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Vincent De Roeck in Georgia Today

Free University of Tbilisi will soon launch top quality master’s program in Economics. As a first step to examine demand towards the MA program, composition of the prospective students and interest from the side of international public, the University decided to offer short program in Economics. “Since the most important issue for Georgia now is economic growth, we chose to discuss this issue with participants,” explains Elene Imnadze, Free University of Tbilisi Project Coordinator. The issue was discussed at Lake Bazaleti Resort in the format of the International Summer School on Economic Growth, since as Imnadze says Free University of Tbilisi aims at becoming internationally competitive highly reputable university.

“The Summer School,” Imnadze says, “gives opportunity to discuss issues that are not usually discussed in standard University programs; and summer period is usually less busy for the target audience of the summer school, including students, professors, civil servants, staff of private companies; thus their participation is more realistic.” Bazaleti International Summer School on Economic Growth hosted world renowned professors and practitioners – Simeon Djankov, creator of Doing Business series; Caroline Freund, senior economist in the International Trade Team, Development Research Group of the World Bank; Pierre Garello, director of the Institute for Economic Studies – Europe and Robert Lawson, co-author of the widely-cited Economic Freedom of the World annual report – to deliver lectures and foster discussion among participants, who have come to attend the Summer School from Belgium, Turkey, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, etc.

Imnadze finds the diversity of the Summer School participants a big advantage. “International body of participants ensured that different perspectives of issues were discussed in detail and all the aspects were analyzed. In addition, we expect international students to contribute to publicizing Free University of Tbilisi in their home countries upon return,” says Imnadze. A professor, Caroline Freund agrees with Imnadze that starting a tradition of a strong international summer school for economics in Georgia by bringing professors and students from around the world was the main achievement. The main challenge was not to cancel the event in the light of the political situation created in the country as a result of the Russian armed aggression against Georgia, which coincided in time with the beginning of the Summer Program.

“Almost until the last minute we were considering canceling the event. However, strong desire of participants and willingness of most of the professors to arrive let us to finally opt for the Summer School,” says Nona Karalashvili, Economics Program Coordinator. Number of applicants for the summer school studies exceeded the number of places available by almost 3 times. “Among the difficulties we faced during organizing the Summer School,” Karalashvili remembers, “was selection of participants from applicants.” Karalashvili adds that the group was so diverse and excellent that organizers of the event had to create the second stage of selection process. “We asked applicants to write essays on any topic of the Summer School; however, this did not make our job easier. All the essays were interesting and thought-provoking,” she says.

Outstanding students from Georgia and abroad who lacked financial means to participate in the Summer School were rewarded scholarships from Knowledge Fund, a nonprofit organization supporting education and science. “For today, the main project of the Fund is Free University of Tbilisi, which is already ranked highest taking in account national unified exams in Georgia and will soon become internationally acknowledged higher education institution,” says Giorgi Meladze, General Director of Knowledge Fund. Meladze believes that such short programs are excellent opportunity to attract high quality scholars that are hardly available for longer stays in Georgia. “Furthermore,” Meladze adds, “one week program gives freedom to organizers to cover non-standard topics that widen horizons of participants much more than typical courses.”

This aspect of the International Summer School on Economic Growth was especially apparent for Vincent De Roeck, a freelance columnist and Belgian student of Law and Political Science. “On the first day,” he remembers, “only few participants had some economic knowledge and the vast majority were socialists. After the week-long summer school, with the lectures and in-depth discussions, free-market economics had almost no secrets anymore, for the participants and the socio-political beliefs of the attendees had shifted towards libertarianism. Apparently, one week is sufficient to de-toxicate people and cure them from the life-long indoctrination through public education and leftist media they were subjected to.”

Paata Sheshelidze, President of the New Economic School – Georgia, a co-organizer of the event believes that the future networking with participants will even enlarge the circle of freedom lovers. “Some participants really get the message and it is important to work with them in future. On the general level, from point of view of content development, technical and organizational side, event was very successful and participants were involved,” Sheshelidze concludes. Nona Karalashvili, Economics Program Coordinator agrees. Every evening, she says participants could (anonymously) fill feedback forms indicating what they liked and disliked; starting from the next day, corresponding changes to the schedule were made. “As a result of such adjustments, from the third day onwards, there was nothing that anyone indicated that they disliked,” Karalashvili remembers.

