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Armenian Government Reworks Bill On Foreign Language Schools

Education Minister Armen Ashotian
YEREVAN -- Armenian Education Minister Armen Ashotian says a revised 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, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Ashotian said on May 26 that the government had taken into account criticism expressed by a number of politicians and public figures and incorporated provisions in the bill that would dispel lingering concerns.

The Armenian government last month approved a set of draft amendments 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 some loyal to the government, who said it would endanger the constitutional status of Armenian as the country's sole official language.

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, which was banned shortly after the country gained independence in 1991.

The public council of prominent political and public figures last week submitted a highly negative assessment of the bill to President Serzh Sarkisian and expressed the hope that the bill would be withdrawn from the National Assembly.

Ashotian said that under the revised bill, 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 just 1 percent of the total.

Also, he said, the number of schools teaching in one foreign language would be limited to five.

According to the minister, foreign-language schools will not be state-run and will have to provide teaching of Armenia-related subjects, such as language, literature, history, etc., in Armenian and in the same volume as in other, Armenian-language schools.

He said students of schools with foreign-language instruction would still be required to take the graduation examination in Armenian.