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IDHR citizen conferences

 

The Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (IDHR) - an independent non-governmental organization in Armenia , regards education as a strategic domain of national priority for the Republic of Armenia and attaches special importance to the latter.

 

The IDHR believes that particularly in a landlocked state like Armenia with limited natural resources and relatively unfavorable geopolitical position, great importance must be attached to the HUMAN and human resources to ensure sustainable development of our country. Education is the course of life, incessant and continuous, which first aims to make a HUMAN out of a human being, thereafter, to build conscious and responsible citizen and afterwards, to craft useful specialist for the country. In a democratic state, education has an essential mission; tutoring a conscious and responsible human-individual-citizen.

 

In May-July 2006, the IDHR held a series of citizen conferences in Yerevan city, in Lori, Shirak, Vayots Dzor and Armavir regions entitled, “The role and future of education in Armenia: for the development of democratic statehood based on the principles of human rights, social justice and solidarity.” Parallel to the central theme, the issues and analyses of education and citizenship presented in “Democracy, Education and Multiculturalism: The Dilemmas of Citizenship in the Global World” , a book by C. A. Torres were raised during these conferences. In 2005 IDHR initiated translation and publication of the book in Armenian.

 

The purpose of the citizen conferences was to once again raise the issue and importance of education in Armenia, to formulate the public demand on it, and to enhance public civic monitoring of the state education policies.

 

About 100 participants of citizen conferences were selected by the IDHR from those who responded to the announcement made in advance to that effect. They were citizens and inhabitants of the Republic of Armenia, among them, educators, students, parents, and people of different professions and social strata concerned about the future of education in Armenia.

 

In the first part of the citizen conferences they were comprehensively advised and informed about the education system and the education reforms in Armenia. Thereafter, the participants were divided into various thematic groups, according to the educational issues that were of interest for them, wherein with the help of the IDHR and invited experts, stances, comments and proposals on a number of education related issues in Armenia were drafted.

 

This two-month activity of the IDHR demonstrated that the population of our country is very poorly aware about education reforms. Most participants, who by the way, in this or that way were related to education, had just a superficial idea about the reforms, and this was mainly about the transition to the 12-year general education system. In fact, teachers, parents and other representatives of the people and the society were excluded from the decision making. IDHR believes that in a democratic country, public policy makers and implementers shall ensure public participation not only during election campaigns. Major state policies, especially the ones concerning the majority of the people , shall be drafted and formulated with immediate participation of stakeholders, in consultation with the beneficiaries, and taking into account their demands. Any public policy and reform is likely to fail when the people do not participate in and has no ownership of the latter.

 

In the case of education reform, we can surely claim that the people or at least a part thereof is extremely interested and willing to contribute its ideas, time and efforts to formulate and deliver its demands.

 

The IDHR appeals to the people and the society not to remain indifferent about the education domain of our country. IDHR calls upon the people responsible for the education domain to use mechanisms for ensuring public awareness and involvement in decision making and implementation process .

 

Another crucial issue raised by the citizen conference participants and education specialists was the formal nature of reforms . For example, many people claim that along with the transition to 12-year general education system, needed logistic conditions have not been ensured in schools; the curricula have not been adjusted to the new education system; the teachers have not been sufficiently trained… In the case of higher education, for instance, the transition to bachelor-master degree school was done mechanically: the former curricula for 4 or 5 academic years were artificially extended and divided into the “4+2” system without relevant content changes.

 

The IDHR shares concern about these issues and emphasizes that the purpose of any innovation and change in the sphere of education must be the improvement of education quality, while the currently used mechanical approach is not contributing to that in any way.

 

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Presented below is a summary of the opinions, stances and proposals of the citizen conference participants. We invite the attention of the relevant state bodies to these problems and call on them to respond. These opinions and analyses are also forwarded to all those who are concerned about education, in order to promote public debate on education in issues in Armenia, public awareness and involvement in decision making in the education domain.

 

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Proposals on civic education in the Republic of Armenia (RA)

 

We believe that the problems in civic education in the RA are as follows:

  • Little interrelation between civil society institutions and education institutions.
  • Poor integrated approach towards the formation a democratic, humanistic outlook and a value system of a citizen in school.

We propose:

  • In educational institutions: to draft an integrated approach to the formation of a law-abiding citizen; establishment of a democratic environment in school; incorporation of civic education elements in all textbooks.
  • Participation and certain engagement of civic institutions in the education process (implementation of projects enhancing civic education in education institutions, encouragement thereof by the state, encouragement of such participation by schools.)

