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Education is of key importance for the increase of the economic potential and the realization of the generated potential. Prime Minister


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Chaired by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, the session of the Economic Policy Council under the Prime Minister was held at Dilijan Educational Research Center of the Central Bank. President Vahagn Khachaturyan also participated in the session.

The first item on the agenda referred to the reforms being implemented in the field of education and science. In particular, the Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports Zhanna Andreasyan presented the main reforms in the spheres of general education, secondary vocational and higher education and science and the program for the creation of the Academic City. Zhanna Andreasyan spoke about improving the quality of preschool education, the involvement of children aged 3-5 in preschool institutions, adding that in 2019, 64 percent of children of the mentioned age attended kindergartens, and in 2023 this number rose to 71. According to the minister, the growth is due to the implemented reforms, capacity development of pre-school institutions, as well as the Government's program to build or reconstruct 500 kindergartens. Next, the minister referred to the impact of the new standard of general education on the quality of education, the management of general education, the financing system, the development of educational infrastructures, the development of teachers' professional abilities, the remuneration policy, as well as the quality improvement of higher education. The main principles of the Academic City, the infrastructure of the city, the development programs of the science sector were also presented.

After the discussions, Prime Minister Pashinyan delivered a speech, in which he particularly stated:

"Dear President,
Dear Colleagues,

I will make some observations and highlights, then we will proceed to questions and answers, discussions. You already know that based on the results of 2023, more than 8 percent economic growth was recorded in the Republic of Armenia. During our previous meetings, we also talked about the growth of the economy, the potential of the economy. In general, economists believe that Armenia's economy has been doing more than its potential or recording greater results in recent years. But on the other hand, economists also agree with the statement that economic growth in turn increases our economic potential. And now one of the most important tasks of the government is to direct the policies to the increase of this economic potential and to create opportunities to realize the economic potential.

We have this task for the short, medium and long term. And in this regard, I want to emphasize an obvious fact: education is of key importance for the increase of economic potential and the realization of the generated potential. At the same time, our political and conceptual perception is that when we say education, we should not understand it in a piecemeal way. We have to look at pre-school or kindergarten to university and post-university education from a single strategic logic. In this regard, the minister has already made a number of important points, but I want to address a few issues regarding which, in my opinion, we should adopt strategic approaches or record strategic approaches. We are talking about 3-5 year old children and we have set a certain target, which is very likely to be achieved by 2026.

But in the long run we also need to adopt some policies and strategies for children aged 1-3 years, or if it is correct to say children aged 0-3 years, because this is about economic potential, on two fronts. First, in the modern world, it is obvious that from the age of 0 or 1, children receive education and even learn languages, but this happens without prescribed policies and without government intervention. And this in turn raises the question that governments, states should adopt certain policies.

Secondly, it is also obvious for Armenia, and this problem is even more acute considering that the majority of the population of Armenia are women, that we should create an opportunity for women to face the dilemma "have a child or work or pursue a career?", with the logic that, of course, the analysis of the demographic situation leads us to the idea that this problem, if we put it a little harshly and sharply, is not the women's problem. First of all, it is the task of the government to formulate certain formulas for the answer to this question.

I consider two issues important from the point of view of public safety and health. We have decided, and it is an obvious decision, to address the issue of security in educational institutions in general, because unfortunately there are many cases and different countries have understood the seriousness of this problem only after facing specific incident or situations. Also, for us today, this problem is very urgent with the logic that we have certain fears related to drug trafficking and so on. It is a global problem and we have to deal with it.

And, of course, regulations related to school meals are also very important, because globally and in Armenia, the problem of overweight among children is becoming widespread. Here, we should also be able to develop certain policies in the field of school meals, of course, while simultaneously developing school infrastructures. We are still talking about the wear and tear of school infrastructures, but when we consider school sports infrastructures separately, we will see that the situation there is much worse than in terms of school infrastructures in general. I think the participation rate of extremely poor families in university education is a fundamental problem for us. This is a very deep problem that we have to face. Of course, we assume that the picture is a little different in the field of vocational education and training, but nevertheless, the cycle shows that the extremely poor family will continue to be the extremely poor family, and extreme poverty will already become a legacy that is simply passed on from generation to generation. And this is the task of the government to develop approaches and policies to break this chain.

