Armenians abroad have to create a new kind of life as nationals of the given country and as Armenians

The training courses for Diaspora Armenian teachers continue and are effective. One of the contributing factors is the fact that the courses are hosted by professional experts from Armenia’s top universities. Perhaps the brilliant evidence of this is Doctor of Pedagogical Sciences of the Armenian State Pedagogical University after Khachatur Abovyan of Yerevan, Professor of the Chair of Armenian Language and Armenian Language Teaching Methodologies, Mrs. Julieta Gyulamiryan, who gives lessons to the Diaspora Armenian teachers during the course on “Characteristics of Armenian Language Instruction in Armenian Schools of the Diaspora”. Thanks to her smooth, literate and beautiful speech and high professional qualities and knowledge, Mrs. Gyulamiryan managed to keep the students at the edge of their seats until the end of class.

Gyulamiryan is aware of the issues facing Armenians abroad since she has also been involved in the preservation of the Armenian identity within different communities. Teaching and hosting training courses in Syria, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, the Russian Federation, Georgia and other countries, she has always perceived any danger and problem and has done her best to be of help and has shown dedication to her job.

Mrs. Gyulamiryan regretted to mention some problems that are specifically problems concerning Armenian schools of the Diaspora, as well as the students and teachers. “I believe the first problem facing Diaspora Armenian children isn’t as much the difficulty with learning as much as the established conviction. This means the child is aware that his weekends are for relaxing, but is sent to study, that is, the child’s right is violated. This is not a major problem for children in the lower grades as much as it is a problem for children in the upper grades when children start missing class and not even showing up to class,” Julieta Gyulamiryan mentioned. The expert knows the key to solving the problems and “handed” that key over to the teachers participating in the courses. “The teacher has to make the lesson so interesting that it becomes more than just a lesson at school, but rather a lesson on the Armenian language, identity and the nation, a lesson that the child won’t attend in any other school. The child has to not only come to school, but also miss the school and come to school to spend time with his or her Armenian classmates. Armenians abroad have to create a new kind of life as nationals of the given country and as Armenians and feel the beauty of that. In that case, most of the children won’t be obliged, but will want to come to school,” says the meritorious lecturer.

Teachers have a big burden on their shoulders, but that should never become a worry for them. To do that, Mrs. Gyulamiryan urges teachers to pay attention to their methodologies, the straightforwardness and mutual understanding in student-teacher relations and their cooperation with parents. “When parents aren’t interested in the education provided at an Armenian school, no matter what you do, those parents won’t bring their children to the school. Armenians need to create a school that can compete with foreign schools,” the lecturer adds. However, there are other problems. Teachers need new manuals and textbooks, and children often face this issue. “At one school, I have seen how teachers photocopied the pages of an Armenian language book and distributed them to their students. Of course, it’s nice to see that efforts are being made, but it’s not effective because the children see nice, illustrated and delicately compiled foreign language textbooks and only see black and white Armenian language textbooks. This demotivates children and hurts their national dignity because they picture Armenian language textbooks to look different. A seven-year-old has different expectations. Thank God, the Ministry of Diaspora is doing a tremendous job with Zangak Publishing House by publishing and disseminating several books. This is something new,” Mrs. Gyulamiryan mentioned.

The lack of specialists is another issue. Most of the teachers don’t have a pedagogical background. According to the expert, they need to rely on self-tutorials and such courses. The lecturer has worked with teachers and notes that there is a lot of work to do.

Most teachers express the concern that teaching in the communities is mainly in Western Armenian, and this has estranged those who have settled in the community over the past couple of years. Mrs. Gyulamiryan has a clear approach to this issue and the potential rapprochement of the two branches of the Armenian language that is very often discussed. “It’s my personal opinion, but I’m against rapprochement because Eastern Armenian and Western Armenian are the wealth and treasures of the Armenian nation. There is a wonderful and well-established school for Western Armenian language instruction in the Armenian communities of countries in the Near East like Syria and Lebanon where, unfortunately, everything has been destroyed. All children know Armenian and attend Armenian schools. Of course, there are exceptions, but very rarely,” the expert mentioned. However, Mrs. Gyulamiryan has also seen very interesting solutions to the issue. “I visited Sydney with the support of the Ministry of Diaspora. The issue has been solved in a very interesting way in Sydney. Those learning Eastern Armenian and Western Armenian were sat next to each other. There was a teacher who was an expert in Eastern Armenian, and another teacher who was an expert in Western Armenian, and both held the lesson, read and wrote with the students. There was no problem at all,” Mrs. Gyulamiryan said.

According to the expert, one-day Armenian schools face serious problems since they have fewer hours for Armenian language lessons, and it’s unrealistic to hope that the children with capabilities will continue to receive an education in Armenian. They simply need to create a small Armenian environment and help the children preserve the Armenian identity. In any case, the gene is powerful, and no matter what, it will revive someday. Mrs. Gyulamiryan brought up the example of Arshile Gorky, who grew up in a foreign country and environment, but became aware of his identity and learned Armenian. “Children need to learn about Armenian national values. In that case, there will be less assimilation and fewer mixed marriages, even though that is every person’s right,” the lecturer noted. In conclusion, she urged all Diaspora Armenians to stay true to their roots, identity and national roots, live and work as Armenians, but most importantly, Mrs. Gyulamiryan wished the Armenians of all Armenian communities peace.

Amalya Karapetyan

4th year student of the Faculty of Journalism of Yerevan State University

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