The authors of proposals:

Esther Barseghian, Yerevan, student/pedagogue;
Armineh Ivanian, Yerevan, school # 27, deputy principal;
Susan Barseghian, Yerevan, sociologist, Armenian Center for Strategic and National Research;
Anna Asatrian, Yerevan, student/pedagogue;
Yepraxia Hakopian, Yerevan, parent.

 

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Proposals on education quality in the Republic of Armenia (RA)

 

We approve of the 12-year education and admission of 6-year olds to the first grade, we believe, however, that a number of important considerations have been left out. We believe the 12-year education system shall provide a single school+kindergarten system which is not envisaged in the reform program.

 

Another education reform issue is the transition of higher education to the bachelor-master degree system where, again, we see serious drawbacks. Our studies have shown that in formal terms, having made the transition to the 4-year bachelor and 2-year master model, the former 5-year system was mechanically divided by six: 4 years of baccalaureate and 2 years of master degree school, thus baccalaureate, in fact, was turned into incomplete higher education. Therefore, in terms of higher education curricula, it is urgent to review and discuss them in compliance with international standards.

 

The authors of proposals:

Artemis Lepejian, Yerevan, St. Sandukht NGO, chairman;
Emilia Sayadian, Yerevan, school # 135, deputy principal;
Inessa Amirbekian, Yerevan, bank employee;
Anahit Lepejian, Yerevan, Matenadaran employee;
Hayarpi Keshishian, Yerevan, translator.

 

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Proposals on the improvement of the content of general education

 

We propose:

  • Changes in drafting and approval procedure of textbooks. When shaping the content of textbooks, to establish commissions on different levels with relevant authorities. To engage experts from specific spheres in these commissions: teachers, intellectuals, NGO representatives.
  • To make textbook drafting transparent ensuring public participation; prior to textbook drafting, to conduct opinion polls amongst students, teachers, and be governed by the results.
  • To integrate national history and environment studies in all subjects studied at school; to incorporate national song, music, dancing and other forms of arts and crafts in the mandatory curriculum.
  • To hold regular discussions, thematic tests, debates with student participation (preferably, students will participate in arrangements) on global and public interest subjects.

The authors of proposals:

Laura Gevorkian, Yeghegnadzor, Yeghegnadzor local history museum;
Siranush Poghosian, Armavir, teacher;
Sophia Stepanian, Armavir, economist;
Vahan Tumasian, Gyumri, Shirak Center NGO, chairman;
Naneh Asatrian, Yeghegnadzor, journalist;
Ovsanna Simonian, Yeghegnadzor, young public activist.

 

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Proposals on improvement of general education methods

 

Since we are building a democratic state, there is a need to rear individuals capable of creativity, independent thinking and independent decision making. Our education system has changed. New requirements arise and new methods must be devised for the successful transition to the 12-year system.

 

We suggest to publish the progressive and well-established methods used in our best schools, even in abridged form, and to circulate them over to all schools.

 

We also suggest organizing relevant programs on public television by state order, for our teacher community, parents and students to be aware of the latest teaching methods and to have an opportunity for dialog.

 

The authors of proposals:

Ruzanna Pilikian, Armavir, Armavir school # 5, teacher;
Margarita Poghosian, Armavir, Armavir school # 5, teacher;
Azatuhi Galstian, Armavir, teacher;
Naira Arakelian, Armavir, Armavir Development Center NGO, chairman;
Mariam Janoyan, Gumry, teacher;
Mushegh Poghosian, Armavir, Armavir Development Center NGO;
Artak Grigorian, Nor-Armavir, Nor-Armavir school deputy principal.

 

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Proposals on Human resource policy improvement in general education schools

 

Human resource policy is extremely important in any school for the selection of relevant cadre.

In this respect it is necessary:

  • Through continuous lesson hearings, to reveal the teachers' positive and negative properties, and to make poor specialists realize that they are lagging behind, which will be an incentive for the latter to improve themselves.
  • To conduct teacher assessment by students;
  • To select new teachers through the parents' and school councils;
  • To sign a one-year contract with the teacher thus providing the latter with a job and opportunity; if the latter does not prove oneself as a good teacher, to dismiss him/her.

In terms of human resource policy, we would like to note that it is strange and unacceptable that presently in Armenia even a new graduate teacher needs re-training in order to study the new approaches and methodologies. This proves that our higher education institutions do not teach based on modern curricula and methods. Old methods are in use and higher education institutions provide the schools with teachers who do not comply with the new requirements of this country. If the Ministry of education and science wishes to raise the quality of education, then this shall be done, and professional cadre shall be trained in higher education institutions, which would save time and finances and avoid double work.

