Youth in the predominantly ethnic Azeri town Marneuli can take a one year course in Georgian language to prepare them for university. (DF Watch.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–Tural is a 19 years old high school graduate who plans to go on to university and study IT. The problem is, the teaching language at university is Georgian, which he doesn’t know well enough.

Like many of his peers, Tiral chose to study Georgian language one year and then go on to take a Bachelor’s degree at university.

Together with more than 150 Azeri school graduates from Marneuli, a predominantly Azeri town in the south of the country, on Friday took preparatory ability test to check how ready they are for the upcoming national exams, which will take place in less than a week.

The test was in Azerbaijani language and consisted of a logic part and a maths parts, and they had three hours to complete it.

After finishing, Tural said he is not quite satisfied with how he answered, but now knows for sure what he will have to revise before the exam.

His friend Namik says he cannot understand Georgian at all and barely speaks Russian, but he told us he is ready for the exam and was one of the first to finish. Tural explained that when Namik learns Georgian, he plans to study architecture at the Academy of Arts in Tbilisi.

Both of them explain that until now they have never had any problems because they don’t know Georgian. In Marneuli, and especially in their neighborhood, everybody speaks Azerbaijani language or Russian, but both of them think it can be a problem in Tbilisi. Especially if they will have to look for a job.

The minister in charge of integrating minorities, Paata Zakareishvili, attended the exams in Marneuli on Friday. He said this exam is a continuation of a policy of integration, as ethnic minorities who graduate schools in their own language find it difficult to pass exams in Georgian.

“That’s why the government made a program to help them study easier and become competitive. We have a program called ‘one plus four’, with which they study Georgian for one year and then they continue studying at the universities they want,” he said.

He also explained that preparatory exam aims to let them get used to the situation at national exams, so that they know what it’s like and probably help them get over their nervousness and focus on writing their tests.

Head of the National Exam Center Maya Miminoshvili also attended the exams. She said that it is important for Azeri students to be prepared for the exams.

“We will be pleased if more school graduates will be interested in going on to study at university. We are doing our best to help them and give them more access to education,” she said.

Narmina came to the exam with his father, who wants her to become a journalist, but she thinks she wants to study languages, especially Italian and French. But first she will take the one year Georgian course and will decide in a year what to do.

She came with two of her friends today and they all plan to be together at the university. Narmina was nervous about passing Friday’s preparatory exam, even though its results do not influence her national exam results. She said she is not sure how ready she is to take the test.

“I am going to a school where we study in Azerbaijani language, but we also study Georgian as a subject. I think I have a good basic knowledge of it and a year will be enough for me to go on to study at Tbilisi State University,” she said.

Maya Miminoshvili told us this year about 1,000 Azeri and Armenian school graduates will take the national exams and all of them are part of the ‘one plus four’ program.

The national exam, which will be held on June 30 and July 1, will also be translated to Armenian and Azerbaijani languages.