Western Armenian Summer Education Workshop: The Next Steps

Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation brought together 41 educators and creators in Western Armenian from 9 countries
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation brought together 41 educators and creators in Western Armenian from 9 countries

Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation brought together 41 educators and creators in Western Armenian from 9 countries

SINTRA, Portugal—The Armenian Communities Department of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation brought together 41 educators and creators in Western Armenian from 9 countries, to collectively develop learning tools for language acquisition. The workshop took place in Portugal during the week of July 9-17, 2016.

The group was composed of educators, academics, writers, musicians, artists, actors and IT specialists. The participants were divided into seven groups. Each group worked on finding tangible solutions for specific challenges related to the revitalization of Western Armenian. As a result, seven initiatives were undertaken which will directly contribute to learning Western Armenian through modern and innovative means.

The initiatives are:

1) The organization of a summer academic program of continuous education for teachers, combined with a summer camp for students, which would take place once a year.  Learning from each other, students and educators will together develop best practices for Armenian language acquisition. These practices will then be shared widely.

2) The development of tools and curricula for formal and informal settings which focus on contemporary reading and writing methodologies adapted to Western Armenian.

3) The organization of a forum for principals and education leaders, where topics such as school culture, curriculum reform and other related issues would be discussed and best practices shared.

4) The creation and adaptation of games for both children and young adults connected to social media platforms, which would enhance language acquisition and practice.

5) The production of music that connects song and language. This would include the creation of new songs, re-recording of existing songs and other musical genres of learning.

6) The publication of a series of translations of children’s books into Western Armenian from the following languages: English, French, Portuguese, Arabic, German, Japanese, Chinese, Dutch, Hebrew, Persian, Italian, Polish and Swedish. The books would be for several age groups. The goal is to release 60 titles in three years.

7) The set-up of a web-portal through which the above-mentioned information and tools will be shared and communicated, connecting stakeholders around the diaspora with one another.

These projects will be developed and implemented by the participants of the Summer Education Workshop and other invited experts.

In addition to developing the above mentioned specific initiatives, the week-long intensive workshop produced a remarkable group dynamic. Creativity and practical outputs went hand in hand. “What an achievement!” commented one of the participants during the concluding session, referring to the excitement generated. It was wonderful to see how a geographically and generationally diverse group of men and women, with different expertise and approaches, worked – and committed to continue to work – together for the revitalization of Western Armenian.

During the next several months, each of these seven initiatives will be developed further. “The Armenian Communities Department is keen to support such initiatives,” announced its Director, Razmik Panossian. He added: “This workshop has the potential to have a real impact over the next several years on the way Western Armenian is taught and acquired, thanks to its participants and the outputs they will deliver.”

The Summer Education Workshop was organized and coordinated by Ani Garmiryan, the Department’s Senior Officer responsible for Western Armenian revitalization projects, with the support of Ani Koulian. The workshop participants were:  France: Hasmig Chahinian, Anaid Donabedian, Meline Gazarian, Jirair Jolakian, Chouchane Kerovpyan, Maral Kerovpyan, Sose Manakian, Anouche Mekhsian, Dzovinar Mikirditsian, Anahid Sarkissian. Belgium: Janet Avanesian, Shogher Margosian. Greece: Maral Kurkjian. Portugal: Vahan Kerovpyan. Lebanon: Anke al-Bataineh, Shant Demirjian, Nelly Komolian,Taline Ordoghlian, Hagop Yacoubian. Turkey: Natali Bagdat, Sevan Degirmenciyan, Kayane Gavrilof, Maral Hergel, Arusyak Koc, Narod Kurugoglu, Maral Satar. USA: Chris Bedian, Vahe Berberian, Hagop Gulludjian, Amy Hughes, Shoushan Karapetian, Silva Mesrobian, Serouj Ourishian, Sanan Shirinian. Canada: Lory Abrakian, Hasmig Injejikian, Sonia Kiledjian. Armenia: Christian Batikian, Nairi Khatchadourian, Gevorg Palanjyan, Sevana Tchakerian.

This initiative is part of the Armenian Communities Department’s ongoing work on the revitalization of Western Armenian, emerging out of the September 2015 Conference “Innovation in Education: Challenges of Teaching Western Armenian in the 21st Century,” which was supported and held at INALCO in Paris.

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