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Reource Scarcity in Armenia

By Gevorg Poghosyan, Armenian Sociological Association

In Armenia sociology is developing in academic institutions, state and private universities, think-tanks and NGOs. The Yerevan State University (YSU) was founded in 1919. Today YSU has 22 Faculties of History, Linguistics, Philosophy, Law, Psychology, Sociology, Geology, Geography, Physics, Mathematics, Biology, Faculty of International Relations, Economy, Oriental Studies and others. The educational and scientific activities are organized in more than 100 departments, which are furnished with modern technologies and equipment.  YSU has 13 000 students. More than 200 lecturers out of 1200 hold doctoral degrees and more than 500 are Candidates of Sciences. By now there have been approximately 90,000 graduates (www.ysu.am).

The Department of Sociology in the Faculty of Philosophy at the Yerevan State University was established in 1986. The Faculty of Sociology was opened in September of 2004. The Chair of Social Work and Social Technologies was separated from the Chair of Applied Sociology. Currently the following specializations are available here: Sociology, Social Work, Conflict Resolution, Methodology of Social Research and Public Relations. Since the 2007-2008 academic year distance learning in the area of Sociology and Social Work is available as well.

Laboratories for Applied Sociological Research and Distance Learning exist at this faculty. One year courses are available at the Distance Learning Laboratory in the area of Social Work and Public Relations specializations. Preparatory courses for foreign students in the field of Sociology with one year duration have also been available in this laboratory since 2007.

In the framework of the Armenian Academy of Sciences sociological researches were conducted in two Institutes:  in the Institute of Philosophy, Sociology and Law (1969) (www.ipsol.sci.am) and in the Institute of Archeology and Ethnology (1959). In 1983 Armenian branch of the Soviet Sociological Association was opened, on the bases of which in 1992 the independent Armenian Sociological Association (ASA) was founded. Together with ASA (www.asa.am) small private sociological organizations, including groups attached to newspapers, political parties, ministries, and private universities also started to be created. It is worth mentioning that besides the capital, sociological groups were created in other towns of Armenia.. Sociological education was also enlarged due to the creation of many private universities. Nowadays there are about 80 private and 12 State universities in Armenia. 6-7 of them offer Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in sociology. Powerful changes in the development of Armenian sociology started from the mideighties and early nineties.

Sociological researches conducted by Armenian sociologists focus on three main sectors: (a) Fundamental academic research; (b) Public opinion polls, political sociology, and (c) Market research. The spectrum of sociological topics has been widely extended. Liberalization of Armenian society extends the frames of sociological analyses of public life. Nowadays sociologists examine  problems that were previously closed and forbidden to research.  In the sphere of academic research you can clearly see new trends which did not exist before. Among the main academic sociological research we could mention the following directions:  Sociology of Disaster; Migration Sociology; Ethno-Sociology; Gender Studies; Social Stratification; Sociology of Poverty; Sociology of Family; Sociology of Youth and Children and others.

Market research and public opinion surveys were completely new for us. The main fields of this research are: advertisement, media surveys, consumer behavior, etc.  Public opinion surveys became very intensive especially after the first presidential and parliamentarian elections in 1991. However, Armenia has not yet founded an Institute of Public Opinion Research that would conduct surveys on a regular base. More or less regular surveys are conducted by the Academy of Sciences and the ASA.

The main problem that sociological education in the country faces is the lack of qualified teaching personnel and the scarcity of books and textbooks in Armenian. In reality, Armenian is the language of instruction in all universities, except for a few foreign universities. Yet despite this there are only a couple of textbooks written in Armenian by Armenian sociologists, and 2-3 textbooks translated from Russian or English into Armenian. Thus, Armenian students studying in faculties of Sociology and Political Science in our universities have to satisfy their need of information from the oral lectures of their professors. Even works of eminent classical sociologists are available only in foreign languages: Russian, English, French, and German. Lack of textbooks, learning materials and books in the teaching language reduce drastically the quality of sociological education in universities. Students obtain their BA and MA degrees with a  poor knowledge of history of sociology, modern sociological theories, directions, tendencies and methodologies for sociological research.

Lack of qualified instructors in universities is another key problem. It is enough to mention that even in the Faculty of Sociology at YSU none of the professors hold a postdoctoral degree in sociology. Philosophers, political scientists, economists, mathematicians and even geographers teach courses in sociology to undergraduate and graduate level students. The situation is even worse in other universities of Armenia.

The huge deficiency of textbooks and books in Armenian and the lack of professional teachers are the main obstacles for progress of not only sociological education in the universities of Armenia but also for sociology as a whole. The most immediate solution for this problem is the development of sociological education in foreign universities that are established in Armenia, and encouraging Armenian students in sociology and political science to study abroad.

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