The new poverty assessment system that we want to introduce is very important because, in fact, we have to assess, dear colleagues, without shame, and it is our duty to assess that this is also the response and consequence of our policies in the field of social security. In other words, the political assessment that we gave in the past, that assessment was also expressed in the field of education, because what we are saying is that the social policies that were carried out in the third republic, they were precisely for the poor to remain poor. We have said to the extreme poor and the poor or our citizens in that category, if you are poor, stay poor, we will give you this or that privilege, but if suddenly you overcome that poverty, we will deprive you of this privilege. And this is a serious problem. We have already discussed the program that is at least theoretically convincing that we will continuously push people to overcome poverty. And, of course, alignment with the education sector is very important here.

Our problems in the higher education sector are deep. There are 60 universities in the Republic of Armenia, I think this expression should be a yellow sign, if not a red one. And I want us to understand this status quo well, because not referring to anything particular, but keeping in mind the general picture; 60 universities means: 60 rectors, 120 vice-rectors, several 100 deans, about 1000 deputy deans, etc. And there is nothing surprising that when we talk about the reforms of the university system, we feel that certain tensions arise, because we are talking to hundreds and thousands of people, or, if we say very directly, from their point of view, we are not talking about it, but they perceive it that way, about depriving them of these statuses. But this is about the development of the economic potential of our country and the realization and development of the potential of our country in general, because we feel our shortcomings in the university sector everywhere, absolutely everywhere.

Getting answers to simple expert questions becomes simply impossible. When high-ranking officials, which is not bad, because high-ranking officials also need to be educated, learn, but in order to find answers to simple questions, not to mention complex questions, they have to personally search, find information, compare, etc. And this is part of our daily work. Today we discover information about the reality that surrounds us, which we vitally needed say 7 years ago, 10 years ago, etc. In other words, it means that we are, for example, 10 years late, 5 years late, or even if we are 3 years late, this also has its negative impact on our country.

I also want to highlight a very important thing. If, for example, we certify universities in the Republic of Armenia according to international standards, the standards that exist, for example, in the European Union, no university in the Republic of Armenia will receive certification. Moreover, this is true for both state universities and private universities. Today, we do not have a single university in the Republic of Armenia that is certified by European standards and receives a university license. And this is a fundamental record.

In this sense, the Academic City is an extremely important and strategic project for us. And, of course, we need to expand the dialogue with the university system, the scientific system, the applicants, the public, because this is a very important part of the vision for the future of our country.

One of the most important topics in terms of speculation or discussion is that we are saying that in the long run there should be no university in the city of Yerevan, and there should be no university outside the Academic City. All universities of the Republic, Armenian, foreign, private, and state, should operate only inside the Academic City. I talked about European standards, but even with our existing laws today, if we try to certify and license our universities, not a single university will get that license. In other words, there is legislation in our country that universities must comply with this or that standard.

All the universities operating in the Republic of Armenia today cannot pass under these license conditions. And that's where the idea of Academic City actually came from. We said: what to do to make our universities comply with at least our legislation, which is not the highest standard? And we have seen that it is not possible, we cannot transform those buildings, etc., because in the modern world, obviously the physical infrastructure must be combined with the content infrastructure, because one without the other creates a gap. And that's why we said that we have to start that process from scratch, and that's where the idea came from.

Moreover, we are getting into international scandals because of these universities, we are talking about the international reputation of Armenia, but there were at least dozens of publications in the international press about how, for example, there are universities in Armenia that sell fake medical diplomas, fake medical degrees of various specialties. they sell diplomas, etc. And when we go after those universities to close them with the logic that they don't meet the licensing conditions, they make a very legitimate argument, they say, sorry, let's go and look at the state universities. Very good, you set that standard, we have no problem, so set that standard for all universities, both private universities, state universities and foreign universities. This is where we see that if we are very principled, all universities should be closed with the logic that they do not meet the licensing conditions.

