The Bologna Educational System in Nagorno-Karabakh

By Ani Matevosyan

“Are you a BA or MA student?”; “Is your system based on credit system?”; “Are you in 10th or 11th form at school?” and many other similar questions would not be relevant in the Caucasus some 10 years ago. A decade ago all of us studied at schools for 10 years and in 5 years completed their higher education and receiving a certifying document- a diploma. Now the all three South Caucasus countries, i.e. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia have countries transferred onto Bologna System. The goal of this intergovernmental initiative is the creation of a common educational area in all 47- member countries and an introduction of a mutually recognizable educational system within enlarged Europe.

The Minister of Education and Science of the Republic of Armenia Armen Ashotyan states, that among 47 Bologna Declaration member countries, Armenia although not among leading states is still performing well. “In terms of level and quality of education we are holding an average position within Europe, we slightly yield to Eastern European countries and are in no ways inferior to other CIS countries” says the Minister. The Nagorno-Karabakh has adopted the principles of Bologna System in 2007.

There are 7 higher education institutions in Nagorno-Karabakh with a total 6,542 students in 2009-2010. The university with the best reputation is considered to be ‘Artsakh State University’ (ASU). Maybe revise this sentence in the following way: “among existing education institutions here or use there, Artsakh State University ranks highest with its reputation”.

In an article “The Basic Issue of Youth and the National Ideology” published in the Selection of Literary Readings dedicated to the 40th anniversary of the establishment of ASU, one of the History Department students, Vahagn Dadasyan writes “We should not be afraid to communicate with the world surrounding us, on the opposite, isolation leads us to limitations.”

Unfortunately we come across such urges and calls only in scientific books, whereas in real life no matter how welcoming, people avoid the existing situation and discussions of the existing problems.

It is almost impossible to discuss Bologna and other educational processes with the young men in black, with golden rings and fancy cell phones, standing at the entrance of ASU. The only thing they want is to graduate as soon as possible and, with God’s help, to start a business. They have no complaints: everything is “hunky-dory”.

Here young people do not attach their future plans and aspirations to the education they get and profession they acquire, irrespective of the Department they study at.

As far as girls are concerned, for them studying at a higher education institution is more a matter of prestige. To become a real professional, either there must be a vacancy of a school teacher in their village, or they must stay in Stepanakert and find a job here, but this is possible only in case if their husbands allow them to work.

Among students in Yerevan, although the tradition of regarding the diploma as a part of dowry has not vanished completely, still it is not very noticeable as compared to the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. In Yerevan girls have more employment opportunities, besides the chances of studying in a Western university are much higher if you are in Yerevan. Often to receive an international scholarship one must be an Armenian national with a residence in Armenia. Students with Armenian passports but with Nagorno-Karabakh residence often do not meet this requirement.

“Being a resident of Karabakh already makes it difficult even to travel abroad, let alone studying abroad“, say young people in Stepanakert.

If as a student I am to express my personal opinion about Bologna System I should say that although it has a substantial positive impact, still I have the feeling that it is not something that is “bottom up” but rather “top down.” And if I am asked “Are you a BA or MA student?” my response would be MA, however this would not imply that my professors are more proficient and that Master’s Degree will attest to the fact that I am a qualified specialist.

Unfortunately neither the teaching staff at schools nor the academic staff of the universities has grasped the essence of the new system. Bologna requirements cannot be fully implemented in the Armenian reality, be it in Yerevan or Stepanakert: the academic staff is not always qualified, professional literature is not always available in Armenian, and the knowledge of foreign languages of the students is poor.

Even in such a small place as Nagorno-Karabakh where everyone seem to know everyone else, the corruption and bribes in education system are commonplace and considered ‘normal.’ Some of the students, who cannot afford to pay to get a better grade, resort to such methods as crying in front of the kind hearted professors so they would give them a better grade. Everyone is stuck in this vicious cycle with little hope for real progress or development…

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