General and higher education systems are outdated in Abkhazia. Until now, it had been a taboo to talk about the problems in the education system. However, recently, the Abkhazian society has started to discuss this issue.
The Soviet system of education, which still operates in Abkhazia, cannot respond to the challenges of the 21st century - young people with school education cannot continue their studies at higher education institutions and are uncompetitive. The locals believe that at the first stage the introduction of specialized education, as well as changing the education system and dividing 11 years of education into middle (9 grades) and senior grades (grades 10 and 11), can eliminate the problem. According to the current plan, the first 9 years may remain unchanged, at the end of which a certificate of secondary education will be issued, and students will need to pass a profile class to enter the university. Taking into account that not all schools in Abkhazia will be able to conduct specialized classes, it is likely that "school migration" will be introduced - changing schools, according to the chosen thematic education.
As for higher education, according to some Abkhazian students, the isolation of Abkhazia by the central authorities of Georgia is the biggest problem for those wishing to study abroad. After the start of the war in Ukraine, according to the locals, the European educational space has been closed for Abkhazia. This is due to the limitation of western education for people with Russian passports, which they had been enjoying relatively easily before the war. According to the Democracy Research Institute, part of the Abkhaz population believes that Tbilisi should solve the problem for Abkhaz students; However, as a solution to the problem, they consider it correct to recognize the Abkhazian passport and, in this way, to grant them the right to study at European universities.
In Georgia, Erasmus+ is actively working in the field of higher education, both in the direction of student scholarships and in terms of supporting the higher education reform. Abkhazians and Ossetians, unfortunately, remain outside of similar programmes. The Erasmus+ programme has a clearly defined list of countries that can participate in the programme and Abkhazia and South Ossetia are not among them. Only higher education institutions authorized by the state can participate from Georgia. Therefore, as Abkhazian universities do not have accreditation, students do not have the opportunity to participate in the short-term student exchange programsme.
Despite the fact that the representatives of the Erasmus programme operating in Georgia had an offer to the Abkhazian side to allow students to participate in the name of the accredited universities in Georgia, the offer was rejected. According to the information available to the Democracy Research Institute, such agreements, which would give Abkhazian youth the opportunity for European education, are hindered by the local security service of Abkhazia.
The deficiency of Abkhazian educational programmes of and the system in general can be seen more clearly in international programmes that are not tied to universities. In this case, the student participates in the general competition, where the competition is higher than usual. As a rule, the secondary or higher education received in the occupied territory is not enough to win the competition of international programmes.
According to the information posted on the website of the Office of the State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality, the Georgian Government tried to make it easier for Abkhazians and Ossetians living in the occupied territories to participate in international educational processes within the framework of "A Step to a Better Future" initiative. The list of various scholarships can be found on the official website of the Office of the State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality, through which Abkhazian and Ossetian youth can receive education abroad. According to the same information, Abkhazian and Ossetian youth can also be enrolled in the Georgian state scholarship programme by the Center for International Education. However, it is not known how accessible this information is to the residents of the occupied territories.
The right to education is a fundamental human right and implies both physical and economic access to education. The Democracy Research Institute calls on the Georgian Government to plan and take steps to proactively provide information on opportunities for receiving higher education abroad for Georgian, Abkhaz and Ossetian youth living in the occupied territories of Georgia.