SEATTLE — Over the past few decades, Armenia has made headway in schooling. Enrollment overall is on the rise and primary school enrollment has reached an all-time high. Efforts to reduce national poverty and create stronger educational reforms have been successful, but just like many other countries in the sub-Caucasus region, there is still a lot of room for improvement for education in Armenia.
Historically, Armenia has not done well in education compared to other countries in its region. Even recently, Armenia had a net primary enrollment rate of 79 percent, against the average in the sub-Caucasus region of 89 percent. Still, positive changes in poverty have shown that Armenia may be able to surpass the sub-Caucasus average.
Between 1999 and 2005, the percentage of people living below the poverty line dropped from 56 percent to 30 percent. This staggering difference has a long-term positive effect on schooling in Armenia. As of today, Armenia is able to spend more than three percent of its GDP on education, which is almost double the amount compared to a couple decades ago.
From here, the Armenian government has launched multiple reforms in an effort to improve the education system. A ninth year was added to compulsory schooling and new curriculums were developed to help students build more life skills. Additionally, new laws were passed that would grant more rights to disabled students in special education.
However, there are a few concerns for education in Armenia. Dropout rates and secondary school completion rates are beginning to decrease at an alarming rate, which, according to UNICEF, indicates that there may be an issue with school quality. For example, only 77 percent of teachers for primary schools are trained professionally — one of the lowest rates in the sub-Caucasus region.
A report from 2008 on school wastage shows that high school dropout rates are rapidly growing and absenteeism is trending among Armenian students. From here, the student absenteeism has a negative impact on student academic performance. Additionally, gender gaps in Armenian education persist, with male students more likely to be absent from school and more likely to underperform.
Steps by the World Bank and UNICEF have been made to help assure that education will continue to improve in Armenia as it has in the past. In 2014, The World Bank approved $30 million in financing for its Education Improvement Project in Armenia. The new project aims to build on the current success of Armenia’s past educational reforms while overcoming rising issues within the schooling system. Goals of the project include rehabilitating low-performing high schools and improving preschool coverage in impoverished rural areas.
Jean-Michel Happi, World Bank Country Manager for Armenia, states in an interview that “this project will continue improving the relevance of educational services through accessible quality education at all levels, including for higher education, thus contributing to building country’s human capital necessary to enhance the competitiveness of the economy.”
Between the current educational reforms created by the Armenian government and the launch of the World Bank’s new project, improvement may be possible for education in Armenia.
– Morgan Leahy