Education Concerns: New minister wants high schools to become excellence centers

The newly appointed Minister of Education and Science, Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) representative Levon Mkrtchyan has already voiced on several occasions his dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs in high schools which were introduced in Armenia’s educational system a few years ago. He, in particular, has identified this area as one that needs reforms soon.

Mkrtchyan was appointed minister late last month after the ruling Republican Party of Armenia and the ARF signed an agreement on political cooperation. Mkrtchyan, who had served in the post also before, succeeded RPA minister Armen Ashotyan, who led the sphere for nearly eight years.

Mkrtchyan, under whose leadership the introduction of high schools began in Armenia in the early 2000s, says they have so far failed to fulfill their main mission. The minister’s dissatisfaction comes amid complaints of many members of the public regarding the burden that high schools put on students.

“In the educational chain, we have two links that fail to become full-fledged. One is the high school and the other is the master’s degree studies,” Mkrtchyan said last week. “Because of this people have an impression that the previously existing 10-year school education is good. But they want to return not to the 10-year education, but to quality education.”

In the minister’s view, high schools should rather become excellence centers where students, who complete primary school studies, can already think about a future career. But now, Mkrtchyan says, the burden on students in high schools cannot allow it to fulfill its mission in full.

In post-Soviet Armenia the most essential educational reform was made in 2006 when the country switched to a 12-year school education system. A three-level general education system was introduced from the 2009-2010 academic year and that brought Armenia’s education system in line with international standards.

Thus, of 1,396 state secondary educational institutions today 110 are high schools, and 41 of them are now located in Yerevan. The rest are mainly located in provincial towns and children from villages are often deprived of the opportunity to attend high schools and they go to 12-year schools in their communities.

Mkrtchyan says he has an impression, however, that some parents do not want their children to go to high schools because of high burden there. Meanwhile, he says, high schools are there to help children enter into adult life.

Minister Mkrtchyan suggested creating a committee that will discuss and compare programs of development for high schools in the republic. According to Mkrtchyan, each high school should have its own development plan and follow it.

Education expert Anahit Bakhshyan, who heads the National Institute of Education, thinks the foundation of high schools was not laid properly from the beginning.

“Levon Mkrtchyan was the author of that strategy, unfortunately the strategy was not implemented the way it was written. I think there were also omissions in the strategy and bureaucrats for whom the issue of education was not primary benefited from that,” she says.