Education is the Counter Effect to Various Influences

Serob Khachatryan, lecturer at Yerevan State University, Education Expert

- How is the situation on the ground like in school and higher education sectors in general and in the provinces of the republic in particular?

In general, we have many problems in the sector education both in Yerevan and in the provinces of the country. One of the main reasons is the extension of school education duration from 10 to 12 years (Editor – Armenia started to gradually pass to 12-year general-education system in 2007. Since 2017, the 12-year education has become compulsory. However, at the beginning of April, 2019, the Minister of Education of the RA claimed the necessity of returning to 10-year education). The second reason lies in the fact that our students have started to work more often parallel to their education –  for example, they are not ashamed anymore to work as waiters, which is good, in general. Anyway this leads to problems with attendance and performance of working students and affects the education process as a whole.

Applicants enter the university after 12 years of education at school and are quite tired. In that sense, today a peculiar compression happened if not of time limits but of the education process in our higher education institutions. Moreover, I feel sorry to note that education in the 11th and 12th grades at schools did not lead to an increase of the level and quality of general education. There are problems with the number of students. After the collapse of the USSR, of course, the number of students in Armenia increased. However, in the past two years as a whole, a general decrease of applicants has been noted. One of the reasons is admission to foreign higher education institutions. Another reason is the decrease of demand for higher education in favor of TVET education.

As far as regional higher education institutions are concerned, they are very important, in my opinion. Higher education in Armenia is mostly paid. And students from regions have to pay also for living in Yerevan. Flat rent is much more expensive for students from regions than monthly payment for education in the university. Accordingly, regional higher education institutions are very important for the layers of population, not having the opportunity to support their student children in Yerevan. It is also very important for the development of the labor market in the regions of the country. Unfortunately, most students from regions, having graduated from higher education institutions in Yerevan, do not go back. In this light, I attach great importance to the development of higher education institutions in the regions of the country. The process, undoubtedly, needs to be encouraged, up to the necessity of lecturing in those universities by the best professors from Yerevan. I am certain that in provincial universities there are many smart and intelligent students, and the quality of education does not differ much from that in Yerevan.

- In your opinion what are the main problems in the education system in the country? What is being done by the state for their solution? And in general, are any reforms necessary in that sphere?

Reforms are an imperative necessity. In general, the sphere of education today faces quite serious challenges of global character. Today we live in a world, where the owners of Google, Facebook and other socials networks view a person as an object of their business, as commodity. They also try to turn a person into raw material. Ideologies: Communism, Fascism and Liberalism collapsed and, as a result, manipulation of a person takes place, populism is developing in the world, and Armenia is not an exception here. And here the education system faces a serious problem. Particularly by means of education we can develop awareness and thinking in a person to a degree that allows them to resist all those manipulations. Personally for me education is, first and foremost, the counter effect to various influences. I am certain that it is one of the underlying problems of our education. And if we can’t present it correctly and outline ways of solution, our education will not correspond to modern requirements. Accordingly, the formula of reforming education system is very simple – it is necessary to work with our children. Not to just develop education programs and teach sciences, but also to teach children not to fall prey to manipulation. We – teachers at schools and universities need to be intelligent and interesting for our audience, in order for them to be interested in listening to us and not search answers to their questions on the Internet. Education at schools and universities has alternatives today, which were inexistent before. And we have to take it into consideration. At first sight, it sounds primitive, but in reality we deal with a very delicate problem.

As far as the action of the government for solving the existing problems are concerned, currently Armenia is completely changing its general-education programs. Development of new criteria for education has begun, based on which course books and conditions of teacher preparation will be changed essentially, as well as other related issues will be solved. In other words, after revolution Armenia is trying to formulate a new general-education agenda, with the aim of developing a more democratic system of education. For example, a system in which critical thinking of learners will be encouraged. I really hope that all these goals will be achieved, for all that is happening is in our own interest.

At the moment in the sphere of higher education the Law on Higher Education is being revised, which is presumed to be merged with the Law on Science. It is done with the aim of making the presence of research components and scientific activity in the sphere of higher education stronger. I hope that amendments in legislation and scientific councils will give higher education institutions more independence from the state and, accordingly, from political powers. In any case, the movement of Armenia towards a freer system of education is one of our crucial achievements over the past months.

- Can we say that today education in the universities of Armenia is the guarantee of not only getting a good job, but also a decent life and remuneration? What professions are more popular in the country today?

Our studies show, that people with higher education earn more, have more opportunities and, accordingly, live better than people without higher education. However, today there are citizens in Armenia still thinking that it is possible to live just fine without higher education. The profession of a software engineer is the most popular in our country today, which is conditioned by the growth of IT sphere, technologies and, accordingly, high salaries, received by the representatives of the given profession. The flow of applicants to faculties of law and international relations continues to increase. The number of applicants striving to get education in economics is increasing, too. As the tourism business in Armenia is developing, the number of applicants in universities teaching service is also growing. Tour agencies need professional guides, and hotels and restaurants need managers. Accordingly, demand generates supply. As far as guarantees on getting a decent and highly paid job are concerned, in my opinion, higher education really provides them. The very fact of attending university, communication with professors, reading literature and the whole university environment inevitably broaden the horizons and, accordingly, opportunities and pursuits of young people. And this happens regardless of their academic grades and achievements. However, we still have a long way ahead in providing people with decent jobs. The state is already trying to collaborate with employers, in order for the education system to create professional staff, meeting employers’ needs. I hope that these efforts will be successful, since the given direction is also crucial.

- What are the chances for the population to get education in the motherland and abroad? Are there state or private youth assistance projects?

In general, the capacity of the state to promote our students entering the 50 best universities of the world are quite limited. The foundation “My Step” is trying to promote such students particularly. There are also other foundations, supporting students who enter local universities. The state provides for certain benefits, for example, to families with more than one student, to students, who have children, to students having taken part in military actions. As far as opportunities are concerned, in general the situation is pretty good. However, taking into consideration the fact that there are countries in the world, where 70-80% of population has higher education, the reinforcement of such opportunities presents itself as necessary. In Armenia 35-40% of the population has higher education. Although compared with 20-25% of the USSR era, this, of course, is a good indicator. Unfortunately, poverty is not yet eradicated in Armenia, and it is directly projected at the opportunities of our children to get higher education.

This material was prepared in the framework of ”Public Dialogues for Communication between Armenian and Azerbaijani Specialists” project, supported by the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation (a project by the G. Marshall Fund). Opinions expressed in the material do not necessarily represent those of the Black Sea Trust or its partners.


30 January, 2014
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