Armenia faced a deterioration in its education system along with other public services. Although budgetary spending on general education as a percentage of GDP has increased from 1.2% in 2002 to 2.75% in 2006 (source: Armenia Mid-Term Expenditure Framework 2007-2009), most of the budget funds were allocated for teachers’ salaries.
Low public expenditure on education as well as the inability of communities to maintain schools with their scarce budgets has resulted in deterioration of school facilities, and as a consequence affected the quality of formal education in the country. There is shortage of learning and teaching materials at schools, particularly those located in rural/border areas and in disadvantaged communities.
Primary and secondary education, while tuition free, is still, costly for vulnerable families. The need for parents to pay for school materials and extra tutoring increase inequalities in terms of primary education accessibility and quality of education offered.
Close to 80 percent of pre-school age children do not attend pre-schools due to poverty and/or absence of pre-school facilities. Many pre-schools were closed down after the Government’s decision to transfer them under the authority of local communities as the latter were unable to maintain them due to small budgets.
Although almost all children attend school, absenteeism, repetition and drop-out rates in refugee and minority-populated areas are twice the national average.
Approximately 25 percent of school entrants do not reach high school, while the majority of children with disabilities have limited access to basic education.
Armenia has committed to reform the education system to bring it up to internationally-accepted standards. Transition to a 12-year schooling is currently under way in Armenia. Although there has been certain progress in implementation of the education reform, public acceptance of the reform is still low due to lack of awareness among parents, teachers, school principals, children and public in general of the objectives of the education reform in Armenia. This, in turn, leads to misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the overall idea of the reform and slows down the process.
Under education program we work to ensure that all children in Armenia go to school prepared and receive quality education there.In particular:
UNICEF supports and actively participates in the process of reforming the education system of the country and assists in development and introduction of legal and administrative frameworks as well as awareness raising programmes to backup these reforms.
UNICEF promotes the introduction of child-centered interactive teaching methods and trains trainers and teachers in new teaching methodologies.
UNICEF supports the improvement of content of school curriculum through integration of Life Skills Based Education methodology.
We provide equipment, furniture and textbooks to the most disadvantaged schools and kindergartens as well as encourage schoolchildren to participate actively in school governance and decision making process.
In order for young boys and girls to go to school prepared, UNICEF supports the opening of centers for parents and children in various communities, where parents learn how children develop, what needs they have at different stages of their life and how to ensure early learning for children.
UNICEF advocates for full access of children with disabilities to education through promoting the establishment of inclusive and child-friendly schools as well as through providing necessary equipment and learning materials to those schools.
More than 2,000 caregivers have been trained in child-centered pre-school teaching and care practices.
UNICEF has supported development and printing of new teaching manuals and guidelines such as Teachers’ Guidebook on Avian Influenza Prevention, Teachers’ Manual on Mine Risk Education, a Guide for Parents on Child Rearing and Early Learning, Teachers’ Manual on Integration of Life Skills into Core School Subjects.
Sixteen parental resource centers are now operating in 11 marzes and in Yerevan, offering parents knowledge and skills in early child development.
Alternative low cost pre-school services were successfully piloted in 5 pre-schools in the Ararat region and resulted in the enrolment of over 180 children who did not previously attend. Government is now planning to expand this practice to improve preschool services in existing pre-schools and to establish alternative services in new locations such as secondary schools.
Assistance provided to kindergartens also helped to increase the enrolment of pre-school children, improve quality of education at relevant institutions and train personnel in Early Childhood Development practices.
Over 450 children with special needs have been successfully enrolled in 13 inclusive schools in the country.
Students’ councils, working under new regulations, have been established at all schools of the country to ensure schoolchildren’s participation in a decision-making process.