Possibilities of Getting Secondary and Higher Education in Armenia

Anush Shahverdyan, PhD, Associate Professor, Education Expert

- Describe the system of secondary and higher education presently operating in the country (How many years does the education in schools and higher education institutions last? Are there secondary specialized educational institutions? And how popular are they among the population?)

Preschool education is not compulsory in Armenia. Education becomes compulsory only starting from the age of 6 when a child starts school. School education in our country lasts 12 years and consists of primary, secondary and high schools. Armenia adopted the system of high schools in 2010 as a result of the reform in the field of general education which led to the emergence of a separate 3-year educational program. Since 2017, high school has become compulsory. However, many aspects and issues related to the quality and financing of education at high schools have not been taken into account. Students must complete full general education either by attending a high school or receiving compulsory TVET education. Nevertheless, students are supposed to study at colleges for only 4 years. The duration of education in higher education institutions is 4 years for BA program and 2 years for MA program.

There is a greater interest in TVET education which mainly proceeds from the process of re-equipment with modern specialized technologies and with the provision and availability of equipment needed for the development of practical competences among the students. It is highly necessary to strengthen the link not only between TVET institutions, but also between higher education institutions and employers. The establishment of such a link will enable future graduates to meet the requirements of employers.

- When did the latest reforms in the sphere of education occur? What was the reason for it? What are the main problems in the system of education in the country?

The system of education in Armenia is constantly being reformed. At the current stage school education from grades 1-12 is particularly subject to reformation. In terms of this process, school curriculum is under review. The main program of general education at school is expected to be fully revised within a year. Whereupon, it is planned to launch the revision of textbooks, undertake a large-scale retraining for the teachers, aimed at the organization of the educational process in accordance with the new programs and new textbooks.

The reforms are driven by the transition of our country to the system of inclusive education, ensuring appropriate conditions, access to education and an educational program for people with various intellectual abilities and competences.

One of the main problems in the education system is the gap, the absence of cooperation between higher education institutions and the labour market. To identify ways in which it would be possible to bring the two enormous structures onto a single plane, I have conducted some research. The main role and mission for higher education institutions is believed to be teaching, consequently, the higher education institutions insist on the acceptance of their superiority by the labour market. The representatives of the labour market, in their turn, expect to have a dialogue with the higher education institutions for the implementation of the educational programs in accordance with their own demands and requirements, moreover, they expect it to be initiated by higher education institutions. Thus, the gap between the labour market and the higher education institutions is apparent, and today there are many propositions for filling it. In particular, it is believed that we need the transformation of the internship program from a formality into real practical work. Today many students attend different institutions, which tend to be near their places of residence, the required documents are filled in there, and the internship is actually over. Students do not realize the importance of those 2-3 months, consequently, they waste their precious time. Students should have a very deep understanding of the kind of knowledge they obtained during the internship, what they have developed personally, what activity they have taken part in, consequently, what they have gained as a result. Employers, in turn, do not even have the description of the work to be carried out and accomplished by the interns. They do not know how to work with the students. Unfortunately, literally nothing but the rhetoric and the programs of higher education institutions have changed in this field in the last years. It comes out that we prepare future specialists for international organizations, we contribute to the emigration of the youth in quest of practice and jobs.

- Is there statistics on the number of students currently enrolled in higher education institutions? What percentage of school leavers study in higher education institutions? To what extent does the system of education answer the requirements of the country? What specialties are more popular now? What specialties used to be popular in the past?

According to the recent figures of the National Statistical Committee, in 2017 more than 18 thousand pupils left schools of general education, only 10 thousand of them entered higher education or TVET institutions (1). It is quite a good indicator, as compared even with that of many developed countries. The quality of education, the level of knowledge and competences they gain are the other side of the shield. We have specialists with diplomas, however, whose entry into the labour market triggers huge problems. Graduates of the type have a certain level of knowledge, they are well informed, nonetheless, they are not ready for operating in the labour market. They are incapable of implementing their knowledge in the working process on account of the absence of practice in their educational process. Subsequently, it is of great importance to ascribe practical character to our current educational programs. Hence, we are to state that our education system does not meet the requirements of the country’s employers and the requirements of the 21st century. Everything is quite outdated, and the process of updating the educational programs is so far cosmetic by nature.

As for the more demanded specialties, according to the recent official statistics (2), in 2017-18 academic year the sphere of social and behavioural sciences was highly popular with the graduates (more than 2000 students). We can spot the field of education as second, to be followed by law, business and administration, and architecture. These are the most demanded specialties as of the date. For example, chemistry and social work are not attractive at all; journalism is relatively less demanded. In the past, there was a time when medicine, law and economics were the most demanded specialties. And every child from a decent family was obliged to become either a doctor, or a lawyer, or an economist. It was a decision that was based on traditions, was a legacy passed down to the generations and was, hence, compulsory. Today’s students are more interested in STEM-education (Science-technology-engineering-mathematics). That sphere includes Nature Sciences and Physics, Mathematics and Architecture. It involves Information Technologies as well. Thus, we have to state that though slowly, education is starting to respond to market demands. People are increasingly aware of the priorities and the future of contemporary education. In this respect, it should be mentioned that starting from this autumn all 104 high schools in Armenia will be provided with laboratory equipment for practical courses of Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Geography. It is meant for boosting the interest of students towards their future specialties.

- What are the possibilities of receiving education in the motherland and abroad? Are there any state or private projects for assisting the youth?

There are possibilities, especially for children from disadvantaged families. Children from such families have unequal possibilities from the very beginning if compared with the children from wealthy families as they have lack of funds for getting private tutorship to enter higher education institutions. However, in case the child from such families overcomes that threshold and enters the higher education institution, the government offers them a multitude of supporting programs, especially to students with good performance. Agreements between the Ministries of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Education and Science provide some programs that support students from various disadvantaged groups. There are programs for receiving higher education abroad. Unfortunately, they are not very many, consequently, the competition is overly high. However, there are also programs which are implemented through intergovernmental agreements between Armenia and other countries.  Such programs enable our students to study in Romania, Bulgaria, China, Russia and other countries. Calls for such competitions are regularly shared onto the website of the Ministry of Education and Science.

1. https://www.armstat.am/file/article/soc_vich_2017_2.pdf
2. https://www.armstat.am/file/article/soc_vich_2017_6.pdf

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.


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