BY SUREN ALOYAN
The Covid-19 global pandemic, which has disrupted lives, business and economies around the world did not disrupt daily education of more than 350,000 students enrolled in public schools across Armenia.
Amid the Covid-19 disruptions to the lives, businesses, and economies of nations worldwide, the daily public education for over 350,000 public school students across Armenia did not have any disruption.
That is because as soon as Armenia went into an emergency shutdown on April 14, the EdTech platform DASARAN (www.dasaran.net) launched distance learning features to allow more than 37,000 public school teachers to administer online lessons and quizzes to students across Armenia.
I started developing Dasaran in 2009 with a team others in the tech industry to not only bring Armenia’s education system into the 21st century, but to allow healthy and much-needed interaction between students and teachers and enable administrators to keep track of student performance and thus make necessary adjustments to improve not only the level of education but how the school functions.
My team and I traveled around Armenia for around five years visiting schools – both in major cities and far flung villages — to introduce the DASARAN platform and to engage the educators in its user-friendly features, simultaneously teaching computer literacy to them (over 40 percent of Armenian teachers are over 50 years old), and enabling access to students and parents.
Essentially, through the platform, we narrowed the digital divide in rural communities and paved the way for schools to acquire equipment for easy access to our platform, DASARAN itself has also donated dozens of computer and mobile devices to schools over the years.
We provided DASARAN — free of charge— to Armenia’s Government and the Education ministry to use throughout the country. By the time the coronavirus pandemic hit Armenia, DASARAN had 1,214,409 registered users.
Even before the mandatory shutdown was announced, my team of 20 tech workers worked around the clock to accommodate the distant learning feature. We continue to maintain, under dire financial strains, our mission to democratize education for all children across Armenia.
Now Armenia’s Education Minister Arayik Harutyunyan is threatening to dismantle DASARAN, so that the ministry can build its own platform from the ground up, essentially spending tax-payer funds to replicate an already-existing system.
Based on the anti-competitive conditions created for DASARAN, we’ve filed an appeal to Armenia’s State Commission for the Protection of Economic Competition, our appeal was respectively registered and a proceeding was initiated.
Since our founding in 2009, DASARAN has empowered Armenia’s K-12 public education ecosystem with an award-winning cloud-based education development system. DASARAN is recognized among the world’s top 5 most innovative enterprises by the UNDP Accelerate 2030 Initiative and received the highest praises from the experts of SAP (market cap valued at $134.64B, market leader in enterprise application software). As Armenia’s largest online educational platform DASARAN has:
- More than 1,214,409 registered users–of public-school students, teachers, parents, recent school graduates, school administrators including regional and national education decision-makers.
- Increased Armenia’s public-school academic performance by nearly 40 percent.
- Decreased student absentee rates by 83 percent.
- Increased teachers’ computer literacy levels to 81 percent across socio-economic sectors, including the rural regions.
- Created E-STAT–an unmatched diagnostic tool for data-driven decision-making used by school administrators and ministries of education to reduce time for state-level data collection and processing to mere seconds.
- Worked with various partners, to meet the specific needs of regional school systems to improve student performance, teachers’ capacity and educational policymaking.
- Collaborated with embassies and international organizations as EU, USAID, World Bank, UNICEF, Save the Children and others to create customized learning modules including:
- “Tolerance module” with Save the Children, Armenia – to teach K-12 students about tolerance and anti-discrimination behaviors as Armenia welcomed thousands of Syrian refugees whose children were integrated into the public schools.
- “Super David” module with the World Bank – to empower school-aged children and their communities by encouraging their development of the knowledge, skills, and confidence needed to prepare for, respond to and recover from a natural disaster emergency situation.
- “I Know My Rights” – module with the US Embassy to help students enhance their knowledge on human rights, including norms and regulations both on national and international levels.
- Provided modules for environmental stewardship, cultural knowledge, STEAM subjects–and a range of gamified learning on fire safety, bullying, tolerance and more.
As the founder and CEO of DASARAN, I hope you will share our current and puzzling predicament in your communities with the aim of informing Diaspora Armenians of the valuable contribution we have and continue to make to Armenia’s education sector. We will withstand governmental pressure to continue our work for Armenia’s future.