Where We Are Panelists
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AUA and Genocide Education Project Host Panel Discussion

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YEREVAN, Armenia On Wednesday, July 13, the American University of Armenia (AUA) and The Genocide Education Project (GenEd) jointly hosted Where We Are: A snapshot of Armenia thirty-one years after independence, a panel discussion addressing the progress, conditions, and challenges of Armenia’s economy, political system, and education sector. 

Dean of the AUA Manoogian Simone College of Business and Economics (CBE) Dr. Vache Gabrielyan addressed the development of Armenia’s economy and the country’s transition from an integral part of the Soviet command economy to a mostly market-driven private economy. He focused on several key developments, including the building of necessary infrastructure and framework for a market-driven economy. He noted some of the challenges the country has faced, including the transition hardships of the 1990s, the 2016 and 2020 wars, and the economic blockade by Turkey, noting that overall the Armenian economy has held its own throughout many of these challenges and, while imperfect, there exists a sound framework for a market-driven economy.

Program Chair of AUA’s Masters in Political Science and International Affairs (PSIA) program Dr. Vahram Ter Matevosyan discussed several milestones and challenges in the development of Armenia’s political system. He noted that the initial policies, norms, and processes were primarily inherited from Soviet Armenia, recognizing that systemic development takes time. He remarked that the scarcity of first-hand accounts by politicians and diplomats in the post-Soviet period limits researchers’ ability to delve deep into the surrounding circumstances through research and reflection. Dr. Ter Matevosyan emphasized that several events since Armenia’s independence have hampered smooth development, including the first Karabakh War, the 1999 assassination of Armenian officials in Parliament and the subsequent national security shift, the 2008 protests and consequent demise of civilians, the 2016 Four-Day War, the 2018 change in government, and the most recent war in 2020.

Hasmik Kyureghyan, executive director and co-founder of the Paradigma Educational Foundation and AUA alumna (TEFL ’12), currently finishing her doctoral studies at University College London’s Faculty of Education and Society, highlighted several key educational reforms Armenia has adopted since independence. These reforms include transitioning from a ten-year secondary school system to a twelve-year system; introducing governing boards in schools; implementing a food and nutrition program for children in primary grades in collaboration with the United Nations Food Program; the addition of new courses for greater subject choice in high schools; the introduction of professional teaching standards; and transitioning from lump-sum funding to a per-capita funding of schools. Ms. Kyureghyan noted that the secondary school system is compulsory and free of charge in Armenia. She also mentioned several challenges that are preventing the full realization of the policy reforms, including the absence of mechanisms necessary for their implementation, as well as the low level of state funding for education (currently at approximately 2.8% of the GDP) and subsequent low salaries of teachers. 

The panel discussion was facilitated by AUA Adjunct Lecturer and Head of the Department of Comparative Genocide Studies at the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute Dr. Suren Manukyan.

“At this pivotal moment in Armenia’s development, we were pleased to be able to host this important discussion about Armenia’s progress and the challenges the country has faced since independence,” stated Dr. Sharistan Melkonian, dean of General Education at AUA. “We are particularly excited to have the opportunity to continue to partner with The Genocide Education Project, which is at the forefront of helping educators teach about human rights and genocide.”

“The most effective way to teach about the Armenian Genocide is to first provide an understanding of the Armenian nation and people,” said Roxanne Makasdjian, GenEd co-founder and executive director. “Thanks to the AUA panel of experts, the GenEd Teacher Fellows gained an understanding of the current state of society here and important context about underlying and historical conditions that brought it about.”

The panel discussion was held in conjuction with GenEd’s 2022 Teacher Fellowship Program, which brought to Armenia 15 high school social studies educators from 14 states in the United States to engage in a ten-day intensive professional development program on teaching about genocide, with a particular focus on the Armenian case. Upon return to their home regions, the GenEd Teacher Fellows will prepare and carry out professional development activities for colleagues who teach about genocides. 

Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, affiliated with the University of California, and accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission in the United States. AUA provides local and international students with Western-style education through top-quality undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, promotes research and innovation, encourages civic engagement and community service, and fosters democratic values.