Democratizing Educational Systems

June 3, Tbilisi


The workshop “New possibilities and Cooperations for Democratising Education Systems on a Regional Scale: Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia” organized by the Citizens’ Assembly in Istanbul, took place in the conference hall of the Beaumonde Garden Hotel in Tbilisi on June 3, 2017.

Representatives of all the four countries participated in the workshop. The workshop was conducted by Sinan Gökçen from the Citizens’ Assembly-Istanbul.

The participants of the workshop were greeted by Sinan Gökçen, from the Citizens’ Assembly- Istanbul, and Artur Sakunts, Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly in Vanadzor (Armenia). They both mentioned that democratizing of education systems should have a notable contribution in the cause of loosening the tension, abolishing confrontations, promoting sustainable peace and social harmony in the South Caucasian countries and Turkey. Sinan     Gökçen especially stated the role of the educational systems of Armenia and Azerbaijan in loosening the tension of confrontation between the two countries by not sowing hatred and hostility towards the neighboring country in the schoolchildren’ minds. In his greeting speech Artur Sakunts, particularly, mentioned that with the exception of the “Mkhitar Sebastatsi” Educatinal Complex, which is an island of democracy and freedom of speech, all the educational institutions of Armenia are functioning in a closed system. The speech makers expressed their hope that with the suggestions of the workshop participants and with the creations of appropriate platforms for the realizations of these suggestions the first steps will be made for the democratization of educational systems in the four countries.       

Esra Güçlüer, from Citizens’ Assembly- Istanbul, talked about Turkey- Armenia Normalisation Program stage 1 and stage 2. Armine Sadikyan, from Helsinki Citizen’s Assembly (Vanadzor, Armenia), talked about Yavas Gamats Summer School programs which is within the framework of the project Armenia-Turkey Normalization Process. Our Educomplex took part in Yavas Gamats Summer School work in Aghveran, 2015. I should like to mention that, at the end of the workshop, Ashot Bleyan and Esra Güçlüer, Yavas Gamats Summer School Moderator, agreed that one teacher from the “Mkhitar Sebastatsi””Educomplex should take part in the 2017 Yavas Gamats Summer School in Istanbul.

Following the agenda the participants began giving their 10-minute presentations at 10:45. Ashot Bleyan, the director of “Mkhitar Sebastatsi” Educomplex, was the first to give his presentation. At first the project “Armenian-Georgian Public Educational Bridges” was presented. Armenian-Georgian public educational bridges were established in 2008 and since then hundreds of Armenian and Georgian students and teachers have taken part in different Armenian-Georgian joint educational projects. Sinan Gökçen asked whether our educational complex is a state or private educational institution, and whether the Educomplex had ever had a joint project with a Turkish school. Ashot Bleyan answered that the “Mkhitar Sebastatsi” Educational Complex is a state educational institution realizing author alternative educational programmes, and Ministries of ES of Armenia and Georgia support all the initiatives of our joint educational projects. Then he added that the Educomplex had always made attempts to establish educational bridges with Turkey. In particular, he spoke about about the participation of our Educomplex in the Izmir Space Camp. I added some information about young Turkish specialists’ participation in the educational exchange projects of AIESEC at our Educomplex. Ten minutes was not enough to cover all the points of our presentation. I only want to mention that the Educomplex has an open educational system, and the project and blog based education with international projects, reviews and festivals favors the promotion of learners’, teachers’, parents’ democratic, tolerant and free way of thinking.

The representative from Georgia spoke about the current problems of Georgian educational system. Georgia is a multinational country and in their schools they have Armenian, Russian, Azerbaijani and Georgian learners sitting next to each other, therefore, they have to sow tolerance among children with different nationalities and religions, exclusion of discrimination, respect for the languages of national minorities and the necessity of learning the state Georgian Language.           

The representative from Azerbaijan expressed the idea that the problems democratizing the educational systems of these four neighboring countries should be solved with their own efforts without relying on an external force.

Sinan Gökçen spoke about the current problems of the Turkish educational system mentioning about half a million of school-aged refugees from Syria.

Ebru Uzpeder, from Citizen's Assembly-Istanbul, shared the outputs of the Citizens’ Assembly’s training of trainers' workshop with teachers from Armenia, Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan, held in Istanbul in 2013.

Soner Şimşek, from Citizens’ Assembly- Istanbul, talked about e-learning system run by the organization Online Citizenship Academy. They are organizing online courses mainly for the refugees helping them to integrate with the citizen's life in Turkey. For example, one of the courses is “Overcoming the language barrier in a multinational class.”

The workshop was over with summarizing speeches and suggestions for possible cooperation.

Sinan Gökçen thanked the participants and suggested creating an educational platform of    online communication among the four neighboring countries. He added that he couldn’t yet say how that platform would be created and how it would function as everything would have to be discussed with the sides and agreed upon.

The summarizing speech made by Ashot Bleyan was so impressive that I remember it by heart. He said: “I am Ashot Bleyan, the director of Mkhitar Sebastatsi Educomplex. I once was the leader of the New Way Party. I was the member of the first parliament of independent Armenia. I was the Pan Armenian Movement board member, Minister of Education of Armenia, Deputy Mayor of the City of Yerevan and a political prisinor for two years. I have always lived the life of an active citizen and I have always been faithful to my principles of author, innovative pedagogical activities and citizen's mode of life: with actual and real projects, not with mere words, to realize peaceful relationships with the learners, their parents and teachers of the neighboring countries. I suggest organizing regional pedagogy camp at our Educomplex. That pedagogy camp will be a real contribution in democratising the educational systems and promoting cooperation in establishing good neighborly relations among our four countries. I assure you that our Educomplex has all chances to organize such a camp: experience in organizing international educational exchanges and dwelling lodgings for educational exchanges. ”   






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