As the oldest chair of the School Board, together with few other old school board chairs, I was invited to a seminar to chart a course for the next five years for the improvement of the School’ curriculum. (I wrote a Monologue about that seminar titled A Seminar for ARS School dated March 10 2016). Recently I was also invited at a Strategic Planing Focused Group meeting for the improvement of the Armenian Curriculum.
What I witnessed at the Strategic Planing Focused Group meeting (attended by the school principal, vice principal, most of the Armenian Language teachers, and some board members) was the lack of the urgency and the need to improve the Armenian Curriculum. Moreover, many teachers, criticized and blamed the parents for not being interested in the Armenian curriculum.
Needless to say the success of any school program could best be achieved with the participation of the parents and that is where the emphasis should be. Without the parent’ cooperation there could hardly be much progress. The onus is on the school administration to get the parents interested, if they fail to do so, they have no one else to blame but themselves.
Although I don’t consider myself to be a fully informed person about the school, but, at least, I am more up to date with the current situation at the school than I was before the aforementioned meetings.
As I said in my previous Monologue, the Armenian Curriculum needs a major review. It has to shift from teaching a bit of language, history, culture etc. to teaching mainly the Armenian Language.
Language first and foremost is a communication tool. As such, it must be spoken to survive. Accordingly, the Armenian Curriculum must be based on conversational teaching method, and while teaching the language, also introduce Armenian History, Culture, and Traditions to the students.
Unlike our generation, majority of the new generation of parents do not speak Armenian at home. The curriculum must take this into consideration and through the students also help their parents get interested and hopefully learn what their children do learn in the class room. In a way students will be a conduit to “teach” their parents what they have learned at school and make it fun too.
Why would “uninterested” parents be a willing participant?. First and foremost, parents love to do things with their young children, specially if it is fun to do so. Second, they have chosen to send their children to one of the most safe, least expensive, private school in Toronto, that has a bonus for the parents as well, which is, to learn basic conversational Armenian.
The challenge is to make the curriculum a real bonus and not a burden. Are we ready?. Not yet, but it could be done, it must be done, with a well researched and prepared Armenian curriculum.
The curriculum to be effective must be based mostly on learning the Armenian Language by speaking and listening methods. Reading out loud, singing, staging age appropriate plays, dancing, encouraging the student to ask question and talk about current and relevant issues of their level of understanding etc.
What I am suggesting is basically to turn the classroom into a “conversational lab” if I may say so. It is also important to make the learning process fun and not burden the students with home work that needs parent’ assistance. Rather, the home work will be to “teach”their parents what they learned at school. With this method the students not only will learn the language, but also will be emboldened to express themselves in Armenian Language.
Many might argue that, this is not education. It is not. It is Language teaching. The English curriculum is the educational program and ample time is dedicated to it. The limited time that is left for the Armenian program is simply not enough.
Maybe here I should mention that, all the talk about Ազգային ոգի, (loosely translated national spirit or nationalism) or Հայեցի դաստիարակութիւն (again loosely translated Armenian values) are nothing more than slogans and like most of often repeated slogans, it implies to mean everything in general, and nothing in particular. It is all about perceptions and illusions.
More over Դաստիարակութիւն is all about values to live by, and the children live/learn them at home as practiced by their parents, or guardians. (Maybe it might be different in boarding schools where the student spend most their learning time). We must also be mindful not to confuse the indoctrination with education either, and indoctrination has no place in the educational system.
It won’t be appropriate for me to further delve in more details. I did that in my lengthy report/recommendations where I included what to do and how to do it, to the Strategic Planing Focus Group, chaired by the president of the School Board, Mr Sevag Kupelian).
The Board members are the ones who could make the decisions. Most of them are young, informed, and parents as well. It could be done only, if the mindset is shifted from to teach “a bit of everything” to teaching the Armenian Language.
It could be done with locally trained young language teachers and not with “imports” from Middle Eastern countries, or Armenia. With all due respect, their social and educational circumstances are different and their system is not applicable here in Toronto. Yes it could be done locally, and we have the potential.
Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian
a beautiful Armenian saying that my generations had adopted it like a Credo. Խոսքը առանց գործի մեռեալ տարր է. Loosely translated “Words without deeds are dead issues, or meaningless”).
Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian