POLICY DOCS // 

Where does Armenia stand on the IV Platform of Eastern Partnership: Contacts between people

03.04.2013

by Rima Khalatyan

Introduction

Whatever happens in the countries of Eastern Europe and the Southern Caucasus affects the European Union. Successive EU enlargements have brought these countries closer to the EU and their security, stability, and prosperity increasingly impact the EU’s.

The Eastern Partnership (EaP) is the first comprehensive initiative introduced into the system of the European Union’s relations with Eastern European countries including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The Eastern Partnership is designed to help the countries of Eastern Europe with their integration into the European Union.

The initiative was officially launched at the first Eastern Partnership summit in Prague on 7 May 2009, which adopted a Joint Declaration (the Prague Declaration). Platforms are the main tool of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) multilateral track. They reflect four main areas of cooperation between the Eastern Partner countries and the EU, namely:

§     Democracy, good governance and stability (platform 1);

§     Economic integration and convergence with EU policies (platform 2);

§     Energy security (platform 3) and

§     Contact between people (platform 4).

Contact between people is the forum where education, training, researche, youth, media, culture and other issues are discussed. It is headed by the Director General of Education and Culture. The members are the EU member countries and 6 Eastern Partnership countries. They meet twice a year.

The Eastern Partnership not only wants to increase interaction between politicians and officials, but also contact between EU citizens and citizens of neighboring countries. Increasing contact between people is one of the best ways to achieve the objectives of the Eastern Partnership. It reduces misunderstandings between different people and cultures.

In accordance with the general guidelines and rules of procedure of the Eastern Partnership

Multilateral Platforms (point 1.4), the participants of the first meeting of Eastern Partnership

Platform 4 identified, on 10 June 2009, the following core objectives:

§  Education and training: 

Modernization issues including learning mobility of students, teachers, researchers, youth

Language learning as a key tool to promote mobility 

§  Culture

Establishment of a policy dialogue in culture using existing tools 

§  Youth

Support of concrete initiatives and projects benefiting youth, notably by highlighting and adding value to the existing opportunities offered by the Youth in Action Program

§  Information Society

Establishment of a regional policy dialogue on the development of the Information Society

§  Research

Increase in the participation of Eastern Partners in opportunities for cooperative research, capacity building, and researcher mobility offered by the Seventh Framework Program

Taking into account the range of the subject, we will discuss only the four platforms most relevant to Armenia. These are education, culture, Information Society, and volunteerism.

Contacts between people and Armenia

Education

After the collapse of USSR Armenia was deemed a “democratic state, based on social justice and the rule of law.” It began looking for ways to make its standards and values equivalent to those of Europe. If it took Europe more than two centuries to enjoy what she has now: democracy, prosperity and peace, Armenia has been striving to reach the same goals in two decades. After its declaration of independence, Armenian state officials decided that the educational system that was inherited from the Soviet Armenia was in stagnation and on a path to failure. For Armenians’ education has a vital meaning. The intellectual development of the growing generation is a priority for Armenians at all times. Wishing to improve the situation in the educational system Armenia followed Europe and joined the Bologna Process in Bergen in 2005. On December 22, 2005 the government of RA approved the decision on “the introduction of the credit system in the higher education,” after which they started to take concrete steps to organize the higher education in the framework of the credit system. According to this decision, six Armenian universities were to reform their previous practices of education provision, and introduce the Bologna process and subsequent principles of organizing and delivering higher education. The six universities are Yerevan State University, State Engineering University of Armenia, Yerevan State Linguistic University After V. Brusov, Armenian State Agrarian University, Armenian State Pedagogical University After Kh. Abovyan, Armenian State University of Economics. The educational study was completed after a year in December 2006. After the assessment and the generalization of the gathered experience, MES formed the appropriate guarantees for the slight transition to the credit system.

But as Alexis de Tocqueville mentions, there is nothing more dangerous than  very quick reforms in a country that has no democratic traditions. So the very quick transition to the credit system just left students, professors and lecturers confused. Most of the lecturers got their professional experience in USSR and they knew that educational system very well. Without getting a proper explanation about the system, each of the lecturers tried to solve the problem by his/herself. As a result we got 128 points in 100-point system, and some students got Fs because of the wrong evaluation.

Due to the improper order of the schedule students had to pass 3 modules during unfixed periods. The newly introduced system from Europe should have reduced the cases of corruption in the Universities. However, the practice shows that corruption remains a dominant feature of student-lecturer relations.

Unsatisfied with the changes in higher education, Armenian state officials started changes in the secondary education system. As a result, we got 12 years of three-level education in the following sequential steps:

1) 4 years of elementary school (grades 1-4)

2) Middle School for 5 years (grades 5-9)

3) High School for 3 years (grades 10-12).

According to the Bologna system one can be accepted to higher education institution in case of he/she got marks higher than 3 Grade Point Average (GPA). Due to recent reform in general education, specifically the introduction of high school, there were no graduate in the academic year 2010-2011. Therefore, to insure at least some quota of studentship, some universities admitted students with less than 3 Grade Point Average (GPA). However, due of the lack of students, some professions were united, creating interfaculty professions.

