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Georgia: the monks helping students realize their potential

Nestled in a remote and isolated valley in southwest Georgia, the village of Zarzma is home to a remarkable educational project. In addition to their painstaking work restoring the 14th-century monastery they call home, a small group of Georgian Orthodox monks teach at the village’s middle school, introducing teaching methods and creating a learning environment which is inspiring their students to reach new levels of achievement.

In 2009, the monks launched an enhanced mathematics program, the Zarzma Children’s Academy, for children in Grades 6-9. Since then, each year a small number of students from the academy have been admitted to Komarovi, Georgia’s leading high school for Mathematics and Sciences, in the country’s capital, Tbilisi. 25% of the boarders at the school are now from Zarzma. With support from EFI and country partner GELi, Komarovi has been teaching introductory economics for Years 10 and 11 since 2021, a project which inspired the development of EFI’s Teacher Toolkit.

Admission to the academy is considered highly prestigious. Learning, transportation and meals are provided free of charge thanks to support from private donors and local authorities. The monks are delighted that the early cohorts of students have returned to the village to teach. The teachers also organize a fast-growing annual Mathematics Olympiad - 1,500 students participated in 2023.

What of the bright young people who have not secured a place at a leading high school? The monks are now expanding the academy to cater to Grades 10-12, and have added Economics, Mathematics and English to the curriculum. Their goal is to select the best students from across the region. They will harness “Common Sense Economics”, and other supporting textbooks, to prepare students to pass the entrance exams of the country’s leading universities and to participate in the Economics Olympiad.

Thanks to the generosity of a private donor secured by EFI, the Academy now employs an Economics teacher. GELi and EFI will provide advice on curriculum input and course materials. In this coming year, the Academy is supporting 15 high school students.

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