students will also be a low price of 10 GEL. Hopefully, the books will be lacking in the errors found in the current books.
Books aren’t the only changes happening in the educational system here. Teachers are growing through a new certification process. Schools are being renovated. Students are receiving computers if they do well. National exams are also being instituted for University admittance. Vocational schools are also being updated and expanded. I could go on with more details. However, the important part to stress is that this is a lot of change. From my outside perspective, great and needed changes. Natives seem mixed. Many teachers and parents I talk to think it’s great, too. Some teachers feel like it’s too much change and not enough training and support. Either way, it’s an exciting time to be here. I wish I could stay longer and see it all come to fruition.