When I moved to Armenia in 2003, my daughters were very young and schooling was something that I was thinking about endlessly.
I am known to be a slightly paranoid mother and choosing a school or a kindergarten was a major concern for me, specially here.
The process started by long visits to almost more than 10-12 schools and kindergartens in the city center, not too far from the area where we were living. With each school I visited my hopes were getting lower and lower. The education system in Armenia needs a good reform but the government seems to move very slowly in this area. Teachers needed to be re-licensed, trained…the situation was almost catastrophic. In some schools, the old dirty walls, the sad classrooms and not very hygienic toilets gave the impression that not a lot of work was done since soviet times. What bothered me the most was the way teachers and educators were talking to the children, sometimes calling them names, shouting a lot, punishing by scaring them…not a very pedagogical approach to education. In most of the places I visited at that time (2003-2005) I was greeted by unhappy, tired teachers with a huge lack of energy and motivation.
I almost opted for homeschooling, when I heard about “Areknazan” school from one of my acquaintances. This was a Waldorf/Steiner school. I couldn’t believe it at first. I was a big fan of the Waldorf approach when I was in Canada and knowing that there was one in Armenia working since the mid 90s, made me jump of joy!
Today my two girls are going to this alternative school and are so happy. I remember when we visited the first time; clean, bright, colorful walls, teachers smiling, children relaxed, art work everywhere…it was amazing. The environment is full of positive energy. The children acting more natural, running everywhere, creating, singing. Now I am not saying everything is perfect, it has its challenging sides too, but the positive effects are much bigger.
The children learn with respect to their natural rhythms; they are prepared for the real life and taught concrete techniques (knitting, crochet, building, working the land..) as part of their curriculum. The languages are Armenian, Russian, German and English. They don’t have textbooks, they create their own, they use natural materials (cotton wood…) no synthetic things. Children with learning disabilities or attention deficit are also accepted in the regular classrooms (inclusive education). My daughter has a classmate who is autistic and one who has ADHD and they seem to adapt very well to the rhythm of the class. And the other children learn on how to take care of them and be tolerant. Imagination and creativity is at the core of the program. And most importantly, parents are very much involved in everything.
When you search on the Internet on Waldorf schools, you will find lots of mixed opinions. I believe the approach is great for children and it also depends a lot from the teachers and the school administration. Some parents don’t feel comfortable with the spiritual part. I think as every other school, you should monitor your child closely, talk to them and see how they feel, in order to understand if everything is going well.
For us Areknazan/Waldorf school of Armenia was a blessing and made schooling a very positive and joyful experience for the whole family.
The school is situated on Saryan street near the Post office.
Cost: 25 000 DRAM per month per child (aprox. 70 USD)
Schedule: 8:30-2pm and they have child care service for working parents until 6.30pm – open from Monday to Friday.
They also have extracurricular activities: piano, violin, dance