Armenian Parliament Passes Foreign-Language School Bill

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The Armenian government pushed through parliament on Thursday its controversial legal amendments allowing the existence of foreign-language schools in the country.

The National Assembly adopted them in the first reading by 71 votes to 13, with one abstention, amid continuing protests staged outside the parliament building by the most vocal opponents of the measure.

A leader of the assembly’s pro-government majority indicated that the authorities will not rush to have the bill adopted in the second and final reading and are ready to make additional changes in it.

Galust Sahakian, a senior deputy from the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that the final parliamentary debates on the issue will not take place before this autumn. The government and parliament majority are ready to consider “new proposals” from all “interested parties,” he said.

“The key thing is not to harm our native language and the linguistic mentality of Armenian children but at the same time to make sure we can integrate into the world’s educational systems,” said Sahakian.

The government has already twice watered down the amendments to Armenian laws on public education and language in the face of fierce criticism from opposition groups, prominent intellectuals and other public figures who regard them as a serious threat to Armenia’s sole official language.

The current version of the bill allows only two full-fledged foreign-language schools in the country. They must be privately owned and located in two resort towns.

Despite these and other restrictions, the parliament’s two opposition factions representing the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and the Heritage Party voted against the bill. Their representatives stood by their demands that the government make no changes in the language.

They insisted that a limited number of foreign-language schools can operate in Armenia even without such changes. The ARF’s Artsvik Minasian said the language law, which upholds Armenian’s dominant status, must be kept intact for national security considerations.

Sahakian hinted that the government might accept such a compromise solution.

Meanwhile, about 100 people demonstrating outside the parliament building reacted furiously to the vote results, chanting “71 traitors!” and “Anti-National Assembly!” “They are now touching the Armenian language,” cried one woman. “This is the end of the Armenian nation.”

“We will continue to fight against these ignorant people,” said another protester. “They only think about business.”

Armen Hovannisian, a leader of a broad-based pressure group that organized the protest, brushed aside the changes made in the legislative package and vowed to continue to campaign against it. “They will feel the growing power of civil resistance on their skin every day,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service, referring to the authorities. “We are going to unite all sound forces of the society, regardless of their political views.”

“In Armenia, education for Armenians must be only in Armenian,” he added.

The protesters booed and jeered pro-government lawmakers that voted for the bill as the latter came out of the building moments later. They also confronted two opposition deputies that showed up too late for the parliament vote.

“You can be late if your vote doesn’t decide anything,” one of the deputies, Vartan Khachatrian, told the crowd.

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11 Comments

  1. Arman said:

    Ես չեմ տեսնում Հայ մնալու նպատակը: Պայքարը նպատակ չունի այլևս: Հայ մնալը նպատակ չունի այլևս: Հայաստան ունենալը նպատակ չունի այլևս: Ես վերջնական հույսըս կտրեցի Հայաստանից և ՀՅԴ-ից: Խիստ հիասթափված եմ ՀՅԴ-ից, չէի սպասում սրան: Թող Աստված պահպանի այս ազգի:

    • areg minasyan said:

      Arman,
      Stay strong like our mountains. Armenians will overcome this one also.

  2. Ruby said:

    I wonder if there are countries who have schools like that and if there is please let us know.

    Why would they open schools like that for only a small number of students why don’t they try to upgrade the existing schools and add the foreign language courses in the same Armenian Schools?

  3. Ghazaros said:

    Today, many Diasporans no longer speak Armenian, having assimilated into their mainstream societies. Those who still speak it and/or taught their offspring to speak it made a concerted effort to do so. It did not simply happen by chance. It is no secret that the Western Armenian runs the risk of extinction.

    It is with great sadness in America that I’ve observed newer arrivals from Armenia speak to their offspring exclusively in English. Any host culture’s language will be omnipresent in that society and can easily be learned and spoken. Can the same be said of a mother tongue from a foreign land that is shrinking in size by the decade? With the introduction of foreign language schools in Armenia, will the disappearance of Eastern Armenian and the cultural values that accompany a language follow suit? It is ALSO no secret that Western based initiatives operating in/servicing Armenia teach Armenian youth to abandon their so-called backwater culture to follow a Western model that is presented as more sophisticated.

