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Armenia - Teaching Profession

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As with nearly every other aspect of the educational system in Armenia, the teaching profession has undergone dramatic changes since the fall of the Soviet Union. While teachers continue to be respected as professionals, and 80 percent hold degrees from institutions of higher education or professional pedagogical institutes, the post-Soviet corps tends to be less motivated, undergo fewer hours of professional development training, and hold lower status in their communities.

These problems are exaggerated in the rural areas, where conditions are poorer and fewer opportunities exist for educators to supplement their salaries. The workweek averages between twelve and eighteen hours, although many teachers work the low end of the spectrum because they hold other jobs. Their salaries declined from $200 USD a month in the 1980s, down to as low as $10 USD a month in 1993. Further, the teaching force—of which women comprise the vast majority—often goes unpaid for several months on end. As a result, private tutoring has become an unavoidable sideline business for many teachers. In an attempt to address the pressing concern over teacher salaries, the government decided in 1998 to exempt educational institutions from paying income tax, with the intent that some of the funds that would be retained could be used towards increasing teacher salaries at the school level.

Deteriorating conditions in the schools also adversely affect the profession, both in terms of motivation and efficacy. Until 1990, building renovations were completed every five years in all schools. By the 1993-1994 school year, the percentage of schools undergoing repair fell from twenty to five percent. Minor needs often go neglected, leading to the complete disrepair of many buildings. This deprioritization is reflected in the budget, which in 1997 allocated only $2 USD per pupil for renovations and did not allow for any repair in 1998 other than in disaster areas.

Another issue of concern lies in the discrepancy in the student-teacher ratio, in that the number of trained teachers is increasing while the student population declines due to a decreasing birth rate and financial pressures that force some children (mostly boys) to leave school to help support their families. This results in a pupil-teacher ratio that is too small for the system to sustain—averaging around 1:10—and had led to measures by the government to rationalize the system and decrease the overall number of teachers.

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