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Citizenship Education in Armenia

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Citizenship Education in Armenia

Emil Ordukhanyan

/ 10 Minuten zu lesen

"Citizenship education is the process of "building" a citizen out of an individual, during which the individual develops the knowledge and skills necessary to participate in political and civic life. Thus, civic education is one of the educational components of a person's socialization as a full member of society", quotes the author of the article about Armenia. Emil Ordukhanyan explained the real situation of Citizenship education in the country.

Armenia (© bpb)

1. Background Information

Since independence in 1991, Armenia has faced radical changes in its education system. Even enormous resistance from the inherited regime could not stop the democratization process of schooling. In this respect, civic education has played a unique role in achieving liberal values in education. A huge army of teachers and educators has formed, working as a team to promote new pedagogical teaching and learning methods, to introduce new topics stressing the importance of freedom, human rights, active participation, leadership and the rule of law.

Many projects have been implemented during the last 25-30 years and the uniqueness of the process is that all projects have been public initiatives sponsored mainly by external sources, mostly by US and EU government and public institutions, that have influenced the whole educational system. In the nineties, a big project was initiated by Junior Achievement Armenia with the introduction of the Civic Education textbook and a course in the curriculum of secondary schools which showcased good results appropriate to that period.

Followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union, the RA Ministry of Education abandoned without replacement the previously mandated Soviet secondary school civic education course because it was imbued with communist ideology. Consequently, there was a pressing need to formulate and implement a new democratic tradition of civic education in the schools. After that, the Ministry of Education introduced a civic education course based on the demands of the society and international agencies. Problematic, however, was that few teachers had been exposed to interactive instructional techniques, which according to educational research have been proven effective for engaging students. Most teachers had been trained under the Soviet system of ''stand and lecture.''

The lack of internal means and resources for promoting citizens' awareness and the pressures from the Armenian society to integrate into the world community forced the Ministry of Education to undertake appropriate steps towards the introduction of Citizenship Education and open the opportunities for democratic teaching practices. And, the aim of teaching civic education was linked with the preparation of active, accountable, and knowledgeable citizens, committed to the fundamental values and principles of democracy.

The programme of Civic Education for Armenian Secondary Schools was developed and executed by the College of Education (University of Iowa) in collaboration with the Armenian Pedagogical Initiative. Interestingly, there was not any Armenian higher educational institution offering civic education course or training until May 2004.

In 2005, Armenia joined the Bologna education system, which in turn strengthened the development of education as an important factor in consolidating statehood. This became a new path for the Armenian education system’s improvement and modernization, in which civic education has an important role to play.

For now, Armenia has put in much effort to promote civic education in the society. During these years, educators and experts in the field have developed a curriculum framework for different levels including textbooks, instructional materials, web-resources and more, and have established civic centers throughout the country to assist teachers' classroom instruction, facilitate their collaboration with other educators, conduct discussions, and provide methodological literature. A significant amount of literature has been produced, translated, and collected; web-libraries and online courses have been created; and finally, civic centers have been established.

In Armenia, a particular emphasis is placed upon artistic education and prospects for the development of creative potential both in formal and informal types of education.

Now, the role of the state is crucial in maintaining and improving the civic education programmes in the schools and higher education institutions. In this respect, for the sake of the society's harmonious development, the importance of sustainability should encourage policy makers to follow internationally recognized and adapted principles and values.

QuellentextImportant:

The first textbook of civic education in Armenian was published in Constantinople (1911) by H. Hakobian.* It was dedicated to the following topics: fatherland, local organizations, government, freedom, society, constitution, legislative, executive and judicial institutions, etc. The publication of a textbook on civic education showcases that even in the first quarter of the 20th century Armenians were predisposed to spreading civic knowledge and education within the society.

*Hakobian, H. 1911. Civic Education. Constantinople. p. 144.

2. Definition of Citizenship Education

An official definition for civic or Citizenship Education in Armenia does not exist. However, the general definition is as follows: civic education is a system of instruction and education of individuals, the purpose of which is to transfer and improve the knowledge and skills necessary for them to live, function, develop and create in a civil society.

Citizenship Education is the process of "building" a citizen out of an individual, during which the individual develops the knowledge and skills necessary to participate in political and civic life. Thus, civic education is one of the educational components of a person's socialization as a full member of society.

3. Ecosystem of Non-formal Citizenship Education

The ecosystem of the non-formal Citizenship Education in Armenia is related to social, economic, political, and cultural actors that influence the sector by their activities and by the implementation of programmes aiming to strengthen the abilities of citizens to improve their effectivity in public life.

In this regard, foreign and local organizations and foundations carry out programmes on civic education, emphasizing the need for better understanding and deeper perception of economic, political, social and cultural knowledge.

Мany political parties in Armenia operate political schools in which common political knowledge as well as political ideas and views are transferred to attendees. For example: RPA's (The Republican Party of Armenia) "Andranik Margaryan" political school," BAP's (Bright Armenia Party) "School of Liberal Politics," etc.

NGOs are also organizing courses of political education without being themselves involved in politics. The first one in this field was the Center of Democracy and Geopolitical Studies with its non-formal education programme entitled "Regional Democracy School." The role of foreign foundations is mostly that of the funding of civic education programmes in Armenia.

For example: the Konrad Adenauer Foundation finances and implements programmes on civic and political education. In addition to the regional programme "Political Dialogue in the South Caucasus," the project "Democracy starts from you," which is financed together with the EU, is of particular importance.

