On October 30, the Center for Civil Integration and Inter-Ethnic Relations (CCIIR) held a presentation of their research on Language Policy in Georgia. The CCIIR report provides a comprehensive overview of the language landscape in Georgia, examining the existing linguistic realities and legislative framework in the country. The report delves into the gaps and challenges within the legislation and offers insights into the language situation at various educational levels, spanning from preschool to higher education.
CCIIR prepared the research within the framework of the United Nations Association of Georgia (UNAG) USAID Through Diversity Program. The report does not represent the official positions of either UNAG or USAID.
During the presentation, the research authors emphasized that Georgia is a multilingual country, and according to the 2014 census, more than 87% of the population speak Georgian as their native language. However, there is a significant number of linguistic minorities who struggle with low proficiency in the state language.
The presenters emphasized that the country’s language policy is regulated by various legislative measures, encompassing Georgian and Abkhazian as state languages and addressing the functioning of languages spoken by different ethnic groups within Georgia. Nevertheless, the specifics of these languages’ functionality in different sectors lack detailed regulation, with broad contours of policy but varying degrees of implementation.
Among the findings is that one of the major challenges in Georgia’s language policy is the lack of a systematic approach and the inflexibility of institutional and legislative enforcement mechanisms. The research suggests that language policy is a vital component of the country’s overall policy, closely intertwined with socio-political, cultural, and economic aspects.
Additionally, the research emphasizes that language issues are often highly politicized, hindering practical solutions. According to the co-author of the report, Natia Gorgadze, concrete instances illustrating this phenomenon are evident in the planning and execution of the education policy, as well as in all other areas of state affairs. One example of this is the failure to achieve significant influence for the state language in early childhood, preschool, and general education.
According to the research, the current state of education in Georgia reveals a misalignment between early and preschool education goals and children’s linguistic readiness. Existing language policies lack diversity and flexibility in bilingual education models, leaving students with limited options. Furthermore, the study highlights a shortage of younger personnel among native language teachers, with historical disparities in professional development. In higher education, institutions aspire to internationalization but lack clear strategies, often underrepresenting language policy in various aspects. Overall, these findings emphasize the need for a more comprehensive and coherent language policy in Georgia’s education system, addressing challenges in preschool as well as general and higher education.
“We’ve long needed such research,” Natia Gorgadze told civil.ge, emphasizing, “The main spirit of this research was to determine where we are now regarding the planning as well as the execution of visions on the language policy.” She believes the research will reveal areas for improvement in the country’s language policies. The research findings are mainly intended for political decision-makers, policy implementers, civil society organizations (CSOs) engaged in the field, and academia.
“On the one hand, we are signatories to many conventions, but on the other hand, we have our state vision, our state regulations, and legislation in relation to language policy, its practical implementation and implications, and we researched exactly this,” Gorgadze said.
Natia Gorgadze emphasized that language plays a profound role in shaping the political, economic, cultural, and foreign policy landscape of the country. She highlighted that the development of both foreign and state languages, including Kartvelian languages spoken by various ethnic groups, not only connects us with foreign civilizations but also provides an opportunity for our active participation in the academic realm.
When asked whether the challenges to the language policy of Georgia derive from the lack of political will, Gorgadze noted that this issue “has not occurred a couple of days ago.” “The idea that the language policy in the country must be effective has been demonstrated by the decisions implemented over the previous years,” Gorgadze noted, adding that what matters is how the vision of a certain best practice is translated into different actions and how they consider the local context. According to her, the political steps taken in terms of language policy are not consistent and interconnected. Also, the visions of the language policy are not clear, and therefore, the steps that are implemented are less focused on solving specific tasks.
The report is available in the Georgian language on the CCIIR’s website.