Sona Avagyan

Avetik Ishkhanyan, head of Armenia's Helsinki Committee, said today
that those supporting the idea of foreign language schools in Armenia
had distorted the views of himself and others who see a danger in the
new educational policy and call for pupils to first get a sufficient
grounding in the Armenian language.

"Back in the 1980's, when Armenian language schools were being closed
and Russian schools opened, the answer given to those sounding the
warning that the Armenian language was under threat was, 'So, are you
against learning foreign languages?'", he argued, adding that no one
who opposes the plan has ever said that they are against learning a
foreign language.

"I totally agree that the more languages a pupil learns the better.

But a child's primary public education should begin with the mother
tongue, to serve as a base to learn other languages and subjects. If
the government cannot guarantee an adequate educational level for all
subjects, including languages, then it should resign," Mr. Ishkhanyan

He argued that there was a desire for independence during the Soviet
era in those peoples who had retained and nurtured their native
languages, Georgia and the Baltic states, for example. The children
of those countries hardly attended Russian-language schools at all,
he claimed.

Commenting on the Armenian government's plan to allow for foreign
language schools to operate in the country, Mr. Ishkhanyan described
the plan as "a substantial blow to the state body of independent

"It's a complex. People who suffer these quirks now hold government
posts. They cannot break free. They do not believe in the future of
Armenia, in the Armenian government. Thus they want to build these
elite schools for their kids. I just cannot understand how any
independent nation could ever tolerate such an education minister
like we have here, someone who wants to open these schools. But,
I am convinced that he has the backing of the government in this. We
have no need for such a government," Mr. Ishkhanyan concluded.