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Armenian Council Opposes Foreign-Language Schools

YEREVAN -- A body of prominent Armenians that advises President Serzh Sarkisian has joined opposition critics in rejecting legislation that would permit foreign-language schools, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Vazgen Manukian, chairman of the Public Council, said on May 19 that his group submitted a unanimous and "highly negative" assessment of the education bill to Sarkisian in the hope that it will be withdrawn from parliament.

Armenia's first post-Communist government, in which Manukian served as prime minister, adopted measures after coming to power in 1990 that ensured the primacy of the Armenian language in the national education system.

A law on education adopted at the time stipulates that only members of ethnic minorities and foreign citizens may study in schools where the main subjects are taught in a language other than Armenian.

The Armenian government approved a set of draft amendments to the law last month that eliminate the ban. The move sparked a storm of criticism from opposition politicians, media and public figures, including those loyal to the Sarkisian administration. They believe it endangers the constitutional status of Armenian as the country's sole official language.

Manukian said the proposed amendments "do not correspond to our national and state interests."

The former opposition politician rejected as an "absolute lie" government officials' claims that foreign-language schools would improve the quality of education in the country.

Manukian further argued that young Armenians already study at least two foreign languages in school and can enroll in English, French, and Russian-language universities operating in the country.

The two opposition parties represented in parliament -- Zharangutyun and Dashnaktsutyun -- have made clear they are against the bill. Some members of the parliament's progovernment majority have also expressed concern with it.

Education Minister Armen Ashotian assured critics last week that nonlinguistic subjects would be taught in foreign languages only at private schools.