Officially guaranteed for all citizens free of charge, education has in fact become a private system, deeply threatened by lack of funding and support from the government and outside sources.
Education has traditionally played a central role in Armenia, and it has a long history, perhaps beginning in a formal sense as far back as the early Bronze Age, when the stone observatory and 'university' at Karahundj was constructed. The first universities in Asia Minor appeared in Armenia at Ani, Tatev and Gladzor, along with academies attached to monasteries throughout the kingdom. The universities held a central role in furthering the sciences and arts during the medieval period, and are considered the earliest emulators of the Renaissance in Europe.
Much of this was lost in the 16th-18th centuries, while Armenia was under the control of Persia and Ottoman Turkey, though Persia gave limited freedoms to Armenians in its territories to educate their young, and prized their businessmen, architects and craftsmen.
The beginning of modern education is traced to the Russian takeover of Eastern Armenia beginning in the early 19th century. Tbilisi became the cultural and educational center for the country and schools and academies opened. Shut down during Russian repression in the late 19th century, they reopened during the early 20th century, and grew in size and scope after the Red Army invaded the country, and the Socialist Republic was formed.
It should be noted that education for the masses was never a priority in Armenia until the 20th century, and was often reserved for clergy or the upper classes. In the 20th century, for the first time, education became available for the entire population, as thousands of schools were followed by colleges, institutes and universities. Armenia remains the most literate of the republics of the former Soviet Union, and despite woefully inadequate funding and support by the government, among its most educated.
A literacy rate of 100 percent was reported as early as 1960. In the Soviet era, Armenian education followed the standard Soviet model of complete state control (from Moscow) of curricula and teaching methods and close integration of education activities with other aspects of society, such as politics, culture, and the economy.
In the early 1990s, Armenia made substantial changes to the centralized and regimented Soviet system. Because at least 98 percent of students in higher education were Armenian, curricula began to emphasize Armenian history and culture. Armenian became the dominant language of instruction, and many schools that had taught in Russian closed by the end of 1991. Russian was still widely taught, however, as a second language.
In the 1990-91 school year, the estimated 1,307 primary and secondary schools were attended by 608,800 students. Another seventy specialized secondary institutions had 45,900 students, and 68,400 students were enrolled in a total of ten postsecondary institutions that included universities. In addition, 35 percent of eligible children attended preschools. In the 1988-89 school year, 301 students per 10,000 population were in specialized secondary or higher education, a figure slightly lower than the Soviet average. In 1989 some 58 percent of Armenians over age fifteen had completed their secondary education, and 14 percent had a higher education.
The law still requires eight to ten years of schooling, from the ages 6-16. State schools are still the norm in Armenia, with classes normally lasting 4-6 hours, but lots of homework rounding out the program. Parents take deep interest in their children's education, and teachers sometimes become part of the extended family.
After primary schooling, students have the opportunity to attend a 2-year college (vocational school) or university. Armenia has an extensive network of universities and institutes, all of which offer graduate programs. There are twenty-five public institutions of higher education in Armenia (including seven colleges) with 26,000 students recorded in 1995. There are also forty private educational institutions have a total of 14,000 students (1995).
The leading educational institutions, such as Yerevan State University, State Engineering University, Yerevan State Medical University, the Armenian Academy of Agriculture, Yerevan State Institute for Russian and Foreign Languages, and Yerevan Komitas Conservatory, have historically been among the best in their fields.
Officially guaranteed for all citizens free of charge, education has in fact become a private system, deeply threatened by lack of funding and support from the government and outside sources. Kindergartens are considered essential to the education process, and the closing of many of them has created a private system, with families scrambling to raise the money to place their kids. The system continues into primary schools, where parents have to purchase expensive textbooks, supplies, even provide supplemental income to teachers, who are often unpaid for months at a time. The greatest scandals of the last few years have revolved around the university system, where faculties were caught demanding large sums from students to pass them on examinations. In fact this system was widespread in the Soviet Era, but the sums asked have shocked the press and population.
Many faculties (departments) at universities have seen their student bases drop at alarming rates, so that several have no students enrolled. These departments are holdovers of a time when numbers of graduates had no relation to actual employment opportunities, and Armenia was legendary for creating thousands of engineers and mathematicians--all of whom were bereft of work once the economy collapsed. Just as many who are necessary to contribute to the new economy are also bereft of students, who are increasingly choosing trade over higher education, or are showing signs of increasing apathy about improving their lot in life through higher education. Legislation in 1997 cancelled draft exemption based on student status, and the immediate effect has been further decline in student enrollment by young men, who are leaving the country.
What is amazing when you visit schools in Armenia is to find that rather than destroying the education system, these problems have emboldened the population to ensure the education for their young. Parents--who remember the opportunities they received--have taken the situation into their own hands, and working with extremely dedicated teachers (certainly the heroes of the current age), continue to educate the young despite the odds. In rural areas this is not so apparent, and the literacy rate has slipped from a high of 97% in 1990 to 90% now. Still (and there is a Still), education is rated the highest priority by locals, and the percentage of children dropping out or missing classes is extremely low compared with schools in the USA and Europe. There is still hope, everyday when a teacher gives instruction despite not being paid, and every day when parents spend hours working with their children.
||Education Compulsory Age (years):
||Illiterate Total (15+) 1995:
||Illiterate Males (15+) 1995:
||Illiterate Females (15+) 1995:
||Gross Enrolment 1994:|
||Secondary % of relevant age:
||M:80; F:90 (1993) |
||Tertiary % of relevant age:
||MF:48.9 (1991) |
||Public Expenditure on Education:|
||As % of Current Government Expenditures:
||Expenditure on 2nd Level:
||57.7% (1993) |
||Expenditure on 3rd Level:
||22.6% (1993) |
Colleges and Universities
World Bank: Education
UNICEF Child Education
Inclusion Education in Armenia
The State of IT Education in Armenia
IREX Education Program
Foreign Projects concerning Education in ARMENIA
Armenia's EducationSystem – Recent Trends
British Council: Education
Human Development Report: Education