By Atom Markarian
The World Bank plans to approve the release of a second $15 million loan to Armenia that will be used for supporting reforms in its educational sector, a senior bank official announced on Tuesday.
Toby Linden, who coordinates the World Bank’s education projects, told reporters in Yerevan that the Armenian government will contribute a further $3 million or $4 million to the five-year program which is meant to boost the country’s educational standards. He said the bulk of the funds, $12 million, will be spent on the computerization of schools and the training of their teachers. The first funds are likely to be disbursed next spring.
The World Bank already completed last year its first such scheme worth $15 million jointly with the government last year and decided to launch a new one after it was deemed a success. The money was largely used for the purchase of equipment and textbooks for many schools as well as repair of their buildings. Armenia’s government spending on education, which is projected to total 30.8 billion drams ($54 million) this year, is too small to meet those needs and pay the teachers decent salaries.
The government took the first drastic step in its stated educational reform this summer by cutting at least 4,000 teacher jobs in what officials describe as an “optimization” of bloated school staffs. They say the resulting cost-cutting will allow for a major pay increase for the remaining 54,000 school teachers. The government plans to gradually raise the average wage to 65,000 drams by 2007.
The World Bank official voiced his support for the lay-offs, saying that they will lead to a more efficient use of public resources.