Parliament again discusses foreign-language school bill amid growing uproar

Amid renewed criticism from the opposition and public circles Armenian lawmakers on Wednesday gathered again to discuss a government-drafted package of amendments to the laws ‘On the Language’ and ‘On General Education’ proposing opening a limited number of schools where the main language of instruction will be other than Armenian.

While the discussions on the bill were in progress at a special meeting, members of the pressure group, ‘We Are Against Opening Foreign-Language Schools’, were holding a protest in front of the Government session hall that temporarily hosts parliament meetings.

The government has watered down its original version of the bill and instead of the previously proposed 15 schools, now it is planned to open 11 foreign language schools, in nine of them subjects in a foreign language will be taught starting from high school (ninth grade); the other two schools will be private, they will be opened in Dilijan and Jermuk, in Tavush and Voyots Dzor provinces respectively, where subjects in a foreign language will be taught starting from the seventh grade.

Member of the opposition Heritage parliamentary faction Anahit Bakhshyan says that they are going to vote against the draft amendments to the Law on Language.

“As long as we do not have a management system corresponding to international standards, free juridical system, and freedom of speech, as long as we do not have democratic institutions [in Armenia], it would be impossible to open even two schools corresponding to international standards,” says Bakhshyan, a former school principal.

Vahan Hovhannisyan, head of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun, ARF) parliamentary faction suggests not amending the Law on Language.

“My dear Republican comrades [friends], I believe that you do not think that you will be the authorities all the time. We can never foresee which political force may come to power later, and we also cannot foresee how the hypothetical political force will use that loop-hole of the law. If no changes are made in this respect, ARF will vote against the bill,” Hovhannisyan said.

The National Assembly has postponed the discussion of the draft law until Thursday.