President Saakashvili said English language classes would become compulsory from the first grade in schools and every first-grade schoolchild would be given XO mini-laptop from next year as part of “linguistic and computer revolution” plan.
Speaking at a televised meeting of government in Kutaisi on April 6, he said the current practice of starting teaching children English language in schools from fifth and sixth grade was “anachronism”.
“It limits opportunities for our future generations,” Saakashvili said. “From next year, English-language classes will be compulsory from the first grade in each and every school in Georgia… It also means that we should train many Georgian English language teachers.”
Saakashvili called on the Georgian television stations to broadly use the practice of broadcasting English-language movies with subtitles and without voiceover translation.
“If you look where English is spoken better, you will find that it is in those countries, where movies are [screened] with subtitles – Holland, Scandinavian countries and others,” he said.
The Education Ministry has launched a project - Teach and Learn with Georgia – with an aim to recruit 1,000 native English speakers who will be willing to teach Georgian schoolchildren English language for the years of 2010-2011.
Holding a XO laptop in his hand, Saakashvili said that from September of next year every first-grade schoolchild would be given these mini-laptops, instead of textbooks, which are distributed among schoolchildren as part of a project called “President’s Gift”.
“We should plan a computer and linguistic revolution,” he said.
“That is our next big challenge in terms of Georgia’s modernization. You may have thought that [May 30 local] elections were your next big challenge, but it may not be so,” Saakashvili added. “Elections will pass; there will be results – all these are temporary; the most important is what we will create for future generations.”
XO laptops, developed by a U.S. non-profit organization, One Laptop Per Child, will also be offered to schoolchildren living in Georgia’s breakaway regions, Saakashvili said.
“As part of our new strategy we are offering Russian occupying force… that we will bring these [mini-laptops] on the condition that there will be international control so that to prevent them [referring to Russian forces] from throwing them [mini-laptops] at each other or throwing them back to us and we are ready to distribute laptops among children, who remain in occupied territory,” Saakashvili said.
“We are offering them not only healthcare or people-to-people contacts, but also very concrete material values; of course we are talking about millions and we are ready to spend these millions for children, whom we consider part of our future. It is not their fault what is going on there,” he added.