Government Plans to Remove Ban on Foreign Language Schools

Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan (L) introduces Armen Shotyan (R), newly appointed Minister of Science and Education, to the Ministry staff

Armenian Ministry of Science and Education has proposed to remove the legal ban  and allow restoration of state funded Soviet-era style foreign language schools.

Minister of Science and Education Armen Ashotian has said “the reopening of such schools is a necessity now, because currently the knowledge of a foreign language is neither a whim nor a fashion, but rather a precondition for today’s reality.”

Armenia banned the operation of foreign language schools at the cost of the Armenian budget back in 1993. At that point the country had a legacy of Russian language schools, which were better funded, better taken care of and generally provided higher quality education than Armenian schools. Armenian parents were doing everything possible to make sure their kids went to Russian language schools, as Russian was the official state language of the Soviet Union and knowledge of the language was a shortcut to success in Communist bureaucracy. Banning Russian schools at that point saved the Armenian language schools and Armenian education.

In recent years Russian authorities have been speaking about their desire to promote Russian language and Russian education in the ex-Soviet space. Armenian authorities are often too fast to accommodate the desires of the ‘big Russian borther”. If that’s the case, I can easily see this proposal becoming a law soon.

Being a parent of a school-age child, I know very well, that the existing public schools are poorly funded, understaffed, low on resources. They always lack enough Armenian language textbooks, the methodology is lackluster.

Reopening Russian and English language schools will mean further weakening of the existing Armenian language public schools, as the scarce resources of the state will have to be dedicated to producing foreign language textbooks, developing special methodologies. While the Soviet Union could afford to invest resources into maintaining Russian language schools in Armenia, Russian being the official state language, I don’t see how the poor Armenian state, which is barely managing the existing Armenian language schools, will cope.

The more I think of it – this is a disaster in the making for the Armenian education system. I hope time proves I’m wrong.

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17 thoughts on “Government Plans to Remove Ban on Foreign Language Schools

    • Yes, he told the news conference he studied in a Russian school and mastered Armenian language quite well, so he said he thought Armenians needed to be offered a choice…

      • Hmm. It seems like the old Russian educated people have joined forces for further degeneration of the Armenian independence. Yesterday I found out that March 8 and May 1 are now holidays, too. WTF?

        • When we have November 7 as a national holiday in Armenia then we will know that we have had a complete defeat.

        • Well – March 8th and May 1st are both international holidays, and luckily, February 23rd isn’t a holiday.

          • :) That’s what the communists have us believe. I think it was part of Lenin’s wet dream of international communist revolution.

  1. i think foreign language schools should not be fully funded by the state, it should be a collaboration with private funds. I think A formula such as 50% funding by the state and 50% from private funds would make sense. So those parents who wish to send their kids to these foreign language schools would have to pay for it. However the best solution would be to improve foreign language teaching in all schools across the board, so that there won’t be a big desire by parents to move their kids from Armenian schools to foreign language schools.

    • I don’t think it makes any sense at this point to subsidize foreign language schools in Armenia at all. Why? What’s the point? If the government has additional money to throw into it, let them improve the language classes at the existing schools, instead of trying to chase two rabbits at once.

      Also, we are a small nation, we need to make sure, that our language, our education are protected and paid full attention to.

      • If the problem is inadequate knowledge of foreign languages, then the solution is to improve these courses in schools. Also, if Ashotian wants to bring Armenia up to speed in global matters, he better suggest classes of English, Chinese and German. These languages are far more important than Russian which basically was the language of our old colonial masters.

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  4. While reading your posts quite often, and agreeing on many aspects with you, this post is to say at least not well balanced!

    Being someone who had (forcefully) switched from Russian to Armenian in 92, I can tell you that neither it helped to develop good Armenian in the schools, nor the quality of the school education became better (I would say many times worse since then).

    You mention, in 1993 state was saving money shutting the Russian schools – these is, as well, at least a misinterpretation. All Russian schools were changed to Armenian, but nothing but language, or name has changed – so no funding cuts led by that decision. The state funding of the education was cut drastically, but all schools, and language change has nothing to do with it.
    It was a pure nationalistic move back then, to show how independent we are (we know now that we are not in any sense, and it’s a bad thing IMO).