She says this proves that every participant received everything they wanted from the Summer Program. “After a month from the end of the Summer School, I continue receiving thank you letters from participants, which also shows that a Summer School was a true success.” One of such letters belongs to Valeri Tkeshelashvili: “Dear Nona,” he writes, “thank you for networking opportunities. I would truly like to emphasize this very important moment – contacts that we have established among each other, professors and organizers; these contacts are especially important for our further success.”

The feedback received from the participants in the course of the summer school as well as upon completion of the program is also very encouraging to Elene Imnadze, Free University of Tbilisi Project Coordinator: “I believe the fact that many of the summer school alumni expressed hope that this summer school is just a start and more initiatives would follow speaks for itself. To quote one answer on our evaluation form: “what I like the least is that the days before the end of the summer school are steadily diminishing,” says Imnadze with a smile.

In assessing the success of the Summer School, Giorgi Meladze, General Director of Knowledge Fund goes even further. “I personally am not aware of other summer school that would involve such remarkable and highly ranked scholars that Free University of Tbilisi had,” says Meladze. He adds that hopes of those for more initiatives on behalf of the University will be fulfilled. “The University is already working on Winter School on Economics and Knowledge Fund is going to support those events as well,” says Meladze.

Nona Karalashvili, Economics Program Coordinator verifies the information. “Towards the end of January we will offer one more Short International Program to talented and inquiring individuals who are interested to get familiar with new aspects of fundamental and relevant economic issues,” Karalashvili promises. Elene Imnadze, Free University of Tbilisi Project Coordinator specifies that the University will continue to organize short programs semi-annually. “This will allow the University to invite world’s top scholars to teach in Georgia, attract international body of talented individuals who will get familiar with Georgia and consider studying and working here, give bright Georgian individuals an opportunity to obtain high quality education without having to leave their home-country,” says Imnadze.

So, Bazaleti International Summer School on Economic Growth was just a glimpse of what’s coming. “It will take some time before we will launch the full fledged master’s program in Economics. By offering short programs, we want to show to the audience a little preview of what the Economics program is going to be like,” concludes Giorgi Meladze, General Director of Knowledge Fund, supporting Free University of Tbilisi.

Dit artikel "Bazaleti International Summer School on Economic Growth Succeeds" is van de hand van Elene Kvanchilashvili en verscheen deze week in de Engelstalige Georgische weekkrant "Georgia Today", dat het aangehaalde seminarie in augustus mee organiseerde. Ook in het onderstaande webartikel "Organizers do it again! Professors come again!" van Georgia Today komt uw dienaar kort aan bod.

Andria Nadiradze is a student from Shida Kartli, the epicenter of the armed invasion of Russians on the territory of Georgia. Bombs were falling and his hopes for bright future were steadily diminishing, when organizers called him and confirmed that he had successfully overcome the competition and was now invited to Bazaleti to attend the International Summer School on Economic Growth.

“I swear that even when I got in the bus, I still expected that there was a chance for the summer school to be cancelled as it was a war time in the country… But everything went amazingly well,” Nadiradze remembers.

Other participants share the mood: For them the Summer School was a success. “The Summer School was successful for several reasons. One important reason is subjective. Everybody liked the professors and the program,” says Levan Roinishvili, Business Consultant at Oxford Policy Management (OPM), a participant and tries to identify an objective reason for a success: “Most students seemed to be hearing for the first time the ideas expounded at the Summer School. You could sense through their questions and comments the birth-throws of a nascent libertarian economist. Some of the students were brilliant in many other ways already. So if a small subset of them takes this budding knowledge forward, you get some outstanding people, who can have sophisticated economic insights. What more do you need from a week-long school?”

The most remarkable day at the Summer School for him was the day with guest-speakers when Kakha Bendukidze, Head of the State Chancellery and Vakhtang Lejava, Deputy Minister of Economic Development showed up. Roinishvili finds the mix of practical and more philosophical approach to the field useful. “Caroline Freund had a very practical, rather than philosophical, vantage point. Pierre (Pierre Garello) and Bob (Robert Lawson) were philosophers, which I loved. Adam Smith was a philosopher. Caroline was a practitioner,” says Roinishvili.

The main objective of the Professor Lawson was to introduce students to economics as a new way of looking at the world. “The students were very interested in the ideas. It’s great to spend a week with young people; their energy is exciting,” says Lawson.

Caroline Freund confirms that students were attentive during lessons and there was a lot of interaction. “After each lesson, questions were posed to the students. The class broke into study groups to discuss the questions, and then the class reconvened and each groups’ answers were presented to the class. This led to a lot of interesting discussion and helped students learn how to present their analysis in a convincing way.”

