SDSU Selected to Transform Early Childhood Education in Nation of Georgia

August 29, 2022
The Bridge of Peace in Tbilisi, Georgia, illuminated at night.

San Diego State University’s partnership with the nation of Georgia to enhance its education system has taken a significant step forward with an initiative to empower the nation’s youngest generation. 

The Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia selected SDSU to lead a $4.19 million World Bank-funded effort to transform early childhood education, which focuses on children from ages 2-5, including 5-year-old preschoolers. SDSU was chosen in a contract finalized last week as part of a competitive proposal process, which attracted multiple international institutions. 

“For the last eight years, SDSU Georgia has been a beacon of hope and opportunity for many Georgian students and their families,” said SDSU President Adela de la Torre. “Our collaboration with the educational leaders in Georgia has provided SDSU a critical foundation to not only address this new focus on early childhood education, but also continue a sustainable partnership to strengthen our role in supporting the strategic goals of the Georgian nation.” 
Over the past decade, SDSU has developed a strong presence in Georgia, located in the Caucasus region at the intersection of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. In 2014, the university partnered with the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Georgian government to open campuses in the capital of Tbilisi. SDSU Georgia, which offers degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, opened the following year. 
The latest project will see a team of SDSU College of Education faculty — led by Nancy Frey, professor of educational leadership — and other U.S. experts working alongside Georgian academics, caregivers, educators and community members to develop an approach to developing young Georgians. The team has outlined four goals: 
  • Building a framework for quality assurance, including developing standards and plans to reach children with special needs and ensure access to ethnic and linguistic minorities 
  • Creating systems for data collection and reporting where none currently exist 
  • Enhancing teacher development by advocating for training, certification and professional development 
  • Implementing a school readiness program that includes a focus on developmentally-appropriate practices and trauma-informed care 
“Early childhood education (ECE) is not compulsory in Georgia, but the country is interested in expanding both the scope and the quality of educational experiences for children,” Frey said. “The Ministry of Education has made strides in setting policies to set the work in motion. Like many countries around the world, ECE doesn’t have a strong professional licensure, but there are dedicated educators throughout the country that make this work exciting and full of possibilities.” 
Cristina Alfaro, SDSU’s associate vice president for international affairs, said the collaboration with local stakeholders is critical to ensuring the creation of a system that works within the Georgian context.
 “One key thing we all agree on is that this has to belong to Georgia,” Alfaro said. “We're not going to come in and transplant what happens at San Diego State or in California. We want to really take into account the culture, the community and the geopolitical aspects of the Georgian placement and then work from there. 
“In the end, we want Georgians to be able to sustain this education transformation and continue to evolve their work in early childhood education.” 
The early childhood component is one piece to Georgia’s larger effort to transform its PK-12 education system. SDSU is in the process of submitting another proposal on teacher preparation and professional development. 
“We have long been a leader in early childhood education and I am thrilled to see our faculty poised to extend their impact globally,” said Y. Barry Chung, dean of the College of Education. “I’m so grateful to Nancy Frey and Douglas Fisher (professor and chair in the Department of Educational Leadership) for their work on the Georgia initiative. Our college is excited to take an even greater role in contributing to educational transformation in Georgia.”