YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia’s education minister said on Wednesday that a redrafted government bill allowing a limited number of schools in Armenia to teach in a foreign language is due to be submitted to parliament for approval soon.
Armen Ashotian said the government had taken into account the criticism expressed by a number of politicians and public figures and incorporated provisions in the bill that would dispel the lingering concerns.
The Armenian government approved last month a set of draft amendments to relevant laws effectively eliminating the ban on foreign-language curricula in schools. The move sparked a storm of criticism from opposition politicians, media and public figures, including those loyal to the government. Opponents believe it endangers the constitutional status of Armenian as the country’s sole official language.
Notably, the public council of prominent political and public figures last week submitted a highly negative assessment of the bill to President Sarkisian and expressed hope that the bill would be withdrawn from the National Assembly.
Vazgen Manukian, the head of the president-appointed body, said the proposed amendments “do not correspond to our national and state interests.”
Critics believe that if approved, the new amendments will give rise to the emergence of a large number of schools teaching subjects in a foreign language. Some fear the measure is a veiled attempt to restore Russian-language education in Armenia’s public schools that was banned shortly after the country gained independence in 1991.
Ashotian told the media that elementary schools in Armenia will continue to teach in Armenian only and that the number of schools where pupils will be taught in a foreign language from the fifth grade up will be limited to 15 — or only one percent of the total number of schools in Armenia. Also, he said, the number of schools teaching in one foreign language will be limited to five.
According to the minister, foreign-language schools will not be state-run and will compulsorily provide teaching of Armenian-related subjects, such as language, literature, history, etc, in Armenian and in the same volume as in other, Armenian-language schools.
“Students in these schools will have the same requirements for sitting the graduation exam in the Armenian language,” Ashotian emphasized.