Participants find the Summer School useful in many other ways as well. Some say they derived academic ideas to advance their research and teaching skills. Valeri Tkeshelashvili, owner and director of Ingate, Ltd., for example, is working on a paper about entrepreneurship and its role in country’s economic development and competitiveness. He identifies both, long and short-term gains. The long-term gain to him is a dramatic change in the way he now perceives many economic or social problems.

“The studies were not only about economy but also about problems we face when we try to solve public problems (or at least participate in the process as a citizen when we vote),” says Tkeshelashvili.

The short-term effect of the Summer School, to him is that now he feels more self-confident writing his paper. “I received the latest information about the subject and also Q&A sessions at the shore of the Bazaleti Lake were very helpful in getting professors’ points of view on specific issues not covered during seminars,” says Tkeshelashvili.

Q&A sessions had a direct value for Badri Gelitashvili, a Professor of Economics at Free University of Tbilisi, Business School ESM. “The Summer School studies made me feel that after the Bazaleti-experience I will have to think about some changes in my teaching methodology. I will definitely apply the approach of Q&A sessions in a more informal environment to the studies,” says Gelitashvili.

Another participant, Nikoloz Anasashvili, currently a second-year student at the University of Chicago, focuses on another approach. “I liked the format of dividing students into small discussion groups, which were asked to analyze a lecture and come up with questions related to the lecture, or do specific exercises,” says Anasashvili, adding that these groups gave a great opportunity for students to get to know each other well and also to practice leadership skills.

Some participants strongly relate the Summer School with career development perspectives. Giorgi Chitadze, Chief Specialist at the Ministry of Economic Development of Georgia, for example, hopes to apply the gained knowledge in business regulatory impact assessment and approach his job responsibilities from a different angle. Another participant, Erekle Natadze, an economist for Business Climate Reform Project works for supporting Government initiatives in regulatory reforms. “Knowledge gained at Summer School will help me better understand, analyze and present economic effects of reforms.”

And some participants focus on the educational value of the Summer School. Iulia Verner, Economics student of Kyiv Taras Shevchenko National University says the Summer School gave her a deeper understanding of economic liberalism and new questions to think about. Another participant, Lasha Meskhia says he was introduced to some new theories and given the ability to share the knowledge. “More I know, more I can do,” Meskhia says. Mariam Japaridze, Chief Specialist at the Department of Economic and Social Reforms at the State Chancellery, agrees with this formula. “Summer School was helpful because in short period of time it had provided knowledge for many participants and the opportunity to exchange information on Georgian and international politics and economics among professors and participants,” Japaridze specifies.

Summer School was open to anyone with the justified desire to participate. Some participants had greater experience of attending summer schools than others. Vincent De Roeck from Belgium, for example, says that every summer he tries to participate in as many seminars on economics as possible. For Levan Ratiani, on the other hand, this was the first summer school in his life. “This experience has changed my whole outlook. If before I was skeptical of such short-term studies, now I came to understand that if handled professionally, one can truly benefit from Summer Schools. I will definitely take forward skills gained at Bazaleti and hopefully, this will be the new start on the way to my professional growth,” says Ratiani.

Every participant found the environment, both, motivating and relaxing. “We had the opportunity to ask questions to the right people and receive interesting answers,” says Maka Mdivani, a participant.

Her colleague from the Summer School, Ekaterine Lomtatidze, an Advisor at the Legal Department of the Constitutional Court of Georgia agrees. “At last I understand the picture of graph that I have seen thousand times and had no idea what it was – the Marshall scissors,” Lomtatidze says.

Teona Odzelashvili, Chief Specialist at the Department of Social and Economic Reforms confrims that both, professors and participants did their best to extract the most out of the seminars. “Reading materials were very helpful in terms of ensuring that discussions were topic related,” says Odzelashvili.

All participants thank organizers and professors for the event. Natia Samushia, Chief Specialist at the Ministry of Economic Development of Georgia says: “This seminar was a product made by young people, who are trying to build something new. This is very important.”

Georgia Today is de belangrijkste Engelstalige krant van Georgië en heeft een wekelijkse oplage van verscheidene tienduizenden.

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3 Reacties:

At 08:36 Anoniem said...

Freelance columnist? Really?

At 08:36 Brigant (op IFF) said...

Cure them? Are they ill? Mental condition? Why do Goelags suddenly appear in my mind...

At 11:45 Evelyne said...

Sjieke dinges!
Moet jij nu trouwens niet op de European Resource Bank zijn?


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