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Opening of foreign language schools in Armenia: one question settled, ten pending

A real fight has begun for the mother tongue and for the preservation of national identity; intellectuals and ordinary Armenians have “unsheathed their swords”.

Opening of foreign-language schools in Armenia has been one of the most discussed issues of the current month. And the more prospective the permission of opening such schools becomes, the more enthusiastically its opponents sound the alarm. Since the discussions on the project of introducing amendments to the Law on Language and the Law on General Education have initiated, activists of the grouping “We are against reopening of foreign-language schools in Armenia” have gathered in front of the Parliament building to stage protest actions.

PanARMENIAN.Net - The group was created in the social networking website Facebook. Now it has over 2500 members, more people and professional associations, such as the Writers’ Union of Nagorno-Karabakh, joining them every day. Their main demand is “not to make the Armenian language the language of workers, and foreign languages - the language of science, art and intellectuals. “We are not against teaching our children foreign languages. We are not against the creation of elite schools, which would ensure high-level of education and whose graduates would become our elite. The question is what language Armenian intellectuals will speak,” said group activist Aram Apatyan at a press conference. A real struggle has now begun for the mother tongue and for the preservation of national identity. Writers, actors, ethnographers, military leaders, and ordinary Armenians have “taken up arms”. Each of them brings their arguments against opening foreign-language schools in Armenia, predicting stratification in society, weakening of national security and infringement of citizens’ right of general education.

The other part of the intelligentsia that insists on opening of foreign-language schools and thus bridging Armenia with the outer world believes that 10-15 schools cannot destroy the national identity of Armenians. “We ourselves lost it 20 years ago, when the Azeris attacked us, and we had to debase ourselves to their level to speak the same language with them - the language of blood. And for two decades since then we have been unable to regain the former level,” considers architect Levon Igityan. As for the problem of the Armenian language, literature and history, in the opinion of the architect, if a person is eager to learn, nothing will prevent him.

“However, there are other problems that trouble me more than opening of foreign-language schools: Armenians are losing their national values. There is no respect for the old, and during rallies organized near the Matenadaran, young people dirty the statue of Mesrop Mashtots. And the trouble is that none of the adults reprimand the 17-19-year-old youngster, who has climbed the statue,” Igityan notices.

However, there are parties in the National Assembly that oppose the opening of foreign-language schools in Armenia. It is not hard to guess that in the first place is the ARF Dashnaktsutyun. In the form in which the bill now is, it has been opposed by the Heritage Party, the party “Prosperous Armenia” and some members of the Republican Party of Armenia.

On June 9, during the discussion of the bill in the National Assembly, these MPs insisted that in case of opening of these schools, pupils should study in foreign schools beginning with the 7th form only, on condition that the Armenian History, Armenian Language and Literature, and Ecclesiology be taught in the native language.

“The current situation with the schools is more like facelift of a building, whose foundation is breaking,” says actor Narek Duryan.

The opposing parties have yet come to a common denominator in only a few issues. Uncertain people are much more in number. The Ministry of Education is inclined to open foreign-language schools, while opponents promise “to combat the growing aggression so that to prevent it”.

Mane Amirjanyan / PanARMENIAN News
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