Up to date

This year, Armenian schools went from an eleven-year system to a twelve-year system. Last year’s tenth graders are this year’s twelfth graders, last year’s ninth graders are this year’s eleventh graders, and half of the kids who started school this year are put straight into second grade.

The idea is that although it might cause a little chaos now, in twelve years it will be normal, and there’s plenty of time to develop a twelve year curriculum in the meantime. They haven’t quite done it yet but they’ve started. For example, there’s a new seventh grade book and a new fifth grade book for English, but the eleventh grade is using the old tenth grade book, and there is no eleventh grade book.

However: I’m not sure who was doing what this summer, but one of the things that wasn’t done was to adapt the curriculum and textbooks so that, for example, this year’s seventh graders can cover the material that they ought to have learned in sixth grade, which they skipped, and so on down the line. Everyone who was studying this year will have a gap in their curriculum.

And no one seems to have thought this was a problem worth solving until a couple weeks ago, when the Armenian NIE English department called all their regional specialists into Yerevan. They split up the fifth and seventh grade books among eight specialists, including my counterpart, and assigned them to combine their sections of the current-year books with the corresponding sections of the previous-year books, write lesson plans for current teachers including the combined material, that they can use or not, as they choose.

That’s the work I’m currently doing. Officially, my responsibilities are to train the teachers in my city and the region, giving workshops and seminars as needed, observing and critiquing teachers; and also to field whatever work is sent down from the central NIE. And I suppose I am doing all right, and it’s good for the place I’m working at to have free labor – I can touch-type, and I speak English.

But my resume certainly wouldn’t support me doing this kind of work at home. Which puts me in an uncomfortable position, condescending without wanting to. Although I don’t know anything about education, I know the way I would do it if I had ever done it is better than the way you do it. Here, let me show me how. Or: we wouldn’t give this guy a job, here you take him, he’ll be great. Have some of this, it tastes awful.

2 Replies to “Up to date”

  1. Remember, organizational chaos is an opportunity for grace.

    You could make a case that the very existence of the Peace Corps is a kind of accidental condescension. “Here, let us show you how to prosper.” Don’t sweat it, just do what you can, enjoy the ride, and — you know — represent! Pretty rare that anybody in this world is well-qualified for their job, anyway.

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