YEREVAN– The American University of Armenia (AUA) is happy to announce the launch of a three-year program in STEM Education for Armenian Youth, initiated by the AUA Engineering Research Center with support from the U.S. Mission in Armenia, Public Affairs Section. The program aims to mainstream best teaching practices and innovative pedagogies for STEM education in middle and high schools, thus increasing the number of students pursuing higher education and careers in STEM with Armenian and U.S. companies.
The first three-day workshop of the program kicked off on January 24, 2020, on the International Day of Education proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly. Attending the opening session were Deputy Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport Arevik Anapiosyan (M PSIA ’08), representatives of the U.S. Embassy in Armenia, and expert teachers from AYB School. Participants in the workshop were 20 teachers from five regions of Armenia: Tavush (Dilijan), Shirak (Gyumri), Lori (Vanadzor), Vayots Dzor, and Syunik (Goris).
Armenia has been enjoying a boom in the sector of information technologies and has identified high tech as a priority sector and significant contributor to accelerated economic development. But, a limiting factor for realizing development in this sector has been the insufficient talent supply, as articulated by many tech companies in the country. This is explained by the low number of high school graduates aspiring to study in STEM programs when pursuing university studies. “AUA is proud to host this program supported by the U.S. Embassy and the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport. Our current attention to STEM education will help students to understand how science, technology, engineering, and mathematics integrate into the real world. This will inspire them to learn more about these disciplines and to also combine STEM with art and social sciences into the development of systemic knowledge. The challenge is to teach these disciplines so that they stimulate curiosity, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication, which is the aim of this program,” noted AUA President Dr. Karin Markides welcoming the guests and the participants.
“Focusing on STEM education also aligns with the U.S. Embassy’s belief of investing in people, because when you invest in people, you can help the future of a country. These educated students who go into STEM fields will have higher-paying jobs and be more active citizens in society. There will be more opportunities available to them,” said Erica King, cultural affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Armenia, thanking the participants of the program and wishing them good luck in this endeavor.
The STEM Education for Armenian Youth program endeavors to address this challenge through raising awareness among school children and parents about career opportunities in STEM fields; enhancing opportunities for hands-on experience and motivating practical applications of science and technology in schools; boosting the quality of science and math teaching in middle schools; as well as expanding opportunities to prepare high school students for TOEFL and SAT tests, particularly for those in the regions so as to facilitate admission to AUA and other universities.
The program has two major components: teacher training sessions and STEM summer camp for students. The former have the potential to change routine classroom instruction by integrating modern teaching methods and approaches, as well as engaging students in group and individual activities in STEM subjects.
The biggest benefit for the teachers will be learning advanced teaching approaches in STEM subjects through practical hands-on activities. Part of the teacher workshops will be dedicated to project-based learning that will equip teachers with tools and skills that would help them to explore and address pedagogical challenges.
One of the unique features of the workshops will be inviting artists, writers, designers, and actors to assist STEM teachers in turning fact-based and theoretical concepts that are hard to imagine or understand into engaging stories and popular narratives with graphical images. “We aim to implement this for the first time in Armenia and it is a kind of experimenting with how the arts can be integrated into STEM, to make it more interactive and enjoyable,” said Artur Khalatyan, chair of AUA’s Master of Engineering in Industrial Engineering and Systems Management program and director of the program. “We are currently carrying out reforms in Armenia’s public educational system. We are updating the five pillars of the system: the school management, teaching staff, educational program, teaching and learning materials, and assessment tools. The program you are launching is very important in the light of these reforms,” remarked Deputy Minister Anapiosyan. She continued to address the participants, “I hope that you will be able to infect your fellow teachers with enthusiasm to take part in such programs. I wish that next year we are able to participate in international educational expos to present our know-how in the field. Maybe we could have our input in those expos where everybody wants to find solutions to better preparing our students for the unknown future.”
The project team will engage all workshop participants in STEM summer camps, where the trainees will use the knowledge gained in real-life classroom practice and will have the opportunity to receive immediate feedback and guidance from teacher trainers.
The students will develop research, critical thinking, teamwork, and problem-solving skills, and will participate in career orientation sessions, as well as hackathons, competitions, and project presentations. “We will create real teaching experiences with real students, so teachers will be able to reflect back on what went well and what needs further improvement,” added Khalatyan.
The program will accept participants from a broad cross-section of students with different profiles to attend the STEM summer camp, which aims to increase interest in STEM subjects and careers in an engaging and inspiring manner, regardless of the students’ background knowledge and varying interests. The STEM summer camp will mainly target 9th- and 10th-grade students, with limited space for 8th and 11th graders. As a result, students will become confident learners with broader imagination and appreciation for everything STEM practitioners are able to realize for society’s advancement and prosperity. By finding the connections between STEM knowledge and skills in real-world challenges and advancements, students will be poised to pursue success as STEM professionals.
“AUA is well positioned to lead this inspiring initiative which will undoubtedly support the next phase of Armenia’s continued development. More attention to the improvement of our educational endeavors, in this case for STEM topics, is welcome as we aspire to best prepare the next generation to face the challenges confronting our society,” remarked Aram Hajian, dean of the Akian College of Science and Engineering.