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As a guest of the talk show, Reaction,

the Parliamentary Majority MP, Zviad Dzidziguri, discussed the achievements of the new government. As an example, he talked about the educational system and stated: "There were 30,000 children who had never been to school. The number of these children has dropped to 6,000 in the past two years."

FactCheck

took interest in the MP’s statement and verified its accuracy.

In order to determine the number of school-age children registered at schools and throughout the country in general and the difference between these numbers, we requested information from the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia as well as the Public Service Development Agency. According to the information received from these structures, the number of school-age children registered at schools and throughout the country from 2011 to 2014, as well as the difference between them, looks like this:

 Academic Years 2011-2012 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015
Children Registered in Schools 570,384 562,765 554,763 554,676
Children Registered throughout the Country 628,653 619,845 610,575 609,766
Difference 58,269 57,080 55,812 55,090

As the table makes clear, the number of school-age children in the public register significantly exceeds the number of those registered at schools; however, it has a trend of an annual decrease. For example, if the difference between the school-age children in the public register and those registered at schools was 58,269 in 2011, it dropped to 55,090 in 2014.

In his statement the MP differentiated first-grade students as a separate category. Hence, we analysed these data separately as well. Given the fact that in the previous years it was up to parents to decide whether or not they would enrol a five-year old in school, we took only six-year olds to constitute the category of first-grade students for our analysis. The difference between the six-year olds registered at schools and in the online database of the Public Service Development Agency from 2001 to 2014 is as follows:

 Academic Years 2011-2012 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015
Children Registered in Schools 38,963 34,955 36,309 43,580
Children Registered throughout the Country 49,372 50,392 51,782 58,507
Difference 10,409 15,437 15,473 14,927

As we can see from the table, the difference between the number of six-year olds registered at schools and in the public register throughout the country in general has a trend of annual growth. The only exception was 2014 when the difference decreased slightly (546 children).

According to the explanation of the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia, children might be left outside of school for several reasons including:

  • When a family leaves the country for a long period of time – moves to live abroad (in the case of coming back to Georgia the pupil can resume his studies in a general education facility – by recognising the education received abroad).
  • When a juvenile ends up in a penitentiary institution (to resolve this problem, the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia provides the Availability of Education for the Accused and Convicted Persons Programme in terms of which juveniles in penitentiary facilities are able to receive education).
  • Early marriage (pupils in early marriages can resume their studies in educational facilities or receive education by means of alternative ways – in the form of finishing school taking early exams.
  • When a pupil decides to terminate his studies after completing the basic level (these kinds of juveniles are offered professional education courses by the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia).

According to the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia, the Ministry is actively working towards the integration of children identified as being left outside of educational facilities. In addition, in 2013, a programme named Second Chance to Get Education for Children Left Outside of Educational Facilities in Georgia started to operate upon the joint initiative of the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The goal of the programme is to ensure the right to education for children left outside of the educational process for various reasons. It includes all children in the formal education system using a systematic approach and facilitates the maximum development of their abilities.

Conclusion

Our study found that the number of children registered at schools from 2011 to 2014 was significantly lower as compared to the number of school-age children registered in the online database of the Public Service Development Agency. The statistics have a trend of a slight annual decrease. For example, if the difference between school-age children in the public register and those registered at schools was 58,269 in 2011, it dropped to 55,090 in 2014. As for the category of first-grade students, a total of 10,409 six-year olds were outside of educational facilities in 2011 whilst this number equalled 14,927 in 2014. However, this number is 546 less than in the previous year.

The context of the MP’s statement that the several year-long problem of children being left outside of educational facilities in Georgia improved significantly after the Georgian Dream coalition assumed office is incorrect. As our study shows, not much has changed in this field for the past several years. The MP was also incorrect whilst stating the numbers.

FactCheck concludes that Zviad Dzidziguri’s statement is FALSE.

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