by Diana Chobanya, coordination team of EcoLab
We are living in an increasingly globalized world, where walls are crumbling and falling every day. The fall of barriers between nations exposes us to global diversity and variety. We need to embrace this multiculturalism and human variety in order to keep up with the rest of the global community. Globalization and technical advancements have undoubtedly accelerated and improved the way we vote, protest, learn and live. These developments have led to the strengthening of civil society in almost all parts of the world.
In Armenia, the voice of civil society is becoming louder and more confident, thus contributing to democratic governance, transparency and participatory politics. The unrestricted voice of Armenian civil society can now be heard on the streets of Yerevan, in marzes (regions of Armenia) and all over social media platforms. The vestige of Soviet authoritarian and paternalistic political processes is however unfortunately still evident in Armenia. Its consequence is ruthless and shocking social injustice, and persistent violation of human rights and democratic values resulting in social apathy and emigration.
In the current situation, education and empowerment of the young generation is one of the best recipes for bringing about positive change. In order to be active members of the global community, young people need to be well informed about global challenges, respectful of other cultural and religious practices, and have a decent understanding of their role as change-makers in our society.
RA Ministry of Education and Science introduced a reform called “Education Quality and Relevance” to develop the post-Soviet educational system in newly-independent Armenia. The reform responded to outdated educational standards and textbooks, inconsistencies in assessment, and the predominance of teacher-centred teaching methods (Tovmasyan & Thoma, 2008). In 2000, the RA Ministry of Education and Science decided to amend the state curricula for secondary education by adding “human rights, civic education, and state and law”. Starting with 2001 these “legal block” subjects were taught in secondary school for eighth to tenth grades (Gyulbudaghyan, Petrosyan, Tovmasyan & Zohrabyan, 2007, p. 21).
Studies have shown that civic education is no longer an abstract subject that teachers struggle to comprehend. The Ministry of Education and Science has introduced informative and useful textbook and thematic trainings/seminars for teachers. Nonetheless, the subjects they have introduced fail to equip students with civic skills, emphasizing only the knowledge of rights and responsibilities. The Citizen’s Awareness and Participation in Armenia Survey (IFES, 2003) confirms that young adults (18-25 years old) are not only less interested and involved in politics but also have a lower level of civic participation that those aged 26 and above. It can therefore be concluded that there is a gap in the civic education of the young people in Armenia which consequently leads to low social consciousness and awareness and an even lower level of civic activism.
The Ministry has acknowledged the need for high-quality civic instruction which would fill the gap in civic education in the Armenian context. Nevertheless, it has failed to take adequate measures and, as a result, young Armenians lack civic competencies and skills. Fortunately, the civil sector has taken over and started offering civic trainings, courses and seminars which combine civic “knowledge” with its practical application. These educational measures use synergies from formal and non-formal education to deliver breath-taking content. The hallmark of these courses is that they not only enhance the learners’ knowledge about civil society, but also shape learners’ civic competencies and promote active citizenship and democratic values. EcoLab, the active citizenship project that I coordinate is a vivid illustration of how an NGO project can empower and educate young people more efficiently than the school curriculum on civic education. I myself am a “product” of EcoLab, which provided the civic education that the educational system did not.
Overall, I am hopeful that similar projects, which nurture learners’ civic literacy and emphasize such core concepts as democracy, rights and responsibilities, will be offered more widely. Also, I hope that by that time the Ministry of Education will appreciate both independent and autonomous learning and higher civic participation, and include both in its comprehensive list of educational objectives.
Diana Chobanyan is part of the coordination team of EcoLab. EcoLab empowers young Armenians to change their local community by fostering sustainable development. Participants implement their own projects in small teams in their cities and villages. These projects focus on sustainable local economy, non-formal education and community mobilisation. EcoLab is an cooperation program of Theodor-Heuss-Kolleg. More information on theodor-heuss-kolleg.de.
The Voice of Civil Society in Armenia by Diana Chobanyan (MitOst e.V.) ist lizenziert unter einer Creative Commons Namensnennung – Nicht kommerziell – Keine Bearbeitungen 4.0 International Lizenz.