New Minister Alarmed by Declining Education Standards

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The newly appointed Education Minister Levon Mkrtchian pledged on Tuesday to embark on a sweeping reform of Armenia’s education sector to reverse what he described as an alarming post-Soviet decline in education standards.

"There is a clear decline in our education sector," admitted Mkrtchian. "Armenia is gradually losing its high level of education. We used to compare ourselves with European countries but are now being compared to Central Asia."

"If we continue to move down this path–I am sure that we will lose the remaining quality of our education system," he said.

Mkrtchian–who had already served as education minister in 1998-1999 and 2001-2003–acknowledged that he has also been responsible for the ongoing erosion of that quality. It is widely attributed to a lack of government funds channeled into education as well as the resulting lack of motivation among schoolteachers and university professors. Bribery and nepotism is also seen as a serious problem facing the sector.

Government officials have said that Armenia’s ongoing transition to 12-year primary and secondary schooling–supported by Western donors–will help to reverse this trend. But according to Mkrtchian–that reform alone will not improve the situation unless it is accompanied by a "radical revision" of school curricula.

The minister–who is a leading member of the governing Armenian Revolutionary Federation–also pledged to crack down on dozens of private universities where education standards leave much to be desired.

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