Setting Georgia’s Schools Free?An assessment of whether decentralisation reforms have made Georgian schools more accountable to their communities
In 2005, Georgia passed a new Law on General Education that envisaged sweeping reforms to the way schools were run, decentralising the system. School boards of trustees were established with powers to appoint and dismiss school principals and formulate the school budget. A new system of school vouchers was introduced, granting parents choice and, theoretically at least, giving schools control over their own budgets. This report analyses the reforms and comes to the unfortunate conclusion that decentralisation has not been as successful in achieving many of its objectives as had been hoped. A lack of funding for the voucher system has meant that schools have not been able to assert their financial autonomy. School boards of trustees have been undermined by a range of factors, including the lack of clear rules from the centre. Indeed, the government appears to be undecided on whether it really wants decentralisation at all. Amendments to the Law on General Education passed in 2009 significantly weakened school principals vis-à-vis the Ministry of Education and Science. This paper argues that reforms and greater clarity of policy direction are needed if the system is to live up to its early promise. A series of concrete policy recommendations are given that will help improve the system and make it more transparent.