Mentoring schools in Armenia: helping remote and borderline villages
This academic year, a new concept has been introduced to the educational system of Armenia – mentor schools. For the first time in the country, online lessons for children living in remote or border villages where there is a shortage of subject teachers will be conducted.
Of all the schools in the country, only 18 received mentoring status. One of them is high school number 19 in Vanadzor.
“There was a lot of competition in the selection of mentoring schools. Distance teaching of individual subjects for schools where there is a shortage of specialists is a necessary and useful program. This is the future of education both in terms of rational use of time and resources and in terms of overcoming territorial remoteness”, says Anush Yedoyan, director of the Vanadzor school.
Schools included in the list of mentors will compensate for the lack of subject teachers in 101 schools.
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Nazik Gishyan, a history and history teacher of the Armenian Church of the same Vanadzor school, says that she herself grew up in a border village and she almost never had a history teacher:
“This is an opportunity to solve the problem of teacher shortage. Today in our country more than 100 schools are in need of teachers. These schools also have classrooms equipped with computers with good Internet connections. And in these informatics rooms it is possible to establish communication with the specialists of the mentoring school ”.
The main problems of the remote villages
The list of mentor schools that will conduct electronic lessons in the schools assigned to them includes educational institutions of the capital, as well as Kotayk, Ararat, Gegharkunik, Lori and Shirak regions.
The director of a high school in the city of Martuni, Gegharkunik region, says that their mentor teachers have completed an internship in natural sciences and humanities:
“We were approached from the village of Djili in Gegharkunik. This is a border village, there is no chemistry teacher, they are trying to solve the problem with our help. There is no physics teacher at the school in the village of Metsavan in Lori region. We were also contacted from the village of Antaravan, where there is a shortage of Armenian and Russian language teachers. When scheduling lessons, we take into account the workload of teachers-mentors”, says Vardan Avetisyan.
In his opinion, the mentoring program is certainly important, but he is in no hurry to assess its effectiveness:
“We need to wait. We are doing our best to maximize efficiency, but the situation will become clearer only after some time. I want to address another problem. Now we are faced with the task of making the work of a teacher in the labor market more attractive. By and large, especially in the natural sciences, there are fewer subject subjects.
Martuni is a big city, but a shortage of science teaching staff is expected in the near future. There is a generation of teachers who are now working, but it will obviously be hard to replace them with young ones. Now even graduates of the Faculty of Physics are trying to find another job instead of working in schools”, says the school director.
The deputy director of the primary school number seven of the city of Kapan says that they will work with the schools in the villages of Saravan in Vayots Dzor and Khndzoresk in Syunik:
“A Russian language teacher is needed in Saravan and a biology teacher in Khndzoresk. Previously, in schools, a Russian language teacher could also teach natural science. This is how the question was solved, but I do not think it is right.
It does not matter the level of knowledge of the students, you should enter the class as prepared as possible for the lesson. A student today can get six points, tomorrow – eight or ten. A teacher must conduct a lesson with high quality, regardless of the preparedness of the students”, Lilit Babayan believes.
She has also been working at the National Institute of Education for many years, teaching retraining courses for teachers.
“We have the appropriate methodological arsenal, the required level of training to keep pace with the times. We constantly introduce teachers to new working methods”, says Lilit Babayan.
According to her, there has always been a problem of lack of specialists in rural schools. Often teachers simply refuse to work in remote villages for various reasons. In particular, we are talking about the loss of time on the road, problems with transport, the remoteness of villages from regional centers.
“And now the security problem has increased. For example, it has become dangerous to work in the school in the village of Tsav in the Syunik region, as the road there runs directly along the border, where the posts of the Azerbaijani military are located. Not everyone is psychologically ready to travel along this route”, Lilit Babayan said.
Will the program be successful?
Distance learning classes in computer science, chemistry, and biology will be conducted from the Vanadzor high school. All mentors must make every effort to make the program effective, says computer science teacher Anush Torosyan:
“It all depends on how the teacher approaches their work – be it a face-to-face or distance lesson. Now is the time to move from traditional teaching methods to modern ones, to combine these two approaches. I have a positive attitude towards e-learning”.
Distance learning in terms of quality cannot be inferior to full-time, I am sure. Nevertheless, it makes it possible not to leave students alone in a helpless situation, one of the teacher-mentors said.
“We will work on the Teams platform. By the way, the children quickly learned its principles and tools. Students are even one step ahead of teachers. Teams is tailored for learning, unlike platforms such as Zoom, Skype, Viber, which are only designed for communication. This platform makes it possible to check the tasks completed by the students, to control the educational process.
Even the ministry can keep track of how much time each teacher spent here, when and what work they did. The teachers have undergone retraining – how to teach lessons using various programs and tools, they have the skills of electronic teaching and are ready to fulfill the task assigned to them”, says Nazik Gishyan.