Opposition Grows Against Bill Allowing Foreign-Language Schools in Armenia

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–A council of prominent political and public figures advising President Serzh Sarkisian joined opposition critics on Wednesday in rejecting a government bill that would allow the existence of schools in Armenia where the main language of instruction is foreign.

Vazgen Manukian, the chairman of the Public Council, said the presidential body has formally submitted a unanimous and highly negative assessment of the bill to Sarkisian and hopes that it will be withdrawn from the Armenian parliament.

Shortly after coming to power in 1990, Armenia’s first post-Communist government, in which Manukian had served as prime minister, had ensured the supremacy of the Armenian language in the national education system. A law on education adopted at the time stipulates that only members of ethnic minorities and foreign citizens could study in schools where the main subjects are taught in foreign languages.

The Armenian government approved last month a set of draft amendments to the law eliminating the ban. The move sparked a storm of criticism from opposition politicians, media and public figures, including those loyal to the Sarkisian administration. They believe it endangers Armenian’s constitutional status as the country’s sole official language.

According to Manukian, the proposed amendments “do not correspond to our national and state interests.” He said the Armenian Ministry of Science and Education drafted them in response to the Presidential Council’s recent calls for the establishment of independent commissions that would suggest ways of boosting declining educational standards. “We tried to take a step forward but got a step towards an abyss,” he told a news conference.

“During all those centuries when the Armenians had no state … our intellectuals and public were bound together by two ideas: an independent state and the national school,” argued Manukian. “And for our enemies, the first target of their attacks was always the national school.”

The former opposition politician rejected as an “absolute lie” government officials’ claims that foreign-language schools would improve the quality of education in Armenia. The government should “find a different way of solving the problem,” he said.

Manukian further argued that young Armenians already study at least two foreign languages in school and can enroll in American, French and Russian-language universities operating in the country.

The two opposition parties represented in parliament, Heritage and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, have made clear they are against the controversial bill. Some members of the parliament’s pro-government majority have also expressed concern.

Education Minister Armen Ashotian assured critics last week that non-linguistic subjects would be taught in foreign languages only in private schools. The draft amendments are rather ambiguous on that score, however.

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15 Comments

  1. Seervart K-Kerbeykian said:

    I strongly oppose this amendment and I am with the Heritage party as well as the Armenian Revolutionary Federation who are also against this controversial bill. From what I have heard from various reliable sources that already a great many younger generation of Armenians in our Republic, constantly speak in the Russian language. The useage of our own rich Armenian language is our culture and the most important element of survival and anti-assymilation. If our younger generation of Armenians will not make a habit of practicing our wonderful and rich Armenian language in Armenia, who will?

  2. Arman said:

    This is unacceptable, why should the Armenian government finance foreign language schools? Why an Armenian student should study math in French, for example? In schools students should study subjects in their mother language, Armenian. The language is the identity and the keeper of the nation. Thousands of years our church has kept our language which helped us to remain as Armenians. There is no country in the world that finances foreign schools to teach its nationals math or whatever subject in other language. There are private schools or specialized universities for it. Why Armenian student should learn history in Turkish for example? Is this acceptable for us? I don’t think so. Language is thinking. What language you use mostly, you think in that language. This move from the government is another spank to our nation, and this time they strike to our roots.

  3. Bobken Safarian said:

    linguistic, cultural invasion. Those are the schemes of globalization which wants destroy national boundaries. We should resist those Ideas. The question is how. Corporations with financial powers invade nations. They have financial means amd convince the nations that the best way is to give your national identity and joint htem in order to have better standard of living. United states is the pioneer of that Idea. I do not believe eauropean nations have the same Idea. United States is a meltng pot and tries to turn the whole world into melting pot. Eauropeans do not subscribe to the same cultual goals. Therefore US school should not be allowed to operate in Armenia.

  4. Araxi said:

    THEY HAVE TAKEN AWAY EVERYTHING FROM THE POOR ARMENIAN PEOPLE, NOW THEY WANT TO TAKE AWAY THEIR MOTHER TONGUE. SHAME ON THE PRESIDENT OF ARMENIA FOR ALLOWING THIS TO BE TABLED IN PARLIAMENT. ONE WONDERS IF OUR PARLIAMENTARIANS ARE ‘FOR’ OR ‘AGAINST’ THE ARMENIAN NATION AND ARMENIANNESS ON THE WHOLE.
    ashotyan IS NOT AN ARMENIAN. IN HIS INTERVIEW HE SAID, “What if in ten years there is a change in government and all the schools in Armenia follow the path of what we are trying to suggest now? What will you do then?” These words clearly show that he is in the forefront of a greater agenda in Armenia. His and his financiers are already working towards an Armenia without Armenians. They only want to see Armenian speaking aliens (OTAR) like himself, who pretend to be Armenians and have Armenian names.
    What does ARF have to say about this? We have not heard anything from them yet? WHAT’S GOING ON.

