The education system of Armenia is switching to distance learning because of school closures conditioned by the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to a government official.
Arayik Harutiunian, who heads the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports, said on Wednesday that the new system will be trialed in the country during the next couple of weeks.
All schools, universities and kindergartens in Armenia were closed on March 13 when the number of new coronavirus cases began to increase in the country rapidly, leading to the declaration of a national emergency.
Under the state-of-emergency rule, all educational establishments are to remain closed at least until April 14.
In the meantime, the government of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian declared that the new challenge also presents a good opportunity to pilot a long-advocated distance learning program in the country.
Minister Harutiunian told reporters today that if successful, the distance learning system may become an efficient tool for Armenia’s education system beyond the emergency period.
The minister cited one of the points of the state-of-emergency decree that leaves an option for organizing classes in a remote mode.
“In terms of the higher education system we have been able to find solutions due to cooperation with universities and as a result of our consultations. A situation has emerged when higher schools have confirmed that they have undertaken various means to ensure distance learning during this period and have already begun to implement distance learning,” the minister said.
According to Harutiunian, the ministry is monitoring the process in universities to understand the integrity of distance learning.
“As far as general education institutions are concerned, we see a lot of enthusiasm here. Without our interference some educational institutions – in some cases classrooms, in some cases teachers – have started using online platforms to ensure the continuity of the educational process. And I welcome those professionals, those heads of educational establishments and organizers, and I say that you are our partners, and we are your partners, and together we ought to go through this stage and help all those educational institutions that have not had this opportunity or lacked such tools so far to provide them with such tools for organizing distance learning,” Harutiunian said.
The minister said that the emergency measures will thus become a national pilot project of sorts in the field of distance learning. He added that under the government program, introduction of a distance learning system was originally planned in Armenia for December 2021.
The minister reported that an online portal (https://heravar.armedu.am) has been created to gather information about platforms for implementing such programs. Teachers will receive training so that they can acquire the knowledge and experience needed for distance education, the minister added.
Harutiunian emphasized that distance learning “is not about education away from schools, it is about organizing the learning process through technical means.”
As students across Armenia have to stay at their homes, Armenia’s Public Television is going to broadcast classes every morning for more than two hours. Besides, a private telecommunications company, Ucom, will provide a separate channel broadcasting classes around the clock. Also, the Ministry of Education will have its own YouTube channel where training videos will be posted. Ucom has said its customers will be enabled to watch this channel without paying for the internet traffic it takes.