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Programs in International and Comparative Education
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College
Columbia University
ICE Alumni Profiles > Natia Mzhavanadze

Natia Mzhavanadze

TC Degree & Year of Graduation: MA, 2007

Current position: Program in International Education, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Before TC: Natia is from the republic of Georgia. She received her Bachelor’s degree in journalism, and soon after graduating, she worked for a non-governmental organization that served marginalized youth. Sunny House was an NGO that aimed to provide “educational opportunities to youth who had the potential but limited opportunities to prosper and achieve success.” A collaboration between the Georgian government and the Open Society Institute provided Natia with the opportunity to apply for a scholarship to pursue a Masters degree. It was at this point that Natia applied and was accepted to the IED/CIE program at Teachers College.

While at TC: Natia considers herself lucky to have had the opportunity to study IED at TC: “I was really fortunate because in countries like Georgia it’s very hard to work in international education.”  Natia recounts her time at TC as a transformative experience that enabled her to gain both theoretical knowledge and practical skills. In fact, she remembers specific courses that changed the way she thought about education and gave her the tools to apply this learning in the field. According to Natia, Comparative Education, Finance and Planning, Resource Allocation, and Economic Development were the courses that had the greatest impact on her. One of the recurring assignments among these courses was the sector report, which helped Natia develop a skill that is essential to international educational development work. In addition to report-writing skills, Natia gained valuable research skills. For one of the culminating projects for International Educational Policy, a course taught by Gita Steiner-Khamsi, Natia conducted extensive research and developed a report on the national examinations in Georgia. Though she was not aware of it at the time, this specific project would prepare her for her future work with the Georgian National Examination Center. Ultimately, Natia would return to Georgia with a new way of thinking about education in her home country: “[The program in IED/CIE] gave me a more global perspective on educational issues. After TC courses, I viewed Georgian education system as part of global system of education.”

After TC: After getting her MA in IED, Natia joined the team at the National Examination Center in Georgia. She was thrilled to be a part of the growing movement to improve education—a sector that was experiencing wide-scale and fast-developing reforms. She assumed the role of National Project Manager for PISA (Program in International Student Assessment.) Natia managed the translation, verification and adaptation of test instruments into Georgian, administered the study and created international and national reports in addition to working on other international studies at the center.

However, the results of the PISA study, which suggested a need for improvement in many areas, were not fully embraced by political authorities. However as the circumstances keep changing, the hope that Georgia would return to international studies is valid.

Current Work: Supported once again by the Open Society Institute, Natia is now pursuing a doctoral degree in International Education at the Center of International Education at the Department of Policy, Research and Administration at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Her research interests are in post-soviet educational seetings.

Words of Advice: “When I think about my TC experience, I think about my relationships with my peers, the sharing of perspectives and ideas was very valuable. This helped me not only as a professional, but also as a person. I kept in contact with Henry Levin because I translated his book, Cost Effectiveness, into Georgian. I am also in touch with Fenot Aklog, who has provided great emotional support for me.”

“I would definitely keep in touch with professors. Because TC professors are the people that are really active in the field. Of course, going to the [CIES] conferences. And think of ways to reconnect with TC and the resources and the people who are still there.”