“I would suggest developing a Christian ethics course as part of general education curricula. The course will be based on secular principles and will serve as an alternative to 'Armenian Church History' subject,’ said Armine Davtyan, School Psychologist, Coauthor of a study on ‘The Content Analysis of ‘Armenian Church History’ textbooks and Their Impact on the Young Generation’ at the Media Center hosted discussion.
Alongside with Armine Davtyan, Hasmik Margaryan, Specialist at the Department of Armenian Studies and Social-Cultural Disciplines of the National Institute of Education at the Education and Science Ministry of Armenia, shared her thoughts on the issue.
The final observations to Armenia’s 3rd and 4th periodic reports to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child propose ‘to review the curriculum in order to ensure children’s right to the freedom of conscience and religion and suspend the compulsory teaching of ‘Armenian Church History.’
With respect to ‘Armenian Church History’ subject, Armen Ashotyan, Minister of Education and Science, stated that pro-Western NGOs will not compel the Ministry to withdraw Christian ethics lessons from primary schools.
‘The textbook of Armenian Church History generalizes the image of the Armenian nation in addition to providing information about old religions, for example Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Hinduism, as well as other Christian denominations,’ clarified Hasmik Margaryan, Specialist at the Department of Armenian Studies and Social-Cultural Disciplines of the National Institute of Education at the RA Ministry of Education and Science .
The speaker noted that the relevant officials have not so far received any complaints from either parents or teachers. On the contrary, in 1500 survey questionnaires administered among schools students and teachers, they emphasized the importance of the subject and wrote words of gratitude. Taking into consideration the proposals included in these questionnaires, Armenian Church History textbooks have been revised.
‘I made a proposal to develop spiritual education course in 2007, yet my proposal was denied. Now the Ministry of Education and Science is not open to proposals,’ stated Armine Davtyan, noting that the Ministry is not willing to provide primary school Christian Ethics textbooks for expert study.
Armine Davtyan believes that some materials are dogmatic, making a specific reference to the lesson on the formation of the Earth.
With respect to the rights of national and religious minorities, the speaker mentioned that these groups of citizens avoid voicing their protest due to fear. However, some of their complaints are presented in the manual published in 2012.
‘In Spain they also teach ‘Church History’ and in Israel ‘Self-Identification’ subject is included in the curriculum. Why does not the UN recommend these nations to remove these subjects?’ wondered Hasmik Margaryan.
Margaryan cited the eighth provision of RA Law on ‘The relations of the Republic of Armenia and the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church’ according to which the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church shall have the right to participate in developing a syllabus of Armenian Church History and textbooks in state educational institutions.
‘The given law contradicts all the conventions because it is illegal to impose one’s religious beliefs in general education,’ opposed Armine Davtyan, concluding that the competencies of a teacher and the content of a textbook are of utmost importance.