Education, Health, and Welfare
In 1992 Georgia retained the basic structure of education, health, and social welfare programs established in the Soviet era, although major reforms were being discussed. Georgia's requests for aid from the West have included technical assistance in streamlining its social welfare system, which heavily burdens the economy and generally fails to help those in greatest need.
In the Soviet era, the Georgian population achieved one of the highest education levels in the Soviet Union. In 1989 some 15.1 percent of adults in Georgia had graduated from a university or completed some other form of higher education. About 57.4 percent had completed secondary school or obtained a specialized secondary education. Georgia also had an extensive network of 230 scientific and research institutes employing more than 70,000 people in 1990. The Soviet system of free and compulsory schooling had eradicated illiteracy by the 1980s, and Georgia had the Soviet Union's highest ratio of residents with a higher or specialized secondary education.
During Soviet rule, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union ( CPSU) controlled the operation of the Georgian education system. Theoretically, education was inseparable from politics, and the schools were deemed an important tool in remaking society along Marxist-Leninist lines. Central ministries for primary and secondary education and for higher and specialized education transmitted policy decisions to the ministries in the republics for implementation in local and regional systems. Even at the local level, most administrators were party members. The combination of party organs and government agencies overseeing education at all levels formed a huge bureaucracy that made significant reform impossible. By the mid-1980s, an education crisis was openly recognized everywhere in the Soviet Union.
In the early 1990s, Soviet education institutions were still in place in Georgia, although Soviet-style political propaganda and authoritarian teaching methods gradually disappeared. Most Georgian children attended general school (grades one to eleven), beginning at age seven. In 1988 some 86,400 students were enrolled in Georgia's nineteen institutions of higher learning. Universities are located in Batumi, Kutaisi, Sukhumi, and Tbilisi. In the early 1990s, private education institutes began to appear. Higher education was provided almost exclusively in Georgian, although 25 percent of general classes were taught in a minority language. Abkhazian and Ossetian children were taught in their native language until fifth grade, when they began instruction in Georgian or Russian.
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