National Youth and Children Palace of Georgia – History, Objectives and Thoughts about Non-Formal Education

  • Tamar Chimakadze – Head of the Center of Innovation and Methodological Work; Levan Dvali – International Project Manager.

Some facts about the National Youth and Children Palace of Georgia

The National Palace has a bicentennial history and it is one of the most distinguished buildings not just history-wise, but also from architectural viewpoint. It is located at 6, Rustaveli Avenue and its main facade looks onto the avenue, while in the south it is surrounded by the vast garden.

When the Russian government was established in Georgia, it was accompanied by appointment of Karl Knoring as the emissary of Russian Empire and there was a need for a building where the emissary would reside. Many places were chosen, outskirts of Kalaubani and the gardens of the Georgian noble families, but in 1802 a small, poor-quality building was built, which 5 years later was demolished and substituted by the new one. This was an example of Russian architectural classicism and carried a symbolic significance of the new power.

Later the building was several times reconstructed, then in 1818 it was demolished and they built a completely new one according to the concept of the architect Braunmiller. Afterwards the building was enlarged and the small rooms were substituted by the larger ones,  i.e. by private apartments of the emissary, studies, a pool-room, rooms for clerks, winter garden, etc. The initial administrative house was rearranged to the residence of the emissary.

In 1844, when the Russian authority introduced the position of the emissary, the Palace did not satisfy the ambitions of the Russian Czar's aggressive and imperialistic whims anymore. The more noble he was, the more conspicuous the palace had to be. Therefore they commissioned architect Nikoloz Semionov who was a prominent person in St. Petersburg. During 1845-1847 he drastically changed the outlook of the palace and actually built an interesting and unique building in the style of classicism.

Source – National Youth and Children Palace of Georgia. More information about history of the Palace.

As the building was modified, it acquired more attributes of classicism with a number of features proving it. Several statues of Heracles and Minerva appeared in the building, which symbolized the power and wisdom of the new government. In 1865 the Swedish architect Otto Jacob Simonsson started the reconstruction of the Palace and completed it in 4 years. In 1869 the Palace of the emissary reached the final shape, exactly the way we see it now and where our young people study and have fun. O.J.Simonsson significantly enlarged the Semionov's version and gave it a new look. He removed the pillars and sculptures, as well as enlarged and extended the Palace. He also changed the interior, a reception hall and put on the mirrors in the Great Hall. It is noteworthy that the interior of the Palace as most palaces of Tbilisi carries certain design elements of the late Persian architecture along with the classical order.

It was in this building where the fate of the country was discussed and decided for many decades: ever since 1917 the Sejm of Transcaucasia was established in it. On May 26, 1918, the national flag of Georgia was flown over the Palace when the Noe Jordania's government declared the independence of the country and just two days later in this very building Azerbaijan and Armenia followed Georgia on the same path. The Jordania's government functioned in this building and on February 21, 1921, it adopted the Constitution of Georgia.

After establishing the Soviet government in 1921 the Georgian government was working in the Palace of the emissary. In 1937 Lavrenti Beria initiated the handover of the Palace to children, after being named the Pioneers and Children's House. However, officially the Palace was opened on May 2, 1941, and this is a birthdate of it. As a great historian Ivane Javakhishvili remembered, "that was a great deed for the coming generations as from this day on, this palace will become the place where our young generation will study and learn."

Nowadays the Palace is a cultural and educational centre, that is located in the heart of Tbilisi and affiliated to the Tbilisi City Hall. Through its flexible structure and a variety of directions, it helps the schoolchildren and young people to organize out-of-school activities. They cover a wide range of youth interests through extra-school education. There are around 500 learning groups/clubs at Palace, in which more than 4200 pupils are enrolled. The educational process is ensured by 200 high-qualified teachers/workers, who have extended experience in working with children. In parallel with the classroom-based study, students are involved in various activities arranged by the Palace (conferences, training sessions, exhibitions, children's films shootings, concerts, theater performances, etc.). Students participate in many local, regional and international projects. During each academic year, more than 600 events and activities are implemented by Palace.

Source – National Youth and Children Palace of Georgia.

Non-Formal Education (NFE) in the National Youth and Children Palace of Georgia

For us Non-Formal Education is the way to help our students develop life skills, as well as become independent and active citizens.

In parallel with the classroom-based study, there are more than 600 activities at the Palace, where students can be involved in public debates, speaker programmes, film screenings and discussions, exhibitions, performances, etc. In some cases, our students organize activities on their own, as well.

During 76 years there have been many projects the Palace can be proud of, and it is difficult to distinguish any specific one, but the one that has the longest history is Educational-Creative Conference. The 71st edition of the project was held at the Palace in 2017. The aim of the conference is to identify creative abilities, talents, as well as research and analytical skills of adolescents and thousands of students (up to age 18) from the whole country take part in it every year.

Annually the Palace accepts 4200 students, each of them usually joining at least 2 learning groups.

Focusing on emotional and social competences we are developing, we want our students to be independent and ready for life challenges. Giving freedom of choice of what to learn and constantly receiving feedback from them is the best way for us.

In our opinion, the most important competences in the context of global issues are critical thinking, leadership and digital competences.

The National Youth and Children Palace is the hugest non-formal educational institution in Georgia and it has a leading role in the field among public institutions. One of the most important reasons why we work at the Palace is our belief that we are part of something very important and have the power to contribute to development of young people. Our goal is to modernize not only Palace, but also our partner institutions similar to Palace.

Source – National Youth and Children Palace of Georgia.

How does the system of Non-Formal Education function in Georgia today?

Currently our Government is working on recognition of Non-Formal Education. Georgia already has national youth policy which has highlighted the importance of Non-Formal Education, but we also need special legislation that does not exist yet. Non-Formal Education is provided mostly by youth houses/palaces that are affiliated to local municipalities, as well as by several non-governmental organizations that are also working in the field of NFE.

The first and main goal our country is seeking in terms of Non-Formal Education –to recognize Non-Formal Education and adopt a special law.

The main advantage of NFE is its flexibility and ability to support personal development, as well as improve professional skills of young people. It is important to note that youth unemployment rate in Georgia is 30% and one of the main advantages of NFE is to foster transition of young people to the labor market.

Youth houses/palaces, including the National Youth and Children Palace, are affiliated to local governments, which provide financial support to us. Unfortunately, we are unable to indicate the total amount of the public funding.

After 10 years we expect Non-Formal Education to by recognized and the national NFE program to be running. To achieve this goal, it is necessary to share the good practice of EAICY member countries. We aim to hold conferences, forums, organize study tours and adopt new NFE programs at Palace.

More information at www.youthpalace.ge