September Start: New Academic Year sees increased number of first-graders, decrease in total number of pupils

Schools across Armenia on Monday opened doors to an estimated 36,700 first-formers, which is an increase by more than 3,600 compared to last year’s September 1 (33,037).

While officials say complete statistics will be available by September 15, it is clear that in contrast to the increase in the number of first-formers, the total number of schoolchildren in Armenia is steadily on the decrease. A total of 430,565 pupils will attend school in the 2008/2009 academic year in Armenia (compared to 457,561 in 2007, 458,561 in 2006 and 471,316 in 2005).

Beginning this academic year pupils in schools will be evaluated on a new 10-point scale, which will replace the 5-point score system inherited from the Soviet times. Head of the General Education Division of the Ministry of Education Narine Hovhannisyan says the new score system also brings with itself methodological changes that in particular will no longer allow teachers to discipline children with an unsatisfactory mark as was the practice before.

Ten experimental senior schools will begin functioning this year where pupils who graduated from the ninth form and prepare to apply to higher schools in the future can receive education they prefer for two years. Beginning next [academic] year, senior school will become available for three years and in total general secondary education will become 12-year-long. The aim of the experience is to provide pupils with an opportunity to prepare for entrance examinations to higher schools in secondary schools proper and not by hiring private coaches, as has been the practice so far.

Hovhannisian says the number of senior schools will increase as they prove their efficiency and become more trusted by the public.

On the occasion of approaching September 1, Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan said during the government meeting last Thursday that society in Armenia still fails to appreciate the value of knowledge and that much depends on the government in changing this mindset.

“Not studying today must be regarded as a phenomenon tantamount to national betrayal, because by not learning we squander our national potential, destroy our nation’s future,” the premier said.

He also considered unacceptable transferring “political passions” to school and higher educational establishments and conducting “political propaganda” in class.

“We should not allow teachers and lecturers to use their class hours for political propaganda instead of giving lecturers and organizing the educational process,” Sargsyan said.

The prime minister instructed the minister of science and education and local executive authorities to ensure a proper application of relevant provisions of the education legislation, to include these provisions in labor contracts and dissolve contracts with those breaching these provisions. “The lecturers and teachers that will try to break these rules will be immediately dismissed from their jobs,” Sargsyan warned.