When State Standards Remain as Beautiful Formulations

Mariet Simonyan

A few days ago, Paul Lockhart's article "Lamentation of the Mathematician: An Overview of Teaching Mathematics at School " was published in "Dpir" pedagogical journal. The topic of the article was close to my heart and very vital. We have said and talked a lot about the fact that the state school subject curricula have nothing to do with the learner, his everyday life. They do not transfer him citizen’s skills and abilities. It is no secret that they solve narrow professional problems and are not comprehensible and do not meet the real requirements of general education. Not only are we talking about it, but also more and more parents and teachers are raising their voices about this issue. This article by Paul Lockhart was aimed at this: it could easily be called not the lamentation of a mathematician, but the lamentation of any teacher, including that of a language teacher. 

As we all know, pain is usually abstract and philosophical if it does not directly concern you.  However, this time the reading of this article coincided with my thoughts, worries and reflections as a philologist-teacher. 

In the schools of Mkhitar Sebastatsi Educational Complex, in our author pedagogical programs, the teaching of Armenian grammar is practical. That's what we call it: Practical Grammar. Moreover, starting from the second grade, our practical grammar teaching materials draw the learner's attention to the linguistic phenomena corresponding to his / her age. It is no longer difficult for an Armenian language learner in the second grade to find the same root in a given group of words. We just draw his attention to that linguistic phenomenon. And so, we offer each age group to study, find, compare and contrast the linguistic phenomena that are available for them to independently discover, classify, see conformities. This is a language work that is effective because it develops skills, abilities, language thinking. I can say that students of all ages do this with love and interest. And it is understandable. It is their language, which they are already studying in another in the area available to them.

Other language activities which are highlighted in our native language curriculum are the narrations of students’ thoughts, translations of topics that interest them, written analysis of literary works, use of oral and written speech in various projects ... What else is needed in the process of teaching a mother tongue at the general education level? I think our author pedagogical program of teaching our native language is invulnerable from this point of view, there is no alternative. It fully satisfies the requirements of the state standards set for the Armenian language and literature.

The state standards of general education set for the Armenian Language and Literature indicate the following: 

Armenian Language and Literature: It is a field of educational content, which provides expressions of one's thoughts in Armenian orally and in written form and fluent communication; in case of special educational needs, through appropriate alternative communication; development of abilities to study works of Armenian and foreign literature, as well as other school subjects; formation, development and improvement of self-cognition, world cognition, language thinking, critical, emotional-pictorial thinking throughout life. 

And these are the school leaver’s expected final results:

“The school leaver should be able to: 1) understand and analyze different kinds of Armenian literary texts and comprehend their main idea; 2) fluently communicate on the topics which interest him/her, form literate oral and written speech, appropriate to the chosen goal, objectives, and audience, including public speech, and use non-verbal means of communication.”     

Everything seems to be good. Our native language syllabus completely meets these requirements and fully ensures its implementation. In this respect, the 9th grader of our High School shouldn’t have any problem related to the standards of teaching.      

Nevertheless, if we look through the samples of the 9th grade final exam test for the 2020-2021 academic year, we will not find any tasks checking the knowledge and language skills in accordance with the state standards. And where did the state standards of general education get lost? These tests comprise mainly the theoretical part of the grammar of the Armenian language with its terminology. Where is the point of "... expressing one's thoughts orally or in written form" or "building a literate speech in accordance with the chosen goal, problems, audience" ...  

These tasks are aimed at word-formation, morphological-syntactic analysis, which requires quite serious grammatical knowledge.

This year I am working in the ninth grades. I have been working with these students since the 6th grade. We have worked on various projects. We have often worked in a personalized way. We have done translations and analysis, made video films and recordings, worked with practical grammar materials. In a word, we have done various works related to language and literature. We haven’t had any tension. Just on the contrary, we have worked with pleasure. I have followed the standards under discussion. I also considered many things progressive. I thought that these absurd exams would finally be eliminated this year. But, unfortunately...

In February, they announced that there would be the 9th grade final exams at the end of this academic year, and the test samples were published. I was sorry to see that these tests have nothing to do with state standards. Even the task of the previous years to write a small narrative text has been excluded. Only the grammar tasks and 1-2 questions to the text have remained

We encountered such a situation on the 1st of March, 2021.  We can’t ignore it, we have to take it into account. What shall we do? My approach that the exam is not so important, that one can prepare for it so that they only get a positive grade, did not satisfy some of the students. It can be understood. Capable and conscientious students are not psychologically ready to receive a low grade. They have learned to perform to the best of their abilities. They know that they have always managed their tasks, and it is not clear to them why they should get a low grade.

A group of students who do not particularly strive for knowledge, also have the problem of getting a positive grade. After all, grammar cannot be a general education subject. It requires special interest in language theory and special inclinations. What should we do in this situation? It is a problem that needs to be solved.

We discuss the situation with the students. We have three months. Our students must solve the problem set before them. How will they do it? They should apply all the skills and abilities acquired through practical grammar and language work, and focus all the potential of their volitional and consistent work on solving this problem.

We have a problem set before us - to prepare for the grammar-test work. And each learner must achieve the desired result to the best of his ability, thanks to his/her work. Their tool is self-education, and I am the coordinator of that self-education. We will encounter such situations again in life. Well, this is also a skill - to organize oneself, to set a problem and solve it. Let these three months be a period of overstrain. We are to overcome these trials. This is a new and forced situation which will require strain of our will and forces. What can we do? It is life.

 

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