The “Professional Development Program for Teachers of Armenian Schools in Lebanon”, organized by Haigazian University with the collaboration of the Armenian Communities department of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation was concluded with an official ceremony on Wednesday, 27th June, 2018 at Haigazian University’s “Heritage” Garden.
This professional development program which was implemented by the Center for Continuing Education at Haigazian University aimed at empowering teachers of Armenian schools in Lebanon, considering them the direct and most cordial link with the new generation. Some 120 teachers from 18 Armenian schools took part in this professional development program, which, in the course of nine months, offered twelve different topics through lectures and workshops conducted by professors of the field and highlighted the innovations in pedagogy by focusing on the creation of a common culture leading to the development of critical thinking in schools.
The national anthems of the Republic of Lebanon and the Republic of Armenia were followed by the welcome note of the manager of the professional development program, Kayane Madzounian.
Dr. Hagop Yacoubian, the chairperson of the Education Department at Haigazian University and a committee member of the professional development program, congratulated the teachers who had completed the nine-month program and emphasized on the importance of critical thinking in the education of future generations, considering this program only the beginning of a substantial work, which could result in the successful creation of an environment where a new generation with a prominent role in society will be brought up. Dr. Yacoubian mentioned that the program was therefore focused on such topics as educational management, identity formation, curriculum development, teaching and learning in Western Armenian and other subjects. All this was supported by research and led by experienced lecturers from Lebanon and abroad.
Addressing school principals and teachers, Yacoubian highlighted that any change in the Lebanese-Armenian schools and their educational system could only be effective if they are convinced of its importance and are prepared for the challenge, hoping for the unwavering encouragement of the educational committees and community leaders in the process of adjusting the educational approaches to the demands of our time.
Dr. Yacoubian’s speech was followed by a video presentation about the Professional Development Program, in which participating teachers from various schools gave personal testimonies about the program, focusing on the opportunity of dialogue and exchange of ideas it had provided.
Following Dr. Yacoubian, the director of the Armenian Communities Department of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Dr. Razmik Panossian observed that since the beginning, the Gulbenkian Foundation has always supported Armenian schools and education, by a heavy focus on school construction in the 60s, which was necessary but not the only factor for a good education. Dr. Panossian compared buildings to monuments with no souls, and stressed that for the purpose of transforming them into schools, the current leadership of the Gulbenkian Foundation had adopted a strategy that focuses on the human factor and the preparation of human resources.
The Armenian Communities Department also works on the development of pedagogical tools, and all this is accomplished by a Diaspora-centric principle and the adoption of Western Armenian language as the cornerstone of this policy.
Dr. Panossian underlined that the institution clearly distinguishes between Armenian language and “Hayetsi tasdiaragoutyoun” (Armenian education) and works to adopt projects that better reflect this philosophy and encourage the revival of the Western Armenian language in different domains and professional backgrounds.
Dr. Panossian carried on with a brief presentation about the projects of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation’s Armenian Communities Department, which include financial support for schools, various ventures that lead the Armenian language towards the digital world, such as electronic books and the spellchecker HySpell for smartphones and computers, as well as “Zarmanazan”- a youth summer camp held entirely in Armenian.
Referring to the testimonies of the teachers in the shown video, Dr. Panossian once again noted their remarks about adopting modern approaches and methodologies, the consolidation and collaboration between schools, and the relevance and continuity of such a program. At the end of his speech, he thanked the President of Haigazian University, Reverend Dr. Paul Haidostian, the Director of the “Center for Continuing Education” at Haigazian University, Sebouh Gurunlian, members of the committee of the project, Chairperson of the Department of Education at Haigazian University, Dr. Hagop Yacoubian and a lecturer at the same department, Shaghig Hudaverdian, and finally the project manager Kayane Madzounian.
The last address of the day was from the President of Haigazian University, Reverend Dr. Paul Haidostian who considered this program an important contribution towards the reform and future development of the recent upheaval of the Lebanese-Armenian Educational reality. At the top of his list of appreciations, Dr. Haidostian thanked the Director of the Armenian Communities Department of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Dr. Razmik Panossian, for the constant financial and substantial contribution of the institution in the support of Armenian communities worldwide, in particular the activities of the Armenian educational institutions in the Middle East.
In addition, Reverend Haidostian thanked the 120 teachers, who, recognizing the importance of professional development, abandoned their weekly rest to participate in the project. He also thanked the school principals for their involvement in the program by creating an environment where their teachers were encouraged and inspired to share their newly acquired skills with their colleagues. He stressed on the fact that schools whose principals closely followed the course of this project were perceived as more driven and open to more tangible results.
Dr. Haidostian continued his speech by thanking the various members of Haigazian University involved in the project, particularly the university’s Department of Education and the “Center for Continuing Education”, who followed closely the program content, quality and conducted ongoing evaluation.
Dr. Haidostian’s last word of gratitude was addressed to the manager of the program, Kayane Madzounian, whose swift, meticulous and steady work resulted in its success.
The ceremony was concluded with the Haigazian University Alma Mater, followed by the distribution of the certificates and a reception.