- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 February 14, 2003 

Decision 2003: Condition of education system troubles many voters

According to data of the Ministry of Science and Education there are 1,392 schools functioning in the republic. Fifty-three are boarding schools, 35 are vocational schools and 1,304 of general education. More than 55,000 teachers are involved in the educational system.

About 530,000 pupils attend classes throughout Armenia. Unlike Soviet times, when education was compulsory, today about 14,000 children do not attend school due to social and economic hardship.

"Many years ago we had a strong educational system - Soviet system, which was considered to be one of the best in the world, these days everything has changed," says 65 year old pedagogue Hamlet Nahatakyan.

Founder of the well-known Nersisyan College in Echmiadzin, Nahatakyan dedicated his life to education of the rising generation and says he has never seen the educational system in such a miserable state.

"The salvation of the country lies in education," Nahatakyan says. "Today there are many talks about improvements in the educational system, however everything remains almost the same. The reason is indifference."

As specialists assure, there are several reasons why Armenia's educational system in such a condition.

"All over the world educational systems are being renovated and improved but here we make no headway," says Edgar Khachatryan of Echmiadzin.

Anahit Hakobyan of Yerevan says that unlike the past, when her elder children were attending school, these days the situation has sharply changed.

"Twelve years ago my two elder children were attending school, today my younger daughter is attending school," she says, "the difference is great both in textbooks and in the level of teaching. Before, it was possible to enter the institutes of higher education just after finishing school but today it is almost impossible. And the lack of teachers' excitement is probably conditioned by small salaries."

According to the Ministry of Science and Education, in 2002 the average salary of teachers was approximately 18,000 drams (about $31) a month.

"High salaries must become a pledge of teachers' good work. If a teacher is not paid well he or she has to do something else," Nahatakyan says. "After the lessons one can meet a teacher in the market selling something. And can you imagine what can a teacher and a pupil feel when they meet each other both in classroom and in the market?"

Naira Vardanyan, 30, of Echmiadzin is sure that bribery common in schools today is the result of low salaries and a reason why many children's inclination to study is fading.

"The idea of additional, paid study formed several years ago," says Armine Grigoryan. "For earning additional money teachers carry out private lessons after school charging 2,000-3,000 drams per month and those who don't attend those lessons get low marks. As a result of such unfairness many children don't want to attend school and get education."

"The first condition is that government must pay more attention to teachers and they must feel themselves protected," says teacher Alina Taroyan. "Doesn't our future depend on the well-being of this field?"

According to another point of view the decline of the educational level in schools of general education is due to an influx of teachers who come from other professions but turned to teaching just to have a job.

"These days the educational system receded into the background," says 30 year old Gayane Babayan from Artimed village of Armavir region. "The situation is especially bad in villages. Many teachers avoid working in villages. Teachers must be provided with favorable conditions so that they could be more interested in working there. Education must be the number one issue for a prospering country."


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  Photo of the week
  Photo of the week: Tamper resistant?
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Tamper resistant?

Journalists flocked to Zvartnots Airport Tuesday to greet the arrival of plastic boxes, heralded by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe as Armenia's first step toward "transparent" elections. The 2,000 boxes - at a cost of about $4 each - were financed by the US, Swiss, German and Norwegian governments. Newspaperman Tigran Liloyan gave one ballot bucket a test run.



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