articles, opinions, and research about teaching and learning

Teachers Forum
July, 2000

Using the Life Skills Approach
in Armenia

Comments from teachers
compiled by Sona Karapetyan

The collapse of the Soviet system had major impacts on education in Armenia. Government annual expenditure per child decreased from $600 USD in 1992 to $36 USD in 1998. This had led to an overall decline in quality of education, accessibility and demand throughout the education system. Changes in the society influenced the system of education, bringing forth the need of gradual reform aimed at changes in structure, management and funding as well as curriculum of the schools.

To address some weaknesses in the existing curriculum and teaching methods, in 1998 the Ministry of Education and Science in collaboration with UNICEF and the International Institute of Global Education (IIGE) of the University of Toronto, Canada introduced Life Skills into the core curriculum.

The Nagano Olympic Fund supported the implementation of the project in 1998-1999. The funds were used to organise training for a Life Skills working group comprising teachers introduced to the Life Skills Curriculum in pilot schools. UNICEF, using Japanese contributions, equipped the working group and pilot schools.

On September 1, 1999, the "Life Skills" Pilot Project was launched in 16 schools throughout Armenia. These schools had been specially chosen, including equal numbers of schools from Yerevan and provinces. Selected teachers attended special training seminars covering the philosophy of the "Life Skills" Project, its goals, active methods of teaching, and developed lessons as well as their assessments.

It is worth mentioning that the implementation of this Project was prompted not only because of urgently needed educational reforms and changes, but especially due to its relevance to current social, political, economical and cultural realities and challenges. In context of the comprehensive education of schoolchildren in Armenia, implementation of the "Life Skills" Project is seen as a necessity nowadays.

In the framework of this Project, selected schools were provided with some materials and necessary supplies. This had its impact on the Project implementation process and the creation of a positive atmosphere in the schools.

At the end of 1999 the Life Skills Working Group carried out an interim evaluation of the project. Questionnaires were worked out for both teachers and pupils with the aim to investigate impact and effectiveness of the project. Some of the responses are mentioned below.



What type of difficulties were you facing at the first stage of project implementation / beginning of the school year?

  • Lack of sufficient ability to manage the class and stimulate discussions;

  • Difficulties regarding time management (46% of pupils mentioned that time is not enough) which needs to be considered;

  • There still exist schools where special classrooms for conducting "Life Skills" classes are not yet allocated;

  • Transition to new teaching methods was accepted not equally by other subject teachers.


What concrete achievements do you have?

    enthusiasm

  • Children participate in "Life Skills" classes with great pleasure and enthusiasm;

  • Development of such skills as self-assertion, self-expression, self-esteem, self-awareness in children;

  • Created affection and understanding between children and teachers, a tendency of improvement of teacher-pupil relations;

  • Development of new esteem and interpersonal relations between pupils, teachers and parents;

  • A tendency to parents' growing interest towards the school;

  • Growing interest and participation of other subject teachers in Life Skills teaching methodologies.


Which are the best activities of the Life Skills lessons that promote learning and are enjoyable for students?

As the most successful exercises in grades 1 and 5 the teachers have mentioned the following series: "Decision making," "How to achieve peace and sustain it," "Family conflicts," "Family is changing," "Emotion stream," "Who am I, where am I?" "Day regime," "Nature Treatment."


Were there any "surprises" using the Life Skills lessons?

  • A great impact has been achieved in the sphere of interpersonal relations in the classes. The classes are already sustained as groups. The children have become more self-confident, more easily communicate with others, express their ideas in a more free and easy manner, etc.

  • Some teachers have mentioned that the subject is equally important for them as well, and they have changed a lot together with children. "Life Skills" Project has many surprises in store, it is very flexible, and the possibility for multiple solutions makes the classroom discussions extremely interesting.

  • An 82 year-old grandfather of Anna, who is in the 1st grade in Dilijan school said, "I would wish to be in Anna's classroom at Life Skills lessons and participate in activities."

  • A middle-aged woman, Mariam, is the mother of Anoush, who couldn't memorise her classmates' names at the first week since the school stated: "She was so happy the day she learned all names and even funny nicknames of her classmates. She said it happened at the Life Skills lesson and that she liked the teacher best of all."

  • Edgar is in the 5th grade. We met him after the Life Skills lesson. He requested "that if possible, all schoolchildren in the country have Life Skills subject."


What topics are you teaching using a life skills approach?

The "Life Skills" Project comprises the following main topics: An Individual and His/Her Relationships, Making Friends and Having Friends, Human Relationships, Home and Family, Community and Society, Healthy Lifestyle, Environmental Protection, Conflict Management, Sexual Education.

Some teachers are very excited with this interactive method and try to utilise it while teaching other subjects as well. Master teachers used interactive methodology and life skills during classes with primary grade students.


Which are the best qualities of a Life Skills teacher?

Teachers have given 10 following characteristics, which they consider important: Patience, objectivity/being unbiased, professionalism, intellectuality, creativeness, kindness, sincerity, benevolence, consistency, and responsibility.


Would you try to influence your colleagues to rethink old teaching methods?

In Yerevan Mkhitar Sebastazi school meetings / seminars were carried out for master teachers with the aim to hand over knowledge on Life Skills subject.

In Yerevan school #43 the big on meeting was held on 4 February, 2000, to increase an understanding of the Life Skills concept by the school staff and colleagues from nearby schools. The aim of the meeting was to present new methods and subjects which are being introduced in the school within the reforms in the Education System.

In Garni village school #2 broadcasting of Life Skills lessons were organised for village community with the aim to explain importance of the method.

The Ministry of Education and Science of Armenia received requests to introduce Life Skills subjects and interactive methodology from schools throughout the country.


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