    How many more native Armenian graduate students do I have to encounter who, through entrepreneurial programs abroad (such as Soros), returned to Armenia to open restaurant-casinos with back rooms reserved for prostitution and who proudly crow that they’ve become success stories by embracing Western values? If the powers that be wish to continue weakening and threatening the very existence of Armenia, they could not have found a better way to do it than to introduce foreign language schools.

  4. manooshag said:

    Hye, in diaspora we also have families who speak Armenian at home (English outside of home), attend the Armenian church, also have the children attending Armenian classes on Saturdays… and even have many Armenian Day Schools. Also, Armenian camping in the summers. But yet, if there is a lack of knowledge the Armenian language, there is the Internet, which still connects those of Armenian heritage and also have an interest in Hai Tad (Armenian Cause). I know of some who are 1/2 Armenian, cannot speak Armenian, are activists – at times more dedicated than full fledged Armenians… So, don’t jump to conclusions… the Internet brings so many many more of the dedicated to Hai Tad.- the world over!
    Also, are all the countries of Europe, France, Spain, Germany, Bulgaria, Romania, are all these nations
    intent in unlearning their ‘mother tongue’?? It makes sense to learn many languages, even the Turkish language (Turks are learning Armenian now). It does not make sense to UNlearn our ‘mother tongue’!
    That is absolutely unArmenian!! Here in the USA we all learn English, and if we choose, so many other languages, including Chinese, but knowing the English – the mother tongue…Manooshag

  5. areg minasyan said:

    Shame on the traitor Serzh Sargsyan.. He is behind all this mess. The Armenians should ask for his resignation.

  6. Vacheh said:

    Dear Arman,

    Even though this event is sad and against our traditional views, it is now done and you and I cannot change it. The oligarchs and their appointed members of parliament can pass any law that they wish these days. It appears that there is no one to stop them. These incompetent people instead of focusing on defense related issues (e.g. Azeri forces attacked us a week ago), are waisting the country’s budget on such issues which are backward and harmful.

    Our nation has many serious external and internal problems on its shoulder to solve, which we should not allow these bustards to discourage or derail us. We will push forward and when the time and circumstances are right, our hard working people will sweep these “davajans” aside and open the door for the progress of our country and values.

    For the time being let us make a negative note in our books on their behalf as what they did, until we get back to them at the right time and at the right place. They will be treated in the same manner that Vahe Ihsan and Hamayak Aramiants were treated.

  7. «Մենք դեմ ենք օտարալեզու դպրոցների վերաբացմանը» նախաձեռնող խումբ said:

    ՀՀ Ազգային Ժողովը 2010 թ. հունիսի 24-ին առաջին ընթերցմամբ քվեարկեց «Լեզվի մասին» և «Հանրակրթության մասին» օրենքներում փոփոխությունների`
    Կառավարության ազգադավ նախագծի օգտին` 71 կողմ, 13 դեմ և 1 ձեռնպահ հարաբերակցությամբ: Սա կատարվեց Սուրբ թարգմանիչներ Սահակի և Մեսրոպի տոնի օրը Անկախության հռչակագիրընդունած դահլիճում: Այս կապակցությամբ «Մենք դեմ ենք օտարալեզու դպրոցների վերաբացմանը» քաղաքացիական շարժումը`

    ա. վերահաստատում է իր սկզբունքները և վճռականությունը` կանխելու ապազգային և հակասահմանադրական ձեռնարկումները,

    բ. հայտարարում է պայքարի նոր փուլ թևակոխելու մասին,

    գ. առաջիկա համաժողովի ընթացքում, որի մասին կհայտարարվի լրացուցիչ, կընդունի համազգային կոչ, և կներկայացնի հետագա գործողությունները,

    դ. կոչ է անում բոլոր ուժերին և շահագրգիռ անհատներին եռանդով միանալ մեր աշխատանքներին` ընդհանուր մոտեցումների ձևավորմանը մասնակից լինելու լայն հնարավորությամբ:

    Խնդրում ենք փոխանցել մեզ ձեր առաջարկները և շարժմանը մասնակցելու ձեր նախընտրելի ձևաչափը:

    «Մենք դեմ ենք օտարալեզու դպրոցների վերաբացմանը» նախաձեռնող խումբ
    հեռ. 099 24 44 92, 091 20 82 69
    էլ-փոստ. info@nochangeinlanguagelaw.org
    կայքեր. http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/group.php?gid=112426852127161&ref=ts
    http://www.nochangeinlanguagelaw.org

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