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09YEREVAN222 2009-03-27 12:41:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Yerevan
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1. Summary: The Government of Armenia has announced the opening of
150 high schools by the end of 2011. This new development is an
incremental expansion of a 2008-09 pilot program which aims to
improve educational quality and create a 12-year educational system
roughly modeled on the U.S. experience. While the expansion of the
pilot program is a positive step, the Ministry of Education and
Science (MOES) faces several implementation challenges, including
displacement of teachers and students, curriculum concerns, teacher
recruitment and retention, and a potentially negative impact on
rural students. End summary.


50 schools at a time


2. In a recent press conference, RA Minister of Education and
Science Spartak Seyranian announced the opening of 150 high schools
by the end of 2011. The schools are the latest development in a
process that began in 2006 to turn the 10-year Armenian school
system into a 12-year program aimed at improving the quality and
efficiency of secondary education and offering additional academic
support to students. A year ago the GOAM approved a "Strategy Paper
on the Creation of a High School System" and announced a pilot
program of 10 senior high schools in Yerevan and in the regions of
Shirak, Gegharkunik and Aragatsotn. The GOAM allocated 8.6 million
dollars to reform the schools and develop a new curriculum,
particularly emphasizing math, physics, natural sciences, and the

3. Based on the pilot program's initial success, largely determined
by student test scores and public response (after just half a
year!), the MOES will begin to incrementally open more high schools,
averaging 50 a year. By 2012, these 150 high schools will represent
roughly 10% of Armenia's 1,410 public school facilities. The
program is being implemented with the support of the World Bank,
which has provided funding for curriculum development, new
textbooks, teacher training, and technological support. The MOES
has agreed to renovate schools and pay for the development and
publication of selected textbooks. This month, an updated version
of the reform policy is to be submitted to the RA government for
final approval.


Going the distance for a better education


4. Seyranian has publically stressed the MOES' obligation to ensure
high educational standards. He has noted that high schools are
intended to serve as a transition from comprehensive education to
higher education, and that a 12-year curriculum aims to ensure
students gain the necessary knowledge and skills to compete at a
university level. Seyranian has also stated to the press that, "The
task of a high school is not to prepare students for entrance
examinations, but to prepare knowledgeable people capable of
ensuring the country's progress in a rapidly changing modern world."
This generally reflects GOAM emphasis on educational
competitiveness and the role that it plays in the country's economic
development, but also addresses parental concerns that the current
curriculum does not equip students with the skills and knowledge
required to continue on to higher education. (Note: many parents
hire private - and expensive - tutors to prepare their children for
entrance examinations and stories abound of students, overloaded
with assignments from their private tutoring, missing their regular
classes.) Another commonly expressed grievance is that conventional
schools fail to prepare graduates for the labor market and fail to
equip them with skills for independent living.

5. While the program has been positively covered by the press and
well received by the general public, several challenges remain. The
plan is to turn certain designated schools into four-year high
schools and distribute the students in lower grades to the
surrounding schools that will be losing their 9th and 10th graders.
The same will apply to the teachers. This is certain to create
dislocations and inconveniences for students and teachers who will
have to travel farther to their new schools. Students in rural
villages may have to travel to neighboring towns for secondary
school. Some may be unable or choose not to do so. Primary schools
receiving new students may decide for budgetary reasons to increase
teacher-student ratios rather than employ the surplus teachers. The
many educators who teach classes that span 8th and 9th grade will no
longer be able to do so. Teachers may not have the background or
training to prepare students in the new 11th and 12th grades for the
university. Finally, curriculum concerns include a potential lack
of vocational training for students who do not intend to enroll in a
university and a "too demanding" workload in which students
potentially could spend up to 36 hours in the classroom per week.

6. COMMENT: How these concerns will be addressed remains to be
seen. However, high school reforms are a positive step in meeting
MOES educational goals and speak to the GOAM's interest in improving
educational quality in Armenia. PAS continues to support the MOES
in educational endeavors, sponsoring Fulbright scholars, and working
with IREX to place Muskie alumni in advisory positions at the MOES

YEREVAN 00000222 002 OF 002

to assist with reforms.