DISTINGUISHED MEMBERS OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF DILIJAN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL OF ARMENIA

http://www.nochangeinlanguagelaw.org/

The news of the opening of Dilijan International School has evoked
a wide response in Armenia. The idea of establishing a school that
will meet world standards and thus become a benchmark for all other
schools in Armenia could not leave indifferent anyone who is familiar
with the current state of secondary education in Armenia. Indeed, the
offer of ensuring high academic standards, stimulating intellectual
curiosity, and cultivating independence made by Dilijan International
School should be adopted by the whole educational system in Armenia.

One of the ways to achieve this noble goal could be an introduction
of an educational program that combines adherence to high academic
standards with the ability to be adopted and translated in any
language. An example of program that has this indisputable advantage
is the International Baccalaureate (IB) program (http://www.ibo.org).

Besides IB schools using English, French or Spanish as a language
of instruction there are many others schools that has implemented
IB program in the language of their respective country, such as the
Tokyo Gakugei University International Secondary School in Japan and
the Tianjin Experimental High School in China.

However, one of the provisions of the Dilijan International School's
current concept causes grave concern, namely that the language
of instruction to be in English. Under the laws "On Language" and
"On Education" Armenian is the language of instruction in secondary
schools throughout Armenia, except for minorities, foreigners and
refugees. therefore, this proposal in its current form contradicts
the law. The attempt to resolve this unlawfulness lies at the heart
of recent amendments to the above-mentioned laws introduced by the
Government to the Parliament of the Republic of Armenia.

The amendments have caused deep discontent in Armenia that has
manifested itself in numerous statements made by scientific,
civil, social and political organizations, as well as in articles,
conferences, and demonstrations. The reason is that the legislative
enforcement of Armenian language as the language of instruction
is not accidental. Moreover, it is not unique, similar language
policies exist in Greece and other countries. The reason behind
this restriction is that mother tongue is the foundation of national
identity and worldview. On the other hand, language is a comprehensive
sign system, allowing the exchange of information in all spheres
of human activity. This means that for the full development of the
language it should be applied to serve the culture of its respective
nation. Meanwhile, a school with other than Armenian instruction
language will produce students with limited Armenian skills.

A gradual but an irreversible process will begin in which parents
in search of better education for their children will choose a
foreign language school. Pupils receiving the superior education
will be accepted in the best universities, therefore will occupy
leading positions in the private and government sectors, forming an
elite group with limited Armenian skills. That is what happened in
Soviet Armenia, where Armenian in schools with Russian language of
instruction was taught as a foreign language. Number of students in
such schools had been growing rapidly: in 1937 there was only one
such school established in Yerevan, whereas in 1980's 25 percent of
the pupils in Yerevan attended Russian language only schools.

The masses will follow the example of the elite group mentioned above.

This endeavor will lower the standard of Armenian knowledge
competency and its prestige in the entire population affecting all
areas of communication and daily activities. The consequence of such
a policy will call into questions the very necessity and ultimately,
the existence of Armenian language and its people. This worry is not
unfounded, but describes the outcome of numerous language shifts such
as those that happened to Scottish and Irish languages replaced by
English language. Recently, another language shift has been taking
place in Lebanon where Arabic has been loosing ground to English
and French.

Moreover, if we consider the problem from the standpoint of providing
equal access to quality education, then the need to support education
in multiple languages will lead to fragmentation of already limited
resources, waste of funds, inconsistencies and useless multiple
repetition of efforts by the Ministry of Education. It is no accident,
that the highest level of secondary education achievement in Finland
(consistently Finland takes the first and the second place in the
world) is that all students in Finland master all subjects in their
native tongue.

Therefore, the emphasis should be made on improving the educational
system, including foreign language teaching, rather than to substitute
such reforms at the expense of national language instruction. It is
important to clearly delineate the difference between the concepts of
learning a foreign language and foreign language based learning. The
example of Finland, the Netherlands and other countries shows that
it is quite possible to achieve widespread advanced foreign languages
skills in native language instruction schools.

However, the very concept of an elite boarding school could be
very productive and will certainly contribute to the improvement
of secondary education in Armenia, if the educational program will
be adapted to use Armenian as the language of instruction. In this
case Dilijan International School will become a model of the Armenian
school and will attract Armenian children from around the world.

Armenian children coming from different countries of the Diaspora
not only would be able to raise language proficiency, but as
representatives of different linguistic cultures enrich each other,
thus creating a unique Armenian educational system phenomenon.

Most sincerely,