  5. Haro Mherian, PhD Mathematics/HySpell said:

    Thanks Araxi, I was wondering the same about ARF. I did put these videos on Ara Babyan’s article in the Armenian section, but Asbarez have removed the entire article. Yes, ARF, what is going on? Do you want us Armenians to remain in Diaspora forever, so that you can have control over us?
    This is insane, I am an Armenian, I hate English, and I am writing in Eglish in this comment.
    Ամօթ է ամօթ… Ի՞նչին էք սպասում դեռ, Ուղղագրիչը ստեղծուած է, այսօր հայերէն լեզուն թուայնացման առաջին մակարդակի լեզու է դարձել շնորհիւ իմ երկու տարուայ ջանքերին։ Ոչինչ չենք լսում ՀՅԴ–ից։ Ոչ ոք չզանգեց ինձ մինչեւ այսօր…

  6. john papazian said:

    With Armenians living all over the world,learning english for example,would be a good idea or at least the proper use of grammer.

  7. Nairian said:

    Araxi, It is mentioned above that both the Heritage party and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, have made clear they are against the controversial bill. It looks as though ever since and beyond the destructive protocols, the only sane party that is on guard for our nation and Artsakh’s sovereignty and the rights of our people in our homeland is the A.R.F.

  8. Aram Apatyan said:

    Լեզվի մասին ՀՀ օրենքում ոչ հայալեզու դասավանդմամբ դպրոցների ստեղծումը թույլատրող փոփոխություն կատարելու դրդապատճառներից մեկը «Տրոյկա Դիալոգ» ընկերության Խորհրդի տնօրեն Ռուբեն Վարդանյանի նախաձեռնած եւ կառավարության հովանավորությունը վայելող «Դիլիջան» միջազգային դպրոցի (dilijanschool.org) ստեղծման ծրագիրն է, ըստ որի դասավանդումն այդ դպրոցում պետք է ընթանա անգլերեն: http://www.nochangeinlanguagelaw.org կայքում-ում տեղադրված նամակը հասցեագրված է դպրոցի հոգաբարձուների խորհրդի անդամներին եւ կոչ է անում դասավանդման լեզուն փոխարինել հայերենով: Կողմ լինելու դեպքում խնդրում ենք Ձեր անունը եւ մասնագիտությունը ավելացնել նամակի մեկնաբանությունում (Comment), սեղմել Preview, իսկ հետո Save ստեղները: Շնորհակալություն:

  9. Haro Mherian, PhD Mathematics/HySpell said:

    John Papazian, nobody is claiming that learning English, French or even Chinese is not useful. We are simply saying, with the elimination of mother tongue in elementary and secondary schools, we will have a generation of Armenians that will predictively be illiterate. What does it mean to say, I know three languages and cannot speak either of these three perfectly. That is indeed the situation in most children of Diaspora. I suffered from this syndrome, until I took volumes of Jules Verne books in Armenian and reread the whole literature in Armenian. Then I started reading only Armenian literature for almost 25 years, so that I can close the damage that was the direct result of the European narrow minded education system that the current government of Armenia wants us to put in.
    Besides, the mother tongue is an element of security of a nation, and we have no right not to strengthen that aspect not only in Armenia proper, but also and more importantly in Diaspora.
    Today Diaspora is disintegrated into several pieces based on the hosting countries’ language and culture. What if all Armenians around the globe spoke and wrote in Armenian besides their hosting countries’ language. Such a communication will strength our unity ten-fold, so much so, that you will then claim that learning and writing Armenian is not only a good idea, rather a great idea. One good result of such an idea would be that I won’t be writing this comment in English to communicate my ideas with my fellow Armenians.

  10. Christo said:

    What difference does it make, they can’t even speak proper Armenian. Serjik’s daughter got his PhD. in philosophy by paying the current dean of the “institute”. The previous dean of the school of philosophy moved to Hollywood a year ago because he didn’t want to fulfill her dad’s demands. Who care’s as long as you buy you buy them their bimmer or MB that’s what they care about!!!!!!

  11. MihranK said:

    With Serzh and his Republican party in power everything is up for sale with these bunch of crooks, even our mother tongue.

  12. Arman said:

    @ John Papazian

    Learning English is a good idea but you are missing the point in here. No one says that English classes should not be in schools but what we say is that our children should learn subjects in their mother tongue. Plus why Armenian tax payer should finance foreign language schools? Does USA finance Armenian schools? No, those are private.

    Չգիտեմ ինչ ասեմ, ցավալի է տեսնել այս ամենը: Ցավալի է տեսնել որ սփուրքում տիրում է լռություն այս թէմայի վերաբերյալ: Երևի խնդիրը նրանում է որ մեծամասնությունը Հայերենին լավ չեն տիրապետում և այս հարցը նրանց համար երրորդական է: Համենայնդեպս ես կարծում եմ որ այս հարցը շատ կարևոր է: Այսօր ես թուրքերից ավելի քիչ վտանգ եմ զգում քանս թէ այս ձերնարկից: Սա կոչվում է սպիտակ ցեղասպանություն: Համատարած գաղթ, հիմա ել վտանգվում է Հայերենը: Ինչ՞ կցանկանային թուրքերը սրանից ավել: Մի քանի տարի ել սպասեն Հայաստանը առանց կռվի կվերցնեն:

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