Education in Armenia: A System in Transition

Education in Armenia: A System in Transition 

Education is the foundation for a healthy and developed society, as well as a vital determinant of civic culture and participation in democratic politics. The sphere of education is emphasized by the Armenian government as one of the prerequisites for the sustainable development of the country, and the preservation and reproduction of human capital reproduction. Despite the emphasis, the overall quality of education remains a problem.

The exploratory study was conducted by TCPA in 2012 to highlight the most problematic aspects of access to school education in Armenia. The research was supported by Open Society Foundations- Armenia. Both primary and secondary data were collected for this research. Four methods of primary data collection were used: observation of schools, surveys of pupils, in-depth interviews with school principals, government officials and experts, focus group discussions with teachers and parents of pupils. The secondary data, which includes statistical data, previous surveys, legislative documents, international reports etc., were used to support the findings by presenting the overall changes and reforms that occurred in the education system of Armenia in post-soviet transition period. The study report is available here: http://tcpa.aua.am/reports-and-publications/

Several reforms have to some extent interrupted daily education routines. These reforms include: the extension of schooling years, change of grading system, and most recently the creation of separate high schools.

Currently Armenia is completing its transition from the Soviet-era system of 10-year schooling to a 12-year education cycle. It was changed to 11 years in 2001 and to 12 years in 2006 composed of a three-tier scheme including primary, medium, and high schools. The current National Curriculum for General Education is based on a twelve-year program, which consists of compulsory primary (grades 1 to 4), compulsory lower secondary (grades 5 to 9) and upper secondary (high school, grades 10-12) education.

Another major change in the educational system was the shift from a five to ten point grading system, effective since September 2006, with the aim of increasing the accuracy and authenticity of the pupil’s assessment results.

The most recent and perhaps most dramatic change in the education system was the establishment of high schools, which bring together pupils from various schools. The decision was made in 2008 and has been effective since September 2012. This was an entirely new experience for Armenian society, where children generally attended one school from the first to last grade.

During in-depth interviews and focus group discussions various stakeholders (such as education field experts, school principals, teachers and parents) generally agreed that while the creation of high schools was a good idea in theory, the system was not properly implemented. To quote from one of the study participants:

For me- high school is an important institution; it is just that mechanisms have to be developed within on how it should operate.” Female teacher, 37 years old Yerevan

While high schools allow students the opportunity to specialize early and contribute to the technical enrichment of schools, their introduction in Armenia has raised considerable problems. Negative opinions were voiced regarding textbooks, approaches to teaching processes, transportation issues in marzes for pupils from villages, and general ideas suggesting that Armenia was not ready for this change.

“By establishing high schools we have also created inequality. A pupil learning in a village, where there is no high school, cannot go to school.” Education expert

These reforms have already disrupted the routine of school education for a generation of pupils, as well as parents and teachers. The transformation is not yet complete, and the final assessment of the overall outcome of the reform is yet to be seen. Improving the quality of high schools is a complex issue that will likely involve teacher re-training sessions, thorough reviews of school curriculum and textbook materials, and separation of the education sector from political affiliations.

Thank you to Anita Barooni and Nelly Minasyan for developing this blog entry


 

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