Therefore, if in the long term we move the universities to the Academic City, which is, in fact, a mega-project that will require a billion and more dollars of investment in the long term, the question arises: what will happen to the old buildings? In the past, the practice in Armenia was to expropriate the buildings of the old infrastructure to create a new infrastructure, but we realized that this is a bad idea. And we are now discussing the following idea, that all those buildings of the city of Yerevan should be consolidated into one organization and given to a company with an international reputation for management as territories. And all the money generated from there will go to finance the Academic City and the university system. The question is whether it will go to the state budget as a revenue or go directly to the accounts of the Academic City Fund. And this is what we are thinking about today.

In 2018, the funding of science was 14.3 billion AMD, in 2024 it will be 40.2 billion AMD, and in practice the funding has increased almost 3 times. Also, the salary of researchers has increased. It is very important that we have started to acquire quite a large amount of devices and equipment for science in order to strengthen the practical and fundamental part of science. We have also made a structural change, now we have a Higher Education and Science Committee, which was launched this year. Of course, our perception and idea is that these programs and reforms should serve the economic development of Armenia and the development of Armenia in general, which in our opinion is the state interest of the Republic of Armenia.

And to summarize, I want to emphasize this idea again, because during the existence of our state, we have also constantly searched for what we mean by saying the state interest of the Republic of Armenia. And our conclusion is, at least we're trying to put that concept at the heart of what we do, which is a matter of fundamental science and research, but again, the government is essentially trying to find the answers to those questions alone. We note that the state interest of Armenia is the economic development of Armenia and/or the development of Armenia, which cannot be imagined without economic development՞.

Next, the economic and social inclusion of forcibly displaced people from Nagorno Karabakh was addressed. Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Khachatryan presented the socio-economic programs implemented and being implemented by the government for our compatriots forcibly displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh.

According to the deputy prime minister, the issue of providing temporary accommodation to more than 100 thousand forcibly displaced people from Nagorno-Karabakh was solved first. About 70,000 people were provided with accommodation with the help and direct support of regional administration. During that period, regional administrations spent 4.4 billion AMD for temporary accommodation - hotels, guesthouses, providing food and implementing various events. "At the same time, the government immediately started the implementation of 3 consecutive programs. 100,000 AMD was provided to each of them as part of the one-time emergency monetary support program. As of today, 113 thousand people are beneficiaries of this program, 11.3 billion AMD of support has been provided. The second was a 6-month program aimed at supporting accommodation and utility costs. On average, currently 95-97 thousand people continue to be beneficiaries of this program. This is the support program of 40,000 AMD for rent and 10,000 AMD for utility costs, which is planned to continue until April 2024 according to the current decision. But we have a decision to continue its operation until the end of the year. The third main support program was the provision of financial support in November-December to people who did not have enough funds," said Tigran Khachatryan.

The Deputy Prime Minister also noted that targeted support was also provided in the field of education. 3,800 forcibly displaced students from Nagorno-Karabakh study in universities, their tuition fees for the 2023-2024 academic year are paid by the government, without considering the factor of students’ progress. 17 thousand students study in public educational institutions.

From October to March, 25,300 pensioners and about 2,000 beneficiaries received pensions and allowances. Various programs have been implemented in the direction of employment. In particular, 320 teachers received a regional referral, more than 200 medical workers work in various medical centers.

"We have established a transitional mechanism for simplified re-registration of legal entities from Nagorno-Karabakh. 235 such organizations were re-registered and continue their economic activities in Armenia. Another important indicator, as of February, 11,870 forcibly displaced people from Nagorno-Karabakh are already registered in the SRC system as hired workers," the deputy prime minister noted.

Questions related to the program addressing the housing needs of forcibly displaced persons, its goals and principles were also discussed. A number of recommendations were made to update and improve the program.

The next item on the agenda addressed the definition and implementation of new quality standards, diversification of export and import flows. Minister of Economy Gevorg Papoyan presented the measures, steps and their goals implemented in the above directions and planned for the near future.

Issues related to the implementation of the electronic self-declaration system, the macroeconomic and fiscal framework of the Medium-Term Expenditure Program for 2025-2027 were also discussed.

Summarizing, the Prime Minister thanked the participants of the session for the effective discussion. "Of course, when we discuss these issues, we don't always come to concrete conclusions and decisions. But I think such discussions are very important, which later, of course, are expressed in our policy development and decision-making, and also provide an opportunity to think about new analytical tools."

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