FOR an honorary professor Viktor Jakupec keeps a sparsely decorated office on the top floor of a building at the Deakin University campus in Warrnambool.
The reason being that he’s seldom there.
The semi-retired academic has had his passport stamped in more than a few countries, most recently in Georgia, from where he’s just returned after spending four months helping improve its education system.
“The project itself was to design a project. It was the implementation but to design one focused on secondary education,” Professor Jakupec said.
The mission was funded by the Millennial Challenge Corporation (MCC) — a US-based aid agency.
Bureaucratic red tape and a “systemic mismatch” between government departments has seen the country’s education sector suffer. Only about seven per cent of teachers have passed some science and physics exams.
“At that sort of rate, you can’t blame the teachers, it must be the system at fault,” he said.
Low salaries mean motivation is also very low.
Georgia’s education spending amounts to only about two per cent — well below the OECD’s recommended six per cent.
The selection of principals was another surprising element.
“In every other country that I’m aware of the principals have to have an education qualification and teaching experience,” Professor Jakupec said.
“Georgia is the only country I know of where you don’t have to have either. You can become principal at a high school without any education qualifications.
“I raised the issue on a number of occasions but I don’t think anyone is looking seriously at it. We don’t have the authority to meddle in policy.”
The former soviet union nation is at a political and cultural crossroad as it decides whether to follow Europe or the US.
“Every government building has the EU flag flying but they’re not part of the EU. They’re looking towards Europe in terms of education but they’re also looking at the US, so they haven’t quite made up their mind.”
The Georgian government will have to decide which of his recommendations and those of other academics to implement next year under the $20 million program.