Taking into account the above mentioned, we came to a conclusion that students and lecturers are in a low mobility. The situation will persist until we correct our education system. So far, in our reality it is impossible.

It is necessary to take some steps and explain to students and lecturers what the credit system is? What the Bologna Process is? And finally, before initiating any reform and introducing  new systems and practices, it is mandatory to analyze what the consequences will be, and how the new approaches will work out in culturally different environments.

Culture

One of the objectives of EU in relations with Eastern Partnership countries is the cultural cooperation between EU member states and partner countries. All the cultural types are viewed as elements of intercultural communication. In order to develop and strengthen this dialogue during recent years, Armenia joined some important international conventions, such as: the European Convention for the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage and European Cultural Convention. As a logical continuation to these documents, Armenia participated in international cultural events, such as Days of European Heritage, Museums' Night, and so on. Armenia itself organizes a series of international events and festivals, such as the “Golden Apricot” and “I Am” film festivals, “Portrait story Fireworks” and “Tango” international festivals, which help Armenia and EU become closer to each other.

However, there are also a number of disturbing factors. Armenians are known in Europe and in the world as a strong cultural nation, but Armenia doesn’t have the status of international center of the Armenian culture. Here we see a lack of propaganda and financial input. The existing tension in the region as well as imperfectness of democratic values and institutions hinder the development of today’s Armenian culture.

Information Society

One of the basic objectives of EaP is to develop an Information Society. In Armenia it is hard to talk about development in this sphere, as it doesn’t exist beyond capital Yerevan and some major cities. How can one talk about the information society when the citizens of the border zone switch on TVs and radios expecting Public Television Chanel and Armenian Public Radio, but instead find Azerbaijani and Turkish programs, which they do not understand. T grades he situation is alarming in the secondary schools. Here the computer classrooms are closed in front of the pupils. Here teachers are encouraged to have lessons in theory.

Volunteerism in Armenia

On 15 November 2006, the European Parliament and the Council adopted Decision No 1719/2006 /EC, which establishes the Youth in Action program for the period of 2007 to 2013. This document is the legal basis of the program for its entire duration. Youth in Action is the EU program for young people aged 15-28 (in some cases 13-30). It aims to inspire a sense of active citizenship, solidarity and tolerance among young Europeans and to involve them in shaping the Union's future. Youth in Action is a program for all! It promotes mobility within and beyond the EU borders, non-formal learning and intercultural dialogue, and encourages the inclusion of all young people, regardless of their educational, social and cultural background.

Volunteerism in Armenia is not developed as much as in Europe. Today we are just satisfied doing weekend work and tree planting that is organized by municipalities, which do not often take place during the year. Real volunteerism is based on spending your own time while doing  beneficiary work for public.  Today a very small part of youth is involved in volunteer work. In Armenia, the main reason for volunteerism is charity. However, we should mention that there are also cases when foreigners from Europe, USA, and Asia want to have their voluntary work in Armenia. In collaboration with European Volunteer Service (EVS) Volunteer Marta Niwczyk, in the Gyumri American Corner has established a club focused on local and international volunteering. The aim of this club is to introduce young people from Gyumri to the idea of obtaining practical skills and life experience through volunteering. Every week Armenian and foreign volunteers from different organizations present information about their work in Armenia.

One method of encouraging volunteerism can be  offering benefits to the volunteers, such as considering volunteer work as part of professional experience. 

Conclusion

While trying to reach the rates in Europe in high speed, Armenia loses important experiences. Trying to copy everything from Europe, we don’t take into account what we have inherited from Soviet Armenia, which leaves a huge imprint on copied European values​​, making them of poor quality.

For the success of EaP it is necessary to have a society where the level of awareness is quite high and which is involved in all the processes. This and all the other platforms can’t be closed to a certain number of people. It is necessary to extend and develop it among citizens. For more success in development, attention to education, increased funding, and fresh ideas are required. Finally, consistency within the process is necessary.

  Bibliography

  1. Վ. Պողոսյան, Կ. Միրումյան, Ա. Բաբաջանյան, Ս. Աստվածատուրով, Քաղաքագիտություն, Երևան, 2004,
  2. Eastern Partnership for South Caucasus”, Tbilisi 2011
  3. Eastern Partnership, Platform 4 'Contacts between People', Core objectives and proposed Work Programme 2009-2011
  4. The Eastern Partnership and the Future of EU Engagement, 16 March 2011

Internet Sources

  1. http://www.panarmenian.net/arm/interviews/43172/
  2. http://www.mae.ro/en/node/2863
  3. http://ec.europa.eu/education/external-relation-programmes/doc1839_en.htm
  4. http://eeas.europa.eu/eastern/platforms/index_en.htm
  5. http://www.msz.gov.pl/?document=19898
  6. http://www.edu.am/index.php?id=-877&topMenu=17&menu1=-1&menu2=17&arch=0
  7. http://www.parliament.am/parliament.php?id=constitution
  8. http://www.erit.am/index.php?lang=1&id=6762&t=6
  9. http://ec.europa.eu/youth/youth-in-action-programme/overview_en.htm
  10. http://gyumri.americancorners.am/en/events/2008/08/20/event89/

 

 

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