Sunday, January 14, 2007

“Free” Education in Armenia is not Free

The other night my wife and I went to dinner at the house of some people in Yerevan we have known for a couple of years. These are common people just getting by and have a son who is in his senior year of high school.

The mother was telling me of the difficulties they are having in with the school and how the director of the school has bluntly said to all the parents how much money they will have to pay so their children will graduate. She said this year will cost her about $500 (which she is not sure where she will get) so her son will graduate and receive his Adistat, which is an official record of his grades. This is a document that is required for her son’s entrance into the university.

I asked her about her other son who is 11 years old and how he is learning. She said that some times he gets frustrated with his lessons, as the books that are now being used have made simple subjects much more complicated. She said for instance math is no longer 1 plus 1 equals 2, but 1 plus 26 divided by 3 minus 9 plus 1 equals 2. Her son’s math teacher said that the government has intentionally complicated learning to discourage children from learning and according to the teacher today’s government is creating an illiterate/retarded (debil) population that they can control. The math teacher has on his own resorted to teaching from books that were around before independence, which can still be found at used bookstores. One other thing that is a financial hardship and frustration is the notebooks the school requires the students to buy. The teachers admit that they are not needed or used, but the ministry of education orders the teachers to tell the students to buy them as someone in power is printing and profiting from their sale.

We need people in the educational sector to review the books being used today. In addition to this, the ministry of educations “business” practices need to be put into check as demanding money for education that the government is required to provide to its population for free is certainly not acceptable.

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