In 2017, a memorandum was signed by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the RA Ministry of Education and Science on the financing and implementation of civic education programmes. One of these programmes aims to improve the subject Social Studies and raise the level of awareness of students about democracy and civil society.

Boon TV is another efficient platform for the development of social, economic and cultural aspects of civic education. It implements, promotes and supports civic education programmes with the purpose of democratically consolidating Armenian society. It is the first Armenian knowledge-oriented online TV station. Its mission is to encourage scientific and artistic achievements in the society. It presents various professional viewpoints; promotes researchers, scientists and artists; creates platforms which will contribute to the development of arts, science and education; proclaims intellect to be a social and civic value.

The Open Society Foundations-Armenia also plays an important role in civic education development. It supports the development of new courses and curricula to help national universities upgrade the content and quality of their programmes. Since 2012, the foundation has supported the development of accountability mechanisms in higher education and monitored the implementation of educational reforms across the country.

In the field of citizens' ecological education, the civic initiative "Armenian Ecological Front" plays an important role. This initiative conducts research and monitoring on environmental issues, develops and implements activities that promote the environmental consciousness of the population and it transfers knowledge on specific thematic issues.

4. Legal Environment

There are no separate norms on civic education in the RA legislation. However, in legislation, particularly in a number of laws concerning education, there are some formulations of general concepts referring indirectly to civic education. For example: Article 5 of the RA Law "On General Education” mentions the humanitarian nature of education, priority of universal values, human life and health, free and comprehensive development of an individual, fostering of civil consciousness, national dignity, patriotism, legality and environmental world outlook, etc. The same formulations can also be found in the RA Law on "Education."

Despite the fact that certain criteria for civic education are not clearly defined in the legislation of RA, nevertheless, the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports implements programmes and policies aimed at promoting civic education not only in schools, but also in universities. In this respect, a training course on the "Integrated Citizen" will be implemented in 5 higher education institutions of Armenia. The Ministry and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems developed this education programme with the support of the UN Development Programme within the component of "Political Accessibility and Inclusion." The training course aims to promote active citizenship through the use of interactive teaching methods by strengthening knowledge on democratic governance and human rights.

The development of the rule of law and civil society, as well as the education of a responsible citizen as the goal of a democratic state, can be realized only through civic education. However, currently there is no coherent concept of civic and legal education in the public school. Meanwhile, civic education policy makers and the expert community agree that civic education presupposes not only knowledge of legal norms, but also of appropriate behavior.

5. Stakeholders

Primary stakeholders of civic education are pupils and students. 8th-12th-grade pupils study the subject Social Studies in public schools. The curriculum includes the topics of ethics, environment, economy, human rights and freedoms, psychology, aesthetics, politics, sociology, and law. This subject began with the independence of Armenia when it was supported by a number of international missions, and when textbooks, such as "Hi, it's me", "The child meets the child" and others were introduced. In 2001-2002, the following subjects were inserted in the general school programme: Human Rights Education - in 8th grade, Civic Education - in 9th grade, and State and Law - in 10th grade. After reforming the secondary education system in 2006, a similar subject, Social Studies, was introduced in the 8th-12th grades, including the curriculum, textbooks and teaching aids.

In 2008, the NGO "Civitas" introduced a new education programme called "Project Citizen" which was later incorporated into the Social Studies curriculum. In addition, the subject "I and the world around me" was introduced in the lower grades 2-4, where lessons were taught on the development of democratic education (developed by the Council of Europe).

Most experts report noticing positive changes in those enrolled in civic education, such as more open communication, increased tolerance and respect of human rights. Pupils and teachers report more positive relations. This suggests that civic education meets its aims to develop skills and attitudes necessary for life in a democratic society.

6. Challenges

1. An important issue for civic education is the right personnel. The Social Studies (civic education) classes are usually taught by history teachers who are often unable to present and explain topics well. The classes in this subject - only 1 or 2 hours per week for grades 8th-12th – are insufficient. Consequently, few professionals agree to teach this subject because of the low pay. But now the Armenian State Pedagogical University has begun to train specialists of civic education – a positive trend.

2. Another issue is the lack of textbooks, didactic materials, and technically equipped classrooms that meet the new requirements. There is a need for constant updating of textbooks and manuals on the basis of new educational approaches. It is necessary to develop programmes to promote active teachers, educators and schools as well as to focus on the effective use of interactive and other student-centered methods.

3. In school, the emphasis is not on knowledge. However, the teachers' ability to innovate is limited by their commitment to follow curricula. Pupils' opportunities for self-expression and self-realization are still limited.

4. Students must be continuously informed about democratic principles and values not only for communication, but also in order to make them concrete participants of these processes.

5. There is a need to actively and effectively influence the consciousness of students in order to develop their critical thinking, their ability to have their own opinion, their ability to assess the situation and make decisions. The knowledge transferred through various educational processes should contribute, enhance, and strengthen democratic values.

6. Based on Armenia's politically and socially difficult situation, and considering the significant role that civic education can play for society's democratic development, the next step should be a focus on expanding civic education in two directions: to both the lower and higher levels of education. This is a high-priority imperative.

Weitere Inhalte

Emil Ordukhanyan, President of The Centre for Civic Education and Political Studies, PhD in Political Science, Associate Professor