in Armenian - International Institute

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“Where is the Line of Retreat?”:

Challenges Facing Armenian Schools in

Southern California

S H U S H A N K A R A P E T I A N , C . P H I L

A R M E N I A N S T U D I E S , U C L A

A P R I L 1 3 , 2 0 1 3

Where is Armenia?

Armenian Immigration to the United States

First Wave:19th – early 20th century

Protestant Missionaries

Post massacres and Genocide

Second Wave

Political unrest in the Middle East

1970s

Collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s

Armenians in the United States

2000 U.S. Census

385,488 respondents indicated either full or partial Armenian ancestry

153,000 Armenians in Los Angeles County

2007 American Community Survey

446,032 Americans with full or partial Armenian ancestry

40% of the population of Glendale (around 80,000) and the student body of the Glendale Unified School

District

The Armenian Language

Evolution of Armenian Language

Classical

Armenian

Western

Armenian

Eastern

Armenian

Classical

Orthography

Classical

Orthography

Reformed

Orthography

Language Maintenance – LA Community

Private Armenian Community Schools

Day schools ranging from K-12

Saturday schools

Preschools

After school Armenian language programs in public schools

Immersion programs in 2 GUSD elementary schools

Armenian Charter School in North Hollywood

Colleges and Universities

UCLA, CSUN, GCC, PCC

Armenian Private Day Schools

Prelacy Armenian Schools (Total enrollment – 2402)

7 preschools

5 K-12 schools

1 K-8 school

Non-prelacy Armenian schools (Total enrollment – 2130)

2 PK-12

5 PK-8

1 PK-6

1 9-12

Serve under 5% of Armenian community

Mission Statement of Prelacy Schools

The mission of Prelacy Armenian Schools is to ensure academic excellence in accordance with Federal and State guidelines and standards. In addition, the schools strive to develop in our students a strong sense of national and spiritual values and prepare them to become well-rounded and outstanding Armenian-American citizens. The students are highly encouraged to actively participate and contribute to the well-being of the global and local communities.

The Prelacy Armenian Schools promote Armenian principals and values and the preservation of the ethnic heritage, language, culture, tradition, history, and religion of the Armenian people. The students are motivated and inspired to be actively involved in the pursuit of the Armenian Cause and strengthen the independence of Armenia, based on principles of democracy, equality, justice, and economic prosperity.

Decline

General decline in enrollment in both prelacy and non-prelacy schools

Demographics

Economy

Growing competition from public school system

Charter

After school programs

Immersion programs

Projects/Committees

Saroyan Project

Round-table discussion about reevaluating Armenian curriculum at

Chamlian Armenian School (May 2011)

“We have a two-pronged problem at our school. First, our students don’t like Armenian class. Second, they don’t graduate with high proficiency in

Armenian.” (Vazgen Madenlian, Principal of Chamlian)

Armenian Task Force

Established by the Board of Regents of Prelacy Armenian Schools to reevaluate Armenian curricula

Challenges

Role of Armenian

Issue of two standards

Issue of two orthographies

Quality of education

Safe and “Armenian” environment

Teachers

Re-evaluation of the role of language in Armenian identity

(Rubina Peroomian, 2006)

Who is Armenian?

Teachers

No institution which prepares and certifies Armenian teachers for the Diaspora

Most teachers are hired based on recommendations and previous experience teaching in another diaspora community (Syria, Lebanon,

Iran).

There is no uniformity in the instructors’ theoretical and methodological approach.

On the contrary - each teacher comes from a different school of pedagogy

(if they indeed have some kind of formal pedagogical education) and with very diverse attitudes about what kind of Armenian should be taught and how it should be instructed.

Teachers

Training in Armenian Studies and pedagogical methods

Resources

Compensation

Future generation of teachers?

Students

Already children of heritage learners/speakers

View Armenian as an imposed subject which remains within the boundaries of the classroom

Lack motivation/incentive to pursue Armenian

Language compartmentalization (Kouloujian)

Parents

Linguistic proficiency

Attitude

Support

Demographics of Parents

Mothers’ Birthplace

Ethnicity

Armenian 96% , Czech 4%

Iran 42%

US 15%

Syria 15%

Armenia 12%

Lebanon 8%

Germany 4%

Prague 4%

Age of arrival in US: 15

Fathers’ Background

Ethnicity

Armenian

Birthplace

Iran 38%

88%,

Lebanon 12%

Iraq 7.5%

Kuwait 7.5%

US 7.5%

Polish 4%, Russian , 4%, Italian 4%

Syria 7.5%

Armenia 4%

Israel 4%

Ethiopia 4%

Russia 4%

Argentina 4%

Germany 4%

Prague 4%

Age of arrive to US: 17

Parental Attitudes

Rate the following factors in your decision to send your child to Chamlian from most important to least important

(1 being most important, 5 being least important).

31% Safe environment

24% Standards of education

15% High proficiency/fluency in the

Armenian language

Fostering a sense of “Armenian-ness” 15%

15% Armenian environment (social circle, friends, activities)

Unique Features of Armenian-American

Community

Armenian-American community, particularly in Los

Angeles vs. traditional Diaspora Armenian

Diverse & Hybrid

Armenian-American community school vs. traditional

Armenian community school

American private school with Armenian as a foreign language

Armenian-American learner vs. traditional Armenian heritage learner

Lower proficiency, English dominant heritage learner

Concerns

Schools not producing critical mass which consumes and produces Armenian culture in Armenian (Kouloujian)

Teachers

Writers

Newspaper editors

Community leaders

Administrators

Looking ahead….

Define the minimum role of Armenian in order to achieve a self-sustaining critical mass

Promote minimum role

Business model

Clarify product

Define market

Establish methods of delivering product

Include all stakeholders as partners

Teachers, parents, students, administrators

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