“Ayb”: We are establishing the Armenian school of the 21st century

27.02.2011 | 20:59 Home / News / Articles /
Interview of “Ayb” Educational Foundation’s Executive Director David Sahakyan to Mediamax Agency

- At which stage is the project of “Ayb” school? What is planned for September 1?

- Opening of “Ayb” high school is planned for September 1. 100 students of the 10th and 11th grates will for the first time attend the new school.

The admission of students will start in April. Already in early March we will announce the order and the dates for admission to the school. At present, jointly with the American University of Armenia, preparatory English language classes are carried out for our future students.

The school is located on the territory of 6.5 hectares near Tbilisi Highway in Yerevan. At the moment, active construction works are in process. The first out of two buildings will be ready in September. Our first students will be having classes there. The second building is planned to be put into operation in a year. Then, the construction of a new, 300-seat building of the high school will be launched in the same territory.

The simplest and quickly realizable component in establishment of the school is the construction of the building. Simultaneously with construction, we carry out other most important processes: elaboration of the internal architecture of education, establishment of the environment.

We started the design of the environment from “AybLab” program in order to understand what labs the school will be equipped with. The enrollment of teachers and their retraining are not a simple task either: from the very beginning we ruled out the option of attracting teachers from other schools by means of offering a high salary and thus weakening other schools. And besides experienced teachers, we will also attract specialists, who so far did not consider schools as a field for their professional development. Those are post-graduate students, young scientists. The group of specialists, with whom we started this process, is very large, and only a part of them will be selected as teachers, since one thing is to know the subject and another thing is to be a real teacher, be able to pass passion towards education and the subject.

- What will the principle for selecting students be?

- The selection process will be carried out basing on equal and independent conditions. Aiming at establishing the best school we set ourselves the task to choose the best students. There will be stream education and a credit system at the school. By receiving credits for various subjects, students will be able to choose their future specialization. The first semester will be of familiarization nature: students, irrespective of the chosen stream, will try to understand which specialization they want to master in and continue education: science, mathematics, information technologies, economy or humanitarian subjects. The teachers will also help them in this issue.

 “Ayb” high school has two main directions: public sciences and science. Each direction has its corresponding streams: humanitarian sciences and economics, mathematics/computer science and physics. In future, when the main building of the high school is ready, the fifth stream – arts, will be added as well.

The admission process, which is planned for late April, is the next: there is one examination, which all applications should take, irrespective of the chosen direction. The examination consists of an essay and logistical tasks, which do not require serious mathematical knowledge, but check the logics and the thinking abilities of the student. The second examination corresponds to the chosen direction. Knowledge of English language is one of the most important conditions as well. However, we will not be checking the knowledge of English language by means of a separate examination. If the applicant does not have a corresponding certificate on the level of English language knowledge (TOEFL, IELTS), he/she will take the corresponding test in the American University of Armenia. And the scores of the test will become a basis for us.

The next stage is the interview with “Ayb” initiators, which will take place in early May. Following the results of the interview, students will gain points, and in mid-June the list of successful applicants will be publicized.

The tuition fee for “Ayb” high school makes USD 6000 a year in AMD equivalent. Only after the students find themselves in the list of applicants, who have been admitted to the school, parents can turn to “Ayb” Financial Support Committee in order to cover the fee for the student’s tuition. After discussing the level of the family’s solvency, the student may be provided a scholarship. This means that everybody is being admitted on equal terms without taking into account the financial factor.

- Let’s say, 100 students are admitted to the school, 80 of whom are insolvent. Is it possible that all 80 students might receive financial assistance?

- It is possible. We do not set any percentage limitations. The principle is the following: not a single student should be left out of “Ayb” school for financial reasons. The matter is to be admitted.

Why is the system build exactly this way? They often ask if the tuition fees are high in Armenia. There should be a different approach towards this issue. One should take into account the factor of what is necessary for high quality education. It is necessary to establish conditions for the best teachers and specialists to want to work at the school, at that receiving a deserved salary for their labor. Our goal is the eradication of the vicious phenomenon, which we face in certain Armenian schools, when children are purposefully given low grades for them to take up private classes with the tutor.

Another important factor is the atmosphere: if this is a 21st century school, it should be equipped with 21st century technologies.

We believe that when attending school, the student and the teacher should deal only with education. The school should not deal with financial issues and charity: the task of the school is education. This is why we try to rule out the school’s dependence on the financial capacities of parents. There is a “reliable” triangular system, one vertex of which is the school, that is, the non-commercial, non-profit structure, the other vertex is the parents, and the third vertex is “Ayb” educational foundation, as the one to order and be in charge of the financial component.  

