Controversy Rages re Foreign Language Schools

The issue of foreign language schools opening up in Armenia is getting hot,writes Rouben Galichian from Yerevan. Such schools would teach their entire curriculum in a non-Armenian language. A bill to authorise this development has been submitted to parliament. Examples of the passion that have arisen and its controversial nature follow at the end of this email.

The issue of foreign language schools opening up in Armenia is getting hot,writes Rouben Galichian from Yerevan. Such schools would teach their entire curriculum in a non-Armenian language. A bill to authorise this development has been submitted to parliament. Examples of the passion that have arisen and its controversial nature follow at the end of this email.
In Armenia the population thinks that Diaspora does not show any concern and is very passive in this matter. All those who share these concerns need to move and move quickly. It is suggested that all organisation and private individuals in the UK as well as worldwide write to the Minister of Diaspora and the Prime Minster expressing their concern over this matter.

The following draft can be used as a guideline:

Open Letter to the Ministry of Diaspora and the Government of Armenia

The Diaspora Armenians are worried about the recent developments regarding the establishment of foreign language schools in Armenia, where all the subjects will be taught in a foreign language.

This contradicts with the Article 12 of the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, which says that the official language of the country is Armenian. Yet the Minster of Education and Science has the audacity to propose this anti-constitutional step and yet no one in the ruling party seems to oppose it.

During the Soviet rule, Armenia managed to maintain the official status of the Armenian language but the independent Republic of Armenia seems not to care about this most important element of maintaining national tradition and culture.

Many Armenians, who during the Soviet era studied in the Russian schools, lack the basic knowledge of Armenian culture and still carry on speaking Russian. Continuation of this trend is the Russian language broadcast programs that fill a large portion of supposedly Armenian television programs.

We fully appreciate the importance of good knowledge of Russian language in Armenia but by the same token, it is also important for all Armenians to speak another European language as well. Do we want to limit our overseas contacts to the former CIS countries only? Do we want another political union detrimental to our identity?

Armenia has established the Ministry of Diaspora, whose sole aim is to promote and improve the relationship amongst Armenia and the Diaspora communities. This proposal will further draw these two sections of Armenians apart, by weakening the most important link, the Armenian language.

We, the Diaspora Armenians condemn this proposal and see it as a step towards creating a rift amongst our communities and more importantly,
beginning of the alienation of the people of Armenia from their own culture.

(name of organisation, city, country)  June 2010.

Recent Articles in the Armenian Press

Language is a Matter of Security: Arkady Karapetyan

One of the reasons of the uprising in Karabakh was that the Armenians wanted to speak and to listen to Armenian in their daily life, said former commander of Karabakh’s self-defense forces Arkady Karapetyan, who has also joined We are Against Opening the Foreign-Language Schools initiative.

“It can be said that one of the reasons of initiating the movement in Karabakh was that we wanted to speak Armenian, to listen to Armenian, we wanted the radio to be in Armenian, the TV to be in Armenian, that there was an Armenian culture, and there is no culture without language,” Karapetyan told a press conference today.

What worries the former commander is the re-opening of foreign-language schools as he is sure that the language is directly linked to a country’s national security.

“It is a big problem in our army, for example. In what language will the orders be given and done. That is to say, if half of the army does not speak Armenian, and the other half does not speak Russian, then how will they fight, how they will understand each other?” said Karapetyan.

According to him the draft on foreign-language schools will have very bad consequences, should it be adopted.

“Whether it is done on purpose or not, it is wrong, and a mistake should be corrected,” said Karapetyan.

Armenia Ends There, Where Armenian is Not Spoken: Khzmalyan

Armenia ends there, where the Armenian language is not spoken, Armenian film director Tigran Khzmalyan told as he participated in a protest organized "We are Against the Opening of Foreign-Language Schools" near the Government Building today.

The parliament is set to discuss today a government-backed draft included already in the parliament agenda. If approved, it will pave the way for the re-opening of foreign-language schools.

"I think that the authorities are trying to deprive us of our freedoms and independence step by step, of course without a good will. [With that step] they are paying with our future, our dignity and with independence in this case, as Armenia is there, where Armenian is not spoken. The Armenians may live in other countries, due to the rise and falls of our history, and it creates a unique safety, may be that is worth speaking about, but Armenia ends there, where Armenian is not spoken," said Khzmalyan.

"That is to say, this is an encroachment on anything that was fought for, for what our boys sacrificed their lives, for what we were dreaming of in ’88. We consider this as a betrayal in face of the nation," said he, adding that they will not allow this to be implemented.

Activists Protest Against Re-Opening Foreign-Language Schools

"We are Against the Opening of Foreign-Language Schools" civil initiative held a rally this morning in front of the sessions hall in the Government Building as the National Assembly was preparing for its last four-day session of this season when it will among other issues discuss also the government-backed draft to make amendments to the "Law about Public Education."

If approved that bill will make it possible the re-opening of foreign-language schools in Armenia.