    Not to mention that these processes were accompanied by burning Russian books, suppression of Russian speaking people etc. Not the most “democratic” behavior at all.

    And, at last but not least, your blog is in English? Why not in Armenian?

    • There are Russian schools in Armenia now – which are for Russian minorities and children of Russian citizens, e.g. in Molokan villages, etc. So I don’t see what ‘suppression’ you are speaking about.

      The problem is – the Government wants to make it possible for Armenian nationals to attend Russian and English (in the future – possibly Turkish, Persian) schools in Armenia. The question is – what’s the point? Why can’t Armenians study in Armenian language schools, but learn proper Russian, English? If government has money to burn, why don’t they strengthen language classes in all regular Armenian schools? Why should my taxpayer money be used for making Armenian kids think and see life through a foreign language: Russian, English, Turkish, Persian? Because, you know what – language defines people’s mentality. So, to exaggerate my point a little further, why should the Armenian government spend money on turning its citizens – Armenians, into Russians, Englishmen, Turks, etc?

      PS: Studying in an Armenian school does not mean you can’t learn foreign languages. I studied in an Armenian school, but now I know pretty good English, Russian, basic German. And I write this blog in English, because there are many Armenians, who don’t know Armenian, and I want to keep them attached to their country, give them a chance to become interested and perhaps start thinking about learning Armenian. Meanwhile, I also have an Armenian language blog: http://munetik.worpress.com and my prime work is editing Armenian language texts.

    • > Why not in Armenian
      a) I have an Armenian language blog
      b) There is a shortage of English language Armenian blogs from Armenia by Armenians, so I decided to fill that gap – name it ‘market conciderations’ if you like :)

  5. >There are Russian schools in Armenia now – >which are for Russian minorities and children of >Russian citizens, e.g. in Molokan villages, etc. So >I don’t see what ‘suppression’ you are speaking >about.

    I was talking about 1992. Being a russian-speaking kid at that time, I had many issues. And I was a kid.

    Regarding the possibility of Armenian nationals to attend the English and Russian (Turkish or Persian) schools – who said these schools will be State Financed. I am a definitely not the biggest fan of Russia as it is now, and moreover I hate seeing our state selling itself to RF, but I am sure that my kids will profit from knowing Russian as good as I do know it, at least to be able to read Tolstoy and Dostoevsky in original. I would be as well happy to see Turkish classes (free to choose once) in our school, as at the moment we do know much less about the modern Turkey, then they know about us. So, to exaggerate my point :), if Turkey wants to spend it’s money and open in Armenia a Turkish school for Armenian kids – we shall only be happy. Before someone kicks me for that – it will never happen, I hope :)

    >>PS: Studying in an Armenian school does not >mean you can’t learn foreign languages. I >studied in an Armenian school, but now I know >pretty good English, Russian, basic German.

    You indeed do speak English very well, and this is why I do read your blog with a great pleasure. But how many pupils in the 10th or now 11th grade in our Armenian schools do speak appropriate Russian or English – 15-20%, both of them together – even fewer. To say more – even now, 20 years after Soviet union, the best schools in Yerevan are the ones with strong Russian bases. You can like it or not, say it is a Soviet relict – but it is just so.

    And, IMO, no one said that if the school is say a Russian one, it will, or should be allowed to deliver a pro Russian(American, Persian Turkish…) propaganda to the children, they will be still Russian language oriented, but we do need such people to serve our country in future. It is shame, that many of our diplomats do not speak the language of the country were they work. One great example is Germany, e.g. Armenian Embassy in Berlin. I can clearly see that in 20 years, many would not speak appropriate Russian anymore. Even in Soviet times, many Party bosses could not master Russian fluently…and it’s a shame.

    >> name it ‘market conciderations’ if you like :)

    Exactly, that’s what is the hole Idea about. It is a “Market consideration” for Armenians to know as much languages as possible. We are to small and unimportant (to other bigger Nations) to stay with Armenian only.

    • Common man, what you say is not true. You know that well. Russians never were treated badly in Armenia. The fact that many Russians and other nationals left the country was simply for bad economic situation. There was a war and blockade if you remember it.

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