Debate On Purity And Progress: Government Retreats On Foreign-Langua

Gayane Abrahamyan

ArmeniaNow reporter

Outcry over a pending initiative by the Government of Armenia to
reopen foreign language schools in Armenia has caused authorities to
abandon the idea and agree to allow only foreign language curriculum
in private schools, and only then at no more than one percent (about
14 schools) of all schools.

Opponents of the draft law are still not satisfied, however, saying
that the move does not "alleviate the danger" they perceive to the
education system should foreign language programs be accredited.

"These changes prove that the project has not been properly drafted,
and it is, at least, unprofessional. In this respect, the mentioned
retreat does not allay concerns, but it rather deepens them," says
the statement of ‘We are Against the Reopening of Foreign-Language
Schools’ public initiative.

In early May, the Government approved the draft of the RA Ministry
of Science and Education on amending the RA laws on ‘Language’ and
‘General Education’. If approved, the law would make it possible
for schools to teach curricula in a language other than Armenian
(mainly Russian and English) in Armenia.

The opponents believe that the bill may "threaten out Armenian national
identity," meanwhile, the Government insists that "such schools are
necessary to secure competitive education;" and there will be private
investments there.

"The Minister [of Science and Education] shows his contemptuous
and discriminative attitude towards Armenian schools, because he is
planning to direct the investments towards foreign language and not
Armenian schools," say the members of the initiative.

Members of the Writers’ Union of Armenia are also against the
initiative of reopening of foreign language schools in Armenia,
considering it to be "a delayed-action mine put in the bases of the
proper Armenian education," which may also deepen the polarization
among the public, because not everybody will have an opportunity to
study in those ‘elite’ schools.

Khosrov Harutyunyan, a member of the Public Council and former Prime
Minister, is a supporter of foreign language schools reopening,
and he is sure that there is a need of such schools in Armenia.

"This way or that, polarization already exists, and it has quite
different reasons," Harutyunyan says. "It is not right to say it is
only us and our mountains and our language, and that’s it. We can’t
go far limiting ourselves only to our language. It is necessary to
be competitive in the world, and competitive education is needed to
achieve it."