NEW YORK — The first online version of the biennial Pan-Armenian Educational Forum, which took place from August 22-24, 2020 was co-organized by Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU)’s flagship online learning institution, the Armenian Virtual College (AVC) and Armenia’s Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport (ESCS).
In its previous eight editions, this forum had been held every two years in Armenia with the purpose of discussing the key issues facing Armenian schools abroad and opportunities for strengthening Armenian-Diaspora relations, as enhancing cooperation in the field of education. With the global pandemic shifting all gatherings online, the virtual setting lifted any geographic limitations and allowed for greater participation. As such, the joint effort attracted a global audience of over 1,300 educators, administrators and supporters of Armenian education from 36 countries, the largest and most diverse participation in the Forum’s history.
In his welcoming remarks, ESCS Minister Arayik Harutyunyan stressed the necessity of such forums to generate new opportunities for Armenia-Diaspora, citing AGBU for co-organizing the conference so diligently, under the direction of AGBU Central Board Member and founding president of AVC Yervant Zorian.
During his introductory message, Dr. Zorian highlighted the value of e-learning, pointing out the variety of modern interactive educational technologies offered by AVC in seven instructional languages, which has already attracted more than 25,000 e-learners. Even in the midst of a global pandemic and perhaps because of it, AVC has emerged as the flagship institution for delivering high quality Armenian education online, enriching its content to meet the needs of and interactively engage with the diverse audiences from across the virtual universe.
The three-day forum, entitled Armenia-Diaspora Cooperation in the Time of COVID-19: Challenges and Opportunities, brought together guest speakers and a variety of panelists from all spheres of education. Thirty-three educators from around the world shared their work experience, programs and challenges, while guest speakers continued on this theme in the daily “Visionary Talks” sessions, presenting their vision, activities, as well as issues and possible solutions. Each plays a leading role in the spheres of community life and education, including Azatouhi Simonyan (Artsakh), Razmik Panossian (Portugal), Rev. Paul Haidostian (Lebanon), Sebouh Aslanian (USA), Arpi Manukyan (Turkey), Kayane Tumbalian (Syria), Salpi Ghazarian (USA), Mary Gulumian (USA), Ara Vassilian (Lebanon), and Tatevik Ayvazyan (Great Britain).
By all accounts, the interactive live broadcast proved to be an excellent opportunity for numerous teachers, principals and administrators to actively participate in the discussions, many expressing particular concern for Armenian language learning among new generations. To better represent all opinions, Dr. Zorian proposed continuing the conversations on the Forum’s platform as an opportunity for greater dialogue and exchange, explaining how it could lead to greater collaboration and coordination in hopes of unifying disparate programs. His recommendation elicited a positive response from the participants who are also seeking more effective ways to bring their ideas, approaches and experiences to the table.
During the closing session, AGBU President Berge Setrakian delivered a compelling speech about how education has always been a high priority for AGBU for 114 years and with that same perspective today, AGBU is investing in innovative programming and supporting the evolving needs of Armenians in different parts of the world. Setrakian also recognized Dr. Zorian’s vision and his team’s realization of AVC, harnessing technological advances for the benefit of Armenian educators and their constituents.
Zareh Sinanyan, Armenia’s High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs, and Artur Martirosyan, ESCS Deputy Minister, also joined their colleagues in commending the coordinated efforts of both AVC and ESCS and wishing continued success in bringing Armenian education and culture to the world.
The global impact of this 9th forum should serve as an impetus for all those interested in enhancing Armenian education to join the AVC Pan-Armenian online discussion platform.
To learn more about the AVC Pan-Armenian Forum on Education: