Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tracing regional inequalities in the Georgian education system (Part 2)

The first part of this blog post described the regional distribution of 2014 United National Exams (UNE) mean scores in Georgia. Here in the second part, we look at applicants’ gender and location (as explained below) in order to understand how mean 2014 UNE scores differ by these variables. This post also considers the role and quality of teachers in these regional disparities.

A location variable was generated for the present analysis, based on the applicants’ municipality of registration. This variable breaks down the applicants into five groups: those coming from the capital, large cities (Kutaisi, Rustavi, Batumi, Poti), municipalities in Western Georgia (including both urban and rural settlements), municipalities in Eastern Georgia (again, including both urban and rural settlements), and ‘other’ (IDPs and foreign-registered applicants). Although it is not possible to differentiate between urban and rural residents of the municipalities using UNE data, in general, municipalities included in the Eastern and Western Georgia groupings mainly consist of  rural populations.

As descriptive analysis presented in the first part of this blog post showed, applicants from Tbilisi and large cities scored the highest. Applicants coming from ethnic minority municipalities and certain mountainous areas of Western Georgia received the lowest scores. In order to check whether regional differences are systematic or random, a statistical technique called Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was employed. ANOVA checks whether the mean score of the groups under analysis differ from each other and whether a difference is statistically significant. The ANOVA results show that the main effects of gender, F(1, 26311)= 136.43, p<0.001, and location, F(4, 26311)= 396.36, p<0.001 are significant factors in applicants’ exam scores, while the interaction of these two variables is not significant, F(4, 26311)=1.67, p=0.1531. Post-hoc analysis demonstrates that there are no significant differences between the scores of applicants from the municipalities of Western and Eastern Georgia.

As shown in the chart above, in all locations, female applicants had higher mean scores than males. Applicants from Tbilisi – both males and females – were the most successful. Residents of large urban areas performed better than applicants from predominantly rural municipalities. Finally, applicants from the ‘other’ group scored higher than those from predominantly rural municipalities.

Although, in general, female applicants scored better than males, the difference was not vast. Importantly, there are significant regional gaps between applicants, which are clearly revealed by UNE scores. A number of reasons likely contribute to this disparity.

To start, Georgia is characterized by endemic regional inequality, including uneven quality of education in the country. There is an especially large gap between large urban areas and predominantly rural municipalities. The lack of quality education and good teachers in rural areas is obvious from the results of international tests taken by schoolchildren (TIMSS, PISA, PIRLS). Although, in these tests, Georgian pupils, overall, score around or above world averages, the picture is bleaker when looking at the scores by settlement type.

In Georgia, there is generally a lack of good teachers – nationally, over 90% of teachers of certain disciplines failed their certification exams in 2013. Still, the low quality of teachers in rural areas is more pronounced. If we look at the statistics for pupils per certified teachers (i.e. teachers who have passed special exams and hence are considered better performers compared with their peers), we see that this number is highest in ethnic minority municipalities – that is, there are fewer certified teachers with more students. In Marneuli, Ninotsminda and Akhalkalaki municipalities, there are one hundred or more pupils per certified teacher, while in Sachkhere municipality in Imereti the respective number is 25.

As school education, which should be instrumental in preparing pupils for university admission exams, appears to be inadequate, university applicants (and their parents) often hire private tutors rather than attend school in the final (11th and 12th) grades. Considering that private tutors are in many cases active teachers, the availability of quality tutors in rural areas is also lower, while better private tutors are found in the capital and large urban areas. This factor also contributes to regional disparities in UNE scores.

This series of blog posts explored the results of 2014 Unified Entrance Exams, taking into consideration regional and gender factors. Both descriptive and exploratory analysis shows that there are significant disparities between applicants, especially from the geographic point of view. While UNE was an excellent opportunity for many applicants who would not have had the chance to be accepted to a higher educational institution within the previous corrupt admissions system, certain segments of the population still do not enjoy equal opportunities, not because of the UNE per se, but due to the existing endemic problems that the Georgian secondary education system faces. In spite of its impressive success, the improved university admissions system has not tackled Georgia’s deep-rooted educational inequalities.

Have other insights? Join the conversation on our Facebook page or in the comments section below.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Tracing regional inequalities in the Georgian education system (Part 1)

It has been almost ten years since United National Exams (UNE) for university admissions were introduced in Georgia, and the introduction of UNE has been named by the World Bank as one of the most successful reforms implemented since the Rose Revolution. Previously, university admissions were directly administered by the higher educational institutions, and entrance exams were often the site of highly corrupt practices. UNE ultimately led to the complete elimination of corruption and nepotism from the admissions process.

Corruption aside, fair and exclusively merit-based UNE were expected to give a better chance to applicants from outside Tbilisi, including representatives of ethnic minorities, to enroll in the best educational institutions in Georgia. Some, largely unsystematic evidence, however, suggests that this expectation has not been met. While at present, we do not possess longitudinal data which would enable us to draw comparisons between the situation before and after the reform, we do have data to look at how admitted applicants from different regions of Georgia performed on the 2014 exams. The publicly available 2014 UNE database contains scores for all exam takers (about 26,000 individuals) along with basic demographic data about them, such as date of birth, gender, and municipality where the applicant was registered at the time of exam. It should be noted that the applicants’ place of registration does not necessarily accurately reflect their actual place of residence in Georgia, since no one is obliged by law to live in their place of registration. This is especially true for IDPs, who despite being registered in Abkhazia or South Ossetia, in fact generally reside in areas controlled by Georgia, mainly in Tbilisi (40% of the whole IDP population) and Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti (32%). However, registration data still makes sense as many people in Georgia, especially the youth graduating secondary schools, generally live in their place of registration.

The map below displays the distribution of UNE scores by applicants’ municipality in 2014. The municipalities on the map below have been assigned a color based on the standard deviation of the applicants’ mean scores. Standard deviation indicates how distant a particular data point, an exam score in this instance, is from the mean. It also “quantifies the amount of variation or dispersion of a set of data values.”  On the map, negative standard deviations indicate values less than the national mean, while positive ones indicate values above the national mean.

Looking at the regional distribution of mean exam scores on the map above, a number of patterns can be observed. High and low scores are concentrated territorially and form distinct geographic patterns. Applicants from the capital and large urban areas (Kutaisi, Batumi, Rustavi, Poti) on average have received the highest scores. Another area of concentration of high scores can be observed in Kakheti. The performance of representatives of municipalities from the central-western parts of Georgia was slightly worse (Racha-Lechkhumi, eastern municipalities of Imereti, as well as Khashuri and Gori). Interestingly enough, IDP contestants’ results are also quite high, especially those registered in Sukhumi municipality.

Municipalities with predominantly non-ethnic Georgian populations have the lowest mean exam scores in the country. Applicants from Marneuli, Bolnisi, Akhalkalaki, Ninotsminda and Tsalka municipalities performed the worst on average during the last UNE. Upper Adjara and Svaneti are two other areas with concentrations of low scores.

UNE scores portray a larger problem with the education system in Georgia – regional inequality of access to quality education. Applicants coming from regions and especially ethnic minority applicants are less likely to score high on exams even though they provide everyone with an equal chance. Moreover, provided that advanced knowledge of the state language – Georgian –was necessary to pass the exams, to a certain extent, the UNE discriminated against ethnic minority exam takers, especially those from Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo Kartli, who are often not fluent in Georgian.

Despite the fact that the National Assessment and Examinations Center (NAEC) quickly acknowledged this latter problem and, starting from 2010, offered exams in minorities’ native languages (Armenian, Azerbaijani and Russian), as it is clear from the map above,  the disparity between predominantly Georgian-speaking and ethnic minority municipalities remains. 

This blog post described regional disparities in terms of UNE exam scores in Georgia. In the next blog post, we will investigate whether gender and settlement type impact UNE scores. Despite the above explanations for regional disparities not being exhaustive, they give some food for thought and discussion. Have other insights? Join the conversation on our Facebook page or in the comments section below.

Monday, February 16, 2015

On courts and trust: Perceptions of the judiciary in Georgia

As in many countries in transition, reform of the judiciary has been a major issue in Georgia. The country has gone through a number of reforms since the early 1990s. After the bitter September 2012 prison abuse scandal, the post-2012 election period saw a renewed attempt at reforming the judiciary by the newly elected government. This attempt involved a series of legislative changes in 2012, 2013 and 2014. While these changes might have passed unnoticed on the part of the general public, the high profile trials and indictments of former top officials, including President Mikheil Saakashvili, the Minister of Internal Affairs Vano Merabashvili, Mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava, Defense Minister Davit Kezerashvili and Chief Prosecutor and Minister of Justice Zurab Adeishvili have certainly attracted the public’s attention.

As the prison scandal, judicial reforms and trials continue to make headlines three years into the new government, it is interesting to look at the dynamics of public trust in the judiciary in Georgia and to explore factors that could be linked to it. Using data from CRRC-Georgia’s 2014 survey Attitudes towards the Judicial System in Georgia, funded by USAID through the East-West Management Institute, this blog post explores Georgian citizens’ trust towards the judiciary by looking at three factors that are commonly used in the literature to explain levels of trust in public institutions: (1) perceived performance (Askvik, Jamil and Dhakal, 2011); (2) fairness  (Rothstein, 2004; Mishler and Rose, 1997); and (3) trust in incumbents (Sztompka, 1999). As Georgian citizens indicate that courts and judges are one of the first things that come to their mind when thinking of the judiciary, we refer to courts in this post to represent the judiciary.

In order to explore how assessments of the courts’ performance are associated with trust in courts in Georgia, we look at trust in courts by perceived court performance. The latter is measured by the answers to the question asking how Georgian courts work after the 2012 Parliamentary Elections. The chart below shows that half of those that reported better performance also reported trusting courts, while roughly the same share (54%) of those who reported worse performance reported distrust in courts. Unsurprisingly, the data proves that the more people perceive that courts are performing well, the more they tend to trust them. This conclusion is also backed by correlation analysis which shows significant, but relatively weak correlation between these variables.

Note: During the analysis, the answers to the question “How much do you trust or distrust courts?” were re-coded from the 10-point scale used in the questionnaire into a 3-point scale where original options 1 through 4 were combined into “Distrust,” options 5 and 6 were combined into “Neither trust nor distrust” and options 7 through 10 were combined into “Trust.” Options “Do not know” and “Refuse to answer” are excluded from the analysis here as well as in the rest of the analysis. Answer options to the question “How did the Georgian courts work after the 2012 Elections?” were re-coded as follows: “much better” and “somewhat better” into “better”, and “somewhat worse” and “much worse” into “worse”. 

Fairness is another factor that helps to explain the level of trust in courts. It can be measured through the level of (dis)agreement with the statement “All people are equal before the law in Georgia.” Similar to the previous chart, the chart below shows that about half of those agreeing that everyone is equal before the law in Georgia trust courts, while half of the people that disagree with the statement distrust courts. Therefore, the more that Georgians agree that all people are equal before the law in Georgia, the more they tend to trust courts. The correlation between these two variables is also significant and relatively weak.

Note: The answers to the statement “All people are equal before the law in Georgia” were re-coded from the 10-point scale used in the questionnaire into a 3-point scale where original options 1 through 4 were combined into “Disagree,” options 5 and 6 were combined into “Neither agree nor disagree” and options 7 through 10 were combined into “Agree”.

Finally, the literature suggests that trust in an institution is an aggregation of trust in an institution’s incumbents i.e. the people that are employed or that represent an institution. Here, the perceived level of judges’ fairness, measured by (dis)agreement with the statement, “Overall, the judges are fair in Georgia,” serves as a window into trust in court incumbents. Unsurprisingly, 69% of those that agree that judges are fair report trusting courts, and 63% of those that disagree report distrusting them. Thus, the more people believe judges are fair, the more they tend to trust courts in Georgia. This conclusion is also backed by correlation analysis that showed significant and strong correlation between Georgian citizens’ trust in courts and their assessment of judges’ fairness.

Note: The answers to the question “To what extent do you agree or disagree with the opinion that Georgian judges are fair?” were re-coded from a 10-point scale used in the questionnaire into a 3-point scale where original options 1 through 4 were combined into “Disagree,” options 5 and 6 were combined into “Neither agree nor disagree” and options 7 through 10 were combined into “Agree”.

This blog post explored associations between levels of trust in courts in Georgia and some factors that are considered important to the level of trust in public institutions. The analysis found that all three factors discussed – perceived performance, perceived fairness and trust in incumbents – can help explain levels of trust in the judiciary in Georgia and that they can potentially serve as explanatory variables for further analysis of trust in courts. Unsurprisingly, the charts presented above display an almost symmetrical compatibility between (dis)agreement with statements and levels of (dis)trust, while correlation analysis also backed the results. Still, it would be interesting to explore the effects of political discourse, especially when emphasis is placed on “change” and “reform,” in order to see whether perceptions are affected by personal experience with institutions or by the general climate which emphasizes change in everyday public discourse.

What other factors are at play when thinking about trust in the judiciary in Georgia? Join in the conversation on the CRRC-Georgia Facebook page or in the comments section below.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Trust and Distrust in Political institutions in Azerbaijan

[This is a guest blog post by Anar Valiyev, Azer Babayev, Hajar Huseynova and Khalida Jafarova, prepared in the framework of the Research Beyond the Ivory Tower project of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI). The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors alone, and may not reflect the views of CRRC-Armenia, CRRC-Azerbaijan, or CRRC-Georgia.]

This blog post is based on research on (dis)trust in political institutions in Azerbaijan. Internationally, levels of trust in political institutions often reflect how well these institutions perform in relation to citizens’ expectations. This is not necessarily the case in Azerbaijan. Although survey results consistently show that trust in the President is high, crucial political institutions such as Parliament and local government are less trusted and, overall, the level of trust is not very high. This is important because of two implications: on the one hand, high levels of political trust can aid economic development and political stability. Distrust in political institutions, on the other hand, can lead to low voter turnout and the weakening of democratic reforms. Allegedly, it may also lead to corruption.

As in other post-Communist states, in Azerbaijan, political distrust is historically rooted. Even during the Communist regime, trust toward state institutions was not high due to high levels of corruption, nepotism and mismanagement of institutions. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, declining trust levels and poor public management have led to political apathy and low membership in political organizations.

In Azerbaijan, which is a presidential republic, trust in the President and trust in other institutions of the executive government differ from each other. While, according to CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer survey, 56% of the population reports trust and 22% distrust in executive government, e.g. the Ministers, 84% of the population reports trusting the President of Azerbaijan. However, only 39% of the population reports trusting local government. Attitudes towards local government are also reflected in very low turnout during municipal elections – 32% in 2009, 23% in 2011, 39% in 2014. It is possible that people do not see much value in participating in these elections due to the ineffectiveness of municipalities.

In order to address the issue of distrust in political institutions, the government should take immediate action by making the work of state institutions transparent and public, educating the public on the importance of state institutions, and involving the public in the decision-making processes.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Getting to the streets: Who is more inclined to protest in Georgia?

While elections bring citizens to vote on a regular basis thus fulfilling the minimal  ̶  necessary but not sufficient  ̶  condition for democracy, as set out by Schumpeter in 1942, petitions, demonstrations and various forms of organized protests are also an effective way for citizens in democratic societies to both exercise the power of the sovereign in between elections and to express discontent with elected representatives. These activities become more popular when other forms of institutional or civic channels are absent, dysfunctional, or alien to the majority of the population.

Georgia has had quite a rich experience with protests and demonstrations after independence in 1991. These have been mainly driven at efforts to change the government, although the last couple of years have seen demonstrations of a social nature with regards to LGBT (both pro- and anti-LGBT rights) and women’s rights.  Authors like McAdams (1982) and Van Zomeran et. al (2008) use people’s perceptions of a movement’s efficacy to bring the expected/desired change, among other factors, in order to explain their willingness to participate in such movements. Thus, the more people perceive an activity as efficacious for the aimed outcome, the more they are willing to take part in it. Given the above, it is interesting to explore whether perception of efficacy of protest actions is equally characteristic for different socio-demographic groups, and if not – representatives of which groups are more inclined to perceive protests and demonstrations as efficacious and eventually take part in them in Georgia.

Using data from CRRC-Georgia’s 2014 survey Volunteering and civic participation in Georgia, funded by USAID through the East West Management Institute, this blog post explores who is more inclined to participate in demonstrations based on the perceived efficacy of actions. Efficacy is measured through agreement or disagreement with the statements, “For me, actions like holding peaceful demonstrations to demand something from the government are pointless, because the government will do whatever it wants anyway,” and “I think that holding peaceful demonstrations is important, because in this way the government is forced to take into consideration people’s demands,” which were originally two opposing statements offered to respondents. In tangent to these questions, the blog post explores how the answers of people with different levels of education, household economic situations and a background of recent participation in public meetings or political rallies differ based on perceived efficacy of peaceful demonstrations.

While there were minor differences in the level of perceived efficacy of demonstrations by genderage and settlement type, visible differences were observed by level of education. The chart below demonstrates that the higher peoples’ level of education in Georgia, the more they tend to see peaceful demonstrations as an efficacious tool to affect government decision-making. Thus, 78% of those with higher education report perceiving demonstrations as important in forcing the government to take into consideration people’s demands, compared to 64% of those with secondary or lower education.

Note: Level of education was re-coded as follows: “no primary education”, “primary education”, “incomplete secondary education” and “completed secondary education” into “secondary or lower”; “incomplete higher education”, “completed higher education” and “PhD or Post-Doctoral” into “Higher”. Both here and in the following charts in this blog post, agreement and strong agreement with any of the two opposing statements offered to the respondents were grouped during data analysis. The option “agree with none of the statements,” as well as answers “Do not know” and “Refuse to answer” were excluded from the analyses.

A poor economic situation may also lead to belief in efficacy of and, eventually, participation in protest actions. Although one may expect that people who report that money is not enough for food and/or clothes are more likely to participate in a peaceful demonstration in order to influence the government in Georgia, survey data suggests that this is not the case. In fact, the worse people perceive their household’s economic condition to be, the less they are inclined to see peaceful demonstrations as an efficacious tool to influence the government. Thus, 42% of Georgians that report money is not enough for food see protests as pointless, compared to only 19% of those that report having a very good household economic condition (those who report they can afford to buy expensive durables or anything they need).

Note: In the question on household economic situation, options “We can afford to buy some expensive durables” and “We can buy anything we need” were combined during the analysis. Options “Do not know” and “Refuse to answer” were excluded from the analysis.

Although Georgians that participated in meetings and/or rallies in the past 6 months appear to be more optimistic than others in relation to the efficacy of demonstrations, roughly one in five people that reported previous participation do not see demonstrations as efficacious in influencing decision-making. Rather than pessimistic, as would be the case with those that have not tried to engage in such activities, this segment of active citizens may better be described as disappointed.

Note: Two different questions were used to measure participation in a political rally or a public meeting. During the analysis, the answer “Yes” to at least one of these questions was classified as “I took part in a political rally and/or a public meeting in the past 6 months” and the rest were classified as “I took part in neither a political rally nor a public meeting in the past 6 months.” Options “Do not know” and “Refuse to answer” were excluded from the analysis.

This blog post has shown that those that recently participated in public meetings or rallies, as well as more educated and wealthy Georgians perceive peaceful demonstrations as more efficacious in affecting government decision-making, compared to those who have not recently participated in meetings or rallies, are less educated and are poorer. If perceived efficacy of demonstrations would define choices on whether to participate in a demonstration or not, then one can expect the rich, the educated and the people that were recently active in public meetings or rallies to be the first to get to the streets for a demonstration.

How does this match up with your understandings of protestors in Georgia? Join in the conversation on our Facebook page, here.

To learn more about the data, check out the 2014 Policy, Advocacy, and Civil Society Development in Georgia report or refer to CRRC’s online data analysis tool.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Premarital sex and women in Georgia

Conservative traditions have always been strong in Georgian society, and especially so when it comes to relationships. Nonetheless, men are often allowed and even encouraged to engage in premarital sex, while it is usually considered unacceptable for women. Using data from the survey Knowledge and attitudes towards the EU in Georgia (EU Survey) funded by the Eurasia Partnership Foundation and conducted by CRRC-Georgia in 2009, 2011 and 2013, this blog post looks at who reports more liberal views in regard to premarital sex in Georgia – men or women – and whether there are any differences in attitudes based on respondent age, level of education, or settlement type.

Attitudes towards premarital sex are changing in Georgia. In 2009, when asked, “How justified or unjustified is it for a woman to have sex before marriage?” 78% of Georgians reported that it is never justified. In 2013, 69% reported the same. In contrast, a much lower share of the population thinks that premarital sex is never justified for men – 39% in 2013, slightly up from 33% in 2011.

While dominant values, religion, and patriarchy engender many stereotypes about gender in Georgia, women also play an important role in maintaining them. A slightly higher percentage of women than men reported in 2011 that it is never justified for women to have premarital sex (70% and 58% respectively) while in 2013 and 2009 the percentages are almost equal.

Counter-intuitively, the younger generation (18-35 year olds) in Georgia disapproves of premarital sex for women to almost the same extent as older generations. As shown in the chart below, 18-35 year old Georgians are nearly as likely as 36-55 year olds to report that it is never justified for women to have sex before marriage. The youngest age group, however, is slightly less likely to report disapproval compared with Georgians who are 56 years old and older.

Residents of the capital are the least conservative on this issue, but rates of disapproval have declined both in and outside the capital since 2009.  In 2013, only 48% of Tbilisians thought that premarital sex was never justified for women compared with 65% in 2009. In non-capital urban settlements, disapproval declined slightly from 83% in 2009 to 71% in 2013. Rural residents are the most conservative, with 79% thinking that premarital sex for women should never be justified in 2013, but some change can be seen over the years in rural settlements as well – in 2011 and 2009, 88% of rural residents reported that women having premarital sex is never justified.

Education also plays a role in forming Georgians’ attitudes towards controversial issues. In 2013, 63% of those with higher education believed that premarital sex was never justified for women, while 81% of those with secondary technical and 84% of those with secondary or lower education reported the same.

To sum up, level of education, age and settlement type are important to consider when examining Georgians’ attitudes towards premarital sex. Although Georgians generally disapprove of women having premarital sex, attitudes appear to be changing.