in Armenian - International Institute


“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


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


The Armenian Language

Evolution of Armenian Language













Language Maintenance – LA Community

 Private Armenian Community Schools

Day schools ranging from K-12

Saturday schools


 After school Armenian language programs in public schools

 Immersion programs in 2 GUSD elementary schools

 Armenian Charter School in North Hollywood

 Colleges and Universities


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.


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



Growing competition from public school system


After school programs

Immersion programs


 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


 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?


 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,


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.


 Training in Armenian Studies and pedagogical methods

 Resources

 Compensation

 Future generation of teachers?


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)


 Linguistic proficiency

 Attitude

 Support

Demographics of Parents

Mothers’ Birthplace


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


Armenian 88%, Polish 4%, Russian , 4%, Italian 4%


Iran 38%

Lebanon 12%

Iraq 7.5%

Kuwait 7.5%

US 7.5%

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

15% Fostering a sense of “Armenian-ness”

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

Unique Features of Armenian-American


 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


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



Newspaper editors

Community leaders


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