By Armen Zakarian
The Armenian parliament began discussing on Thursday legislation that would entitle the country’s main ethnic minorities to free primary and secondary education in their mother tongues.
A government bill submitted to lawmakers calls for granting a special status to Assyrian, Greek, Kurdish and Russian languages. The move would be part of the ratification of the European Charter on Regional And Minority Languages, which was one of the conditions for Armenia’s accession to the Council of Europe almost a year ago.
Under the proposed legislation, members of ethnic minorities will have the right to send their children to state-run secondary schools where classes are taught in one of the four languages. The bill debated by the National Assembly would also commit government agencies to translating official documents into those languages on demand.
Under Armenia’s constitution, Armenian is the only official language. Russian has so far been the only non-Armenian language of instruction in some of the country’s schools. Only children from the ethnically mixed or non-Armenian families are allowed to attend them.
Ethnic minorities make up less than five percent of the country’s population.