 

The authors of proposals:

Gayaneh Jomardian, Vanadzor, Socio-economic and legal reform center;
Ashot Antinian, Margahovit, school principal;
Arpik Aloyan, Getap, teacher;
Samson Ulikhanian, Pambak, village mayor;
Karen Badishian, Gyumri, Shirak NGO Center, coordinator.

 

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Proposals on financial management of general education schools

 

It is known that schools are financed based on the number of students. Since 1999, the amount allocated per student has been increased 4-5 times. If in 1999 annual allocation per 1 student was 14,000 AMD, now it is equal to 57,000 AMD.

 

However, the amounts allocated to schools are usually only enough for covering the teacher's fees, pension fund deductions, electricity, water and other utilities (especially in schools with a small number of students.) No money is allocated on the additional expenditures of the school.

 

It is proposed that all extra-budgetary income without interest remains in school budget so that the school administration could cover additional expenditures.

 

The authors of proposals:

Lucineh Petrosian, Armavir, Mayisian secondary school, teacher;
Hamlet Voskanian, Azatan, teacher;
Norik Mkrtchian, Yeghegnadzor, National Education Institute, Vayots-Dzor branch;
Gayaneh Akulian, Vanadzor, “Girls Rule the World” NGO, chairman;
Sophia Galstian, Gladzor, teacher;
Khoren Pnjoyan, Vanadzor, Vanadzor school #10, principal.

 

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Proposals on the Education Policies of the Republic of Armenia (RA)

 

Having studies and analyzed the policy in RA education domain, we believe:

 

- education shall be in direct dependence of economic development, for which a comprehensive state strategy for the development of education and economy shall be devised;

- education shall promote the development of civil society;

- sufficient prerequisites shall be created for the development of science (sufficient foundations for science.)

Education shall be a major and indispensable part of the National security concept. Education, like defense, shall be regarded as national priority sphere.

To depoliticize education - education can not be reduced to a test field for propaganda purposes of this or that political party.

 

The authors of the proposals:

Narineh Harutyunian, postgraduate student, political scientist;
Lala Khachatrian, teacher;
Suren Galustian, private detective;
Tatevik Avetisian, journalist;
Lucineh Nahapetian, professor;
Armen Gevorkian, legal adviser;
Gohar Barkhudarian, professor, economist.

 

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Proposals on efficiency improvement in the RA education system and enhancement of participatory processes and mechanisms therein

 

Due to the fact that any process implemented in the education system first of all concerns various stakeholders in the society, any change and reform in this system must be primarily initiated and supervised by the stakeholders of the society.

To that end we propose the following:

  • To establish initiative groups/commissions in RA regions incorporating stakeholders and organizations related to education.
  • The initiative groups must be assisted by the Ministry of education that would use its leverage, and these groups must be previously advised about any policy.
  • The established initiative groups, working regularly, must report on the revealed drawbacks in the education sphere and present their proposals to the relevant state bodies.
  • To establish a body comprised of provincial initiative groups that would meet once in 6 months or once a year.
  • During the supreme national conference, to which representatives from relevant state bodies will be invited, the activities will be summarized, discussed and experience will be exchanged.
  • After the supreme conference, a proposal package will be formulated and forwarded to the government. The government must respond to all proposals within a prescribed deadline.

The authors of the proposals:

Arthur Ghazinian, Vanadzor, Dashink NGO, chairman;
Sevak Derdzian, Vanadzor, party member, Constitutional Law-protection Union Party;
Inessa Hakobjanian, Vanadzor, young public activist;
Derenik Malkhasian, Gyumri, political scientist, journalist, analyst.

 

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Proposals on the public monitoring of state policy in the education system

  • Since the society and the people must participate in all radical changes implemented by the authorities, hence it is necessary to advise the public prior to their adoption and implementation and, moreover, to take public opinion into consideration.
  • To implement public awareness and public monitoring, public initiative and activism are extremely important. It is necessary to shape public initiative groups concerned about education problems; the former can be comprised of NGO members and civic activists. The latter, based on common public interest, will establish collaboration with the government and will become a link between the authorities and the public.

The authors of the proposals:

Sarkis Avetisian, Armavir, Armavir Development Center NGO;
Ruzanna Azarian, Yerevan, teacher, musician;
Marineh Avetisian, Gyumri, Meghvik NGO member;
Karapet Matosoghlian, Gyumri, social worker;
Narineh Avetisian, Gyumri, young public activist.

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