All students, needing financing, will receive scholarships, but given one condition: the school should be able to provide for high quality education, since in order to attract means the Foundation will turn to benefactors with the request to assist the needy children for their bright future. This means that the benefactor will allocate a sum only in case if students brilliantly demonstrate themselves and manage to achieve high peaks in education. That is to say, the only condition for necessary funding of the school is to provide it with high quality education.

- Will our compatriots, living abroad, be able to study at “Ayb” school?

- There are no limitations, including national ones. It does not matter whether the potential student is a citizen of Armenia, representative of the Diaspora or a representative of a different nationality: everyone can enter our school. There is only the requirement of knowing Armenian and English languages. In the first half of the year there are intensive classes provided, so that in six months the students are at the same level both in terms of language skills and computer skills and in terms of communication skills.

There are no other limitations. The basic problem is the organizational issues: we plan to build a dormitory in “Ayb” territory, but this will happen in a few years. At the moment, we are not dealing with actively attracting students from abroad.

- What are the relations between “Ayb” school and the general educational system of Armenia? As far as I am informed, the goal of “Ayb” is not to declare establishment of a separate elite “island”, but a “locomotive”, which will lead to changes. Is the given approach preserved? How are your programs coordinated with the Ministry of Science and Education of Armenia?

- The approach is of course being preserved. We are a non-commercial organization and our goal is not to gain competitive advantages. We are an open system and this means that everything that “Ayb” creates is also done for others, at that we provide the opportunity to regenerate our practices. Otherwise, there will be no changes in the educational system.

We have acquired copyrights from publishing houses of Cambridge, Pearson, Oxford, and we are translating their textbooks, which are recognized as the best in the world. They are also open for use. We are carrying our negotiations with the Ministry for those textbooks to be approved for use in Armenian schools. We also intend to carry out classes on retraining teachers, who want to teach in their schools with the use of these textbooks. Master classes will also be held for teachers of other schools. The students, who study at our school, will necessarily return to their communities and schools for experience exchange and mutual aid of the generations.  

“AybLabs” were established basing on this very principle: if the system finds that this is a good example of a laboratory, it implements it too. The first laboratories were opened in Yerevan School of Physics and Mathematics, and then they spread in other educational establishments. This process continues.

We want “Ayb” school to have its positive influence on the entire system. After all, the only correct way in the educational system is exactly this one. It is impossible to instill, it is necessary to show, and if it is the correct model, it will be adopted.

- Often they say that the quality of education in Armenian higher educational institutions is far from being perfect. Let’s imagine that the student receives brilliant education in “Ayb” school, and then he/she should continue their education in a higher educational institution. Isn’t there any concern that there might be a situation, when a young person, who is already used to advanced technologies and approaches, finds himself in a higher educational institution, where nothing has changed over the past 15 years? In this case he/she may get yearning to continue education abroad.

- Our goal is after finishing school to provide the student with a wide choice as to the issue of further education, without limiting themselves by the frames of a particular Armenian or other higher educational institutions. We want them to choose the best variants for themselves. The goal is to maximally reveal the human potential.

Undoubtedly, there will be certain discrepancies. It is not right to say that the entire higher educational system is bad here: we have very good examples of chamber organization, good specialists. The student should have the opportunity to choose.  

On the other hand, this also provides for competition: the best students will choose the best higher educational institutions and if the flow abroad is great, there will come up the issue of whether our higher educational institutions want to accept these students, whether they are ready for global competition. If the answer is yes, they will have to make certain changes. Yes, there will be certain problems as well, but at the same time they will lead to the fact that the higher education system, basing on competition, will improve its conditions.

- Recently one of the founders of “Ayb” Foundation David Yang highly assessed another educational project: DILIJAN school. Are there any contacts between the two projects, since both of them have a complex goal: to offer Armenia a better future and more advanced educational tools to reach that goal?

- There are contacts, but not very active ones: we are very busy with our projects. As I have already noted, we welcome any educational project. The project of Dilijan School is very important. Any program has its approaches, principles and goals: our approach is a bit different; however the final goal is to attach a new quality to the educational system of Armenia.

We are creating the Armenian school of the 21st century. Today, the Diaspora has a serious problem: they should make a choice either to be an Armenian or to be successful. People understand that it is possible to be successful, moving in unison with the tendencies in the world. In order to preserve Armenian identity, they should make certain “sacrifice”, for instance, not to go to sports on Sunday, but take the child to an Armenian school, get involved in some community events, etc.

If a few decades ago education in Armenian schools of Istanbul was prestigious and many Turks preferred to attend Armenian schools, since the education was at a high level there, and the path towards success was easier, now certain Armenians prefer Turkish schools, which are of higher quality.

We try to create the best school, where one can get best education, and make this school an Armenian school. Be an Armenian, receive best education, which will allow you maximally revealing your potential.

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