Earlier on Friday NA Standing Committee on Science, Education, Culture,
Youth and Sport had given its consent to include it in this coming parliamentary four-day agenda.

The protesters held posters that read "Language is Not Property Instead of Debt," "In Favor? Then Get Out of Here," "We Require Ashotyan’s Resignation," "Only Armenian Can Compete with Armenian."

Later they handed the package of their proposals to MPs as they were entering the session hall. Some even welcomed the MPs with exclamations.

Interestingly, the police did not hinder the protesters’ actions but rather urged on them to keep the hall entry free.

The organizers, in turn, distributed to the MPs their 4-point requirements,
including those about leaving out the draft from the parliamentary agenda, holding hearings over it, and the issue to what extent is it expedient that Armen Ashotyan remain in office as Armenia’s Minister of Education and Science.

  1. Video-clips re: Foreign-language schools
    Regarding the controversy of foreign-language schools in Armenia Harout Bronozian from Glendale. California writes:

    Please review the sites below, forward it to others and take action. You can contact the Armenian Consul and Ambassador in the USA and express your opinion. Orinakidse Medav AJ Kennargman. 2 min 17 sec. Tsouits Odaralezoo tebrotsneri Massin. 1 min 59 sec. Agtsianere sharoonagvoom en. 1 min 12 sec. Hamajoghov. "Menk tem enk odaralezoo tebrotsneri verapatsmane". 1 hr 2 min.

  2. Need for a common international language

    I see that President Obama wants everyone to learn another language, however which one should it be?

    The British learn French, the Australians study Japanese, and the Americans prefer Spanish. Yet this leaves Russian, Mandarin Chinese and Arabic, out of the equation.

    It is time to move forward and discuss the subject of a common international language, taught worldwide, in all schools and in all nations.  As a native English speaker, my vote is for Esperanto.

    Click here for more information from Google.

    Click here for a glimpse of Esperanto.

  3. Language loss

    Today, many Diasporans no longer speak Armenian, having assimilated into their mainstream societies. Those who still speak it and/or taught their offspring to speak it made a concerted effort to do so. It did not simply happen by chance. It is no secret that the Western  Armenian  runs the risk of extinction.

    It is with great sadness in America that I’ve observed newer arrivals from Armenia speak to their offspring exclusively in English. Any host culture’s language will be omnipresent in that society and can easily be learned and spoken. Can the same be said of a mother tongue from a foreign land that is shrinking in size by the decade? With the introduction of foreign language schools in Armenia, will the disappearance of  Eastern Armenian and the cultural values that accompany a language follow suit? It is ALSO no secret that Western based initiatives operating in/servicing Armenia teach Armenian youth to abandon their so-called backwater culture to follow a Western model that is presented as more sophisticated.

    How many more native Armenian graduate students do I have to encounter who, through entrepreneurial programs abroad (such as Soros), returned to Armenia to open restaurant-casinos with back rooms reserved for prostitution and who proudly crow that they’ve become success stories by embracing Western values? If the powers that be wish to continue weakening and threatening the very existence of Armenia, they could not have found a better way to do it than to introduce foreign language schools.

  4. Foreign Language Schools: Lebanon as an Example

    I am not sure what is the state of education in Lebanon nowadays. I left Lebanon in 1976. Up to that time, if a Lebanese wanted to study a profession such as medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, engineering then he or she had to attend one of the foreign institutions of higher learning, either the American University of Beirut in English or St. Joseph University in French. In order to be able to study int hese universities, the student naturally had to have studied English or French. Historically up to that point Lebanon was famed for its foreign schools and institutions of higher learning. However, during those decades, I cannot say that the Lebanese Arabic culture was in its dark ages or the survival of the Arabic language in Lebanon was at stake.

    I am inclined not to believe that the present law permitting foreign language schools in Armenia signifies the doom of our language. I am also not sure if these foreign schools will not offer Armenian as a language in their schools if there is demand for it. Parents will not send their children to foreign schools just for having sent them to foreign schools; nor will parents not send their children to Armenian schools knowing that the quality of education in the Armenian language schools surpasses the other schools. It will boil down to the quality of the education a school provides; it’s as simple as that, and that’s the way it should be.

    1. In Lebanon or any other country


      In Lebanon or any other country, the schools have a curriculum that all follow and in all schools the local language is obligatory.  So all students have to learn the country’s language, history, literature and more.  Even if they are private community schools, like Armenian or French.

      The names you mentioned were Universities and not Schools.  I agree that Armenia should not put a restriction on Universities, however schools, even foreign language ones should have Armenian as their 1st language.

      In USA and Canada (supposed to be bi-lingual) schools only stress on a single language – English. Armenia should not follow the same path, we need to be like Lebanon, where people learn multiple languages and have high-level of general knowledge at an early age.  So we need to introduce foreign language schools, but make Armenian mandatory in all schools as a 1st language.

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