Increasingly, top level diplomatic positions are being filled from the ranks of commerce and industry as governments and intergovernmental organizations seek to recruit the valuable skill sets of technical experts and capable individuals from outside of the pool of career diplomats.
His Excellency Irving Le-Vance, the Secretary-General of EDU, himself head-hunted into diplomacy from business, was pleased to meet an inspiring example of that phenomenon.
His Excellency Zurab Pololikashvili, represents Georgia as the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Kingdom of Spain, the Principality of Andorra, the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria and the Kingdom of Morocco.
Originally a graduate in International Banking from the Georgian Technical University , his working career began in 1997 when he became Manager of International Operations at TBC Bank.
His talents as a polyglot, speaking English, Spanish, French, Russian and Japanese, have helped him greatly in his career. Subsequently he rose through the executive positions at TBC Bank, eventually serving as the Vice-President of the TBC Group between July 2010 and February 20011. In March of that year, he became Director General of the football club FC Dinamo Tbilisi. The Ambassador also interspersed business career with government positions including serving as Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development.
Ably assisted by Counsellor Helen Mdivani, the Ambassador presented a comprehensive overview of the educational situation in Georgia where there have been huge changes since the “Rose Revolution”. The former Soviet system saw some level of corruption with access to higher education being granted through patronage rather than ability. The new structure has seen a liberalized, privatized, independent system largely autonomous from the Ministry of Education which provides a light touch oversight. In the post-Soviet era some 20 private universities have been established and are accredited by the Ministry of Education. This has been the result of private investment in educational services.
Primary and Secondary Education are both free and compulsory. A lot of foreign schools associated with the respective embassies have been established. Public/Private Partnership schools are encouraged and the education situation is described as “growing and dynamic”.
This has been augmented by government investment in renovating older schools and a Presidential Initiative by Mikheil Saakashvili saw over 1000 native English speaking teachers recruited to teach English in the regions. Information Technology training is provided free throughout the country by the government to encourage citizens to become computer literate. Some state universities have been privatized, the country has acceded to the Bologna Process and the curriculum amended to bring it into line with those norms. The Ambassador affirms that it has been a generally positive transition.
Georgia is very open to investment initiatives in the education sector specifically and in the economy generally. The two diplomats agreed to future correspondence on this matter, looking towards establishing concrete educational/financial initiatives.
The Prime Minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili, is a billionaire businessman with an agenda to encourage further investment in education and other sectors in Georgia.
In the last five years the President’s Fund has financed 100 Master Degree scholarships per year, going to top achievers in the full spectrum of academic disciplines.
Official visit to Georgia
His Excellency Zurab Pololikashvili issued an invite to the Secretary-General of EDU to make an official visit Georgia, at a date to be confirmed when the scheduling of both parties will allow. The purpose of the official visit will be to identify areas possible joint project opportunities between the IGO EDU and Georgia which the Embassy in Madrid is keen to promote and facilitate.
His Excellency Irving Le-Vance thanked the Ambassador and his staff for the excellence of the briefing. Shortly after his meeting, with the Secretary-General of EDU, H.E. Zurab Pololikashvili was elevated to the position of Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) on 1 January 2018.
H.E. irving Le-Vance has no doubt that his extraordinary abilities will see him succeed in his new position.