Armenian high school students, parents protest new university entrance exam regs – has the system failed?
High school graduates and their parents have been protesting in Armenia for the past several days.
The reason behind these demonstrations is that a number of high school students who received high scores on their admissions exams were still not admitted into universities. At the same time, those who had lower scores were allowed in. The situation occurred because of new regulations from the Ministry of Education, which were only passed a month and a half before the start of admissions exams. And many people simply did not get the memo.
The new rules state that priority will be given to students based on their choice of profession, and not on their test scores. In other words, students who were still deciding and looking at several different majors did not compete with each other for higher scores. The students admitted were those who had indicated the specific department and area of study as their first choice, and not those who scored the highest, as was the case before.
The fact is, in Armenia, students are able to apply not only to several different major programs, but also to several different universities.
For example, the prospective student A indicated sociology as their first priority, and journalism as the second. On the exam, they scored 18 points out of 20. Let’s say the passing score for the Faculty of Sociology was 18.5, so the applicant did not pass.
While before, this student would automatically become a student of the journalism department, now the journalism department will admit student B, who indicated this major as their first choice. Even if student B received a much lower score than the “sociologist” who dropped out of the competition.
Those students who were rejected from university turned to the chair of the Parliamentary Commission on Human Rights with a request to annul the Ministry of Education’s new decision.
On July 22, the Armenian parliament addressed this issue.
While the deputies of the National Assembly were discussing possible ways out of the situation, the parents of the students were protesting in the street.
Anna Kostanyan, Enlightened Armenia opposition party MP, told them after the meeting:
“I must inform you that neither the Minister of Education, nor his deputy were present at the meeting, so it was not possible to find a concrete solution.”
After that, human rights defender Arman Tatoyan took on the disgruntled students’ case. He promised to discuss the situation with the authorities.
Then Deputy Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports Grisha Tamrazyan also met with the students and their parents.
The protesters suggested either increasing the number of spots at universities, or allowing applicants who were rejected to study for one semester. In this case, those students who study well will be able to continue their studies, and those who do not bring their best efforts will be kicked out.
Tamrazyan says that the ministry does not have the power to take such measures.
“I was informed that 550 out of 739 rejected applicants have already applied for vacant positions. So there are less than 200 students left who can still submit applications. You say that you did not know about the new rules. The minister has repeatedly spoken about this on his social media pages, and the bill was discussed in parliament. Do not forget that the country is in a state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic. We could not [personally] inform 15,000 applicants,” said Tamrazyan.
Karo Nasibyan, Deputy Director of the Center for Assessment and Testing of Armenia, commented on the situation.
He again explained the Ministry’s position on giving priority to those who have chosen a profession and to the first preference of the applicant:
“This means that if the applicant was not admitted after their first application, then he will be able to apply to other departments only if there are vacancies in that particular major program…
Of all the applicants who received 18 and above points, only 6 people were not admitted into university. This issue is being discussed. The rest of the students got below 18 points.”
Education expert Serob Khachatryan believes that the current system must undergo serious reform, since it contradicts the principle of self-government of universities:
“In Armenia, universities do not have the right to choose students, while in the international community it is accepted that one of the principles of the self-government of a university should be the right to make its own decision as to whom to accept as students.”
Serob Khachatryan believes that if the universities themselves had the right to choose students, there would be no problems.