COAF strives to improve the overall quality of education in rural communities by upgrading physical infrastructures and creating progressive learning environments. Capacity-building of local teachers and school administrators also contributes toward overall child development. We aim at developing leadership potential among rural youth, providing them with the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for adapting to change. Taking education to new heights, empowering students to become active participants in the shaping of their futures and encouraging them to give back to their communities are central goals of COAF’s education programs.
We regard education as a catalyst for youth empowerment and tackle the following priority areas:
In the past, village educators received limited professional support and a lack of updated training. COAF’s efforts have exposed local educators to newer and more effective pedagogical approaches, jointly implemented with the Step by Step Foundation.
Networking opportunities are being created to promote exchange of professional experiences and ideas among school principals, as well as to explore ways in which the quality of education can be improved. COAF’s main goal in working with school administrators is to introduce them to student-centered teaching methods.
Academic grants are offered to teachers to improve the quality of teaching by providing additional materials and resources so that textbooks are not used as the only source of information. The grants are awarded based on proposals received from individual teachers.
An integral component of the Education Team’s activities is guiding teachers in joint lesson planning, conducting class observations, analyses, group discussions and organizing tours at Armenia’s best-performing schools.
Best teacher awards have been introduced recently to provide incentive to motivated and dedicated teachers and create an environment for recognition of excellent performance. Standards are set with desired performance principles being communicated to teachers. In addition, support activities such as training and provision of additional resources are made available to ensure that teachers have the tools and information necessary to conduct teaching in accordance with preset standards.
COAF provides students with opportunities to experience alternative ways of learning and to develop their personal interests and talents in an informal environment. We also recognize the importance of sports and the arts, and seek to enrich the lives of rural youth in spheres that do not pertain to traditional academics.
Through participation in Photo-Video Clubs, COAF students have registered successes in both national and international events. These students have consistently excelled at the annual Kangaroo International Math Competition. Additional after-school clubs that allow children to develop their artistic skills and craftsmanship and engage in creative and physically active enterprises include: theater, ethnography, chess, basketball, furniture-making, carpet-weaving, judo and choir.
First launched in 2008, COAF’s summer schools have been a resounding success, providing opportunities for teachers and students to learn and interact in new ways. Summer schools also maximize the utilization of renovated school buildings, providing students with a safe, nurturing and enriching place to go in the otherwise idle summer months. Approximately 500-600 children participate in summer schools each year, enjoying many special activities in arts, music, dance, sports, technology and theater.
Most after-school programs take place at technology-enhanced classrooms called Creativity Labs, which were first introduced in Armenia by COAF and have been widely acclaimed as a cutting-edge means of providing an optimal and creative learning environment. Creativity Labs feature smart boards and modern computers, as well as mobile furniture adaptable for working individually or in different sizes of groups. The Lab provides a multifunctional environment fit for classes, training sessions, lectures, reading, discussions, projects, games, performances and fun.
Understanding the foundations of a democracy is vital to the success of modern Armenia. It is also essential that students take an active role in revitalizing their schools and communities. COAF’s development of student councils and organizations for specific groups helps achieve this goal.
Student councils established by COAF at numerous rural schools provide youth with hands-on experience in the democratic process, collaborative decision-making and civic life. The network of inter-village student councils has allowed for students from neighboring communities to engage with fellow peers. These young leaders have the opportunity to share best practices, collaborate on organizing joint events and publish an inter-village student newspaper.
COAF teams participate on an annual basis in various national debate competitions, which involve school teams from all over the country. These debate activities help students in fostering democratic values and principles, and citizenship.
In an age of globalism, it is imperative that Armenian youth interact with the world beyond their villages. COAF is ensuring that students are aware of opportunities available to them through a variety of methods. Career workshops enable children to familiarize themselves with future career options, while counseling helps them narrow their focus by uncovering interests and aptitudes. Writers, publishers, scientists, artists, business people and other potential role models are involved in the program as visiting lecturers who discuss their professions with students.
Teenage students are provided with access to resources for improving their college and career readiness and to help them make informed decisions about viable professional opportunities that match their strengths and interests. COAF is continuously exposing students to higher education options and labor market trends. Targeted students receive extra help as they undergo self-assessment and self-recognition, through identification of their core qualities and dispositions.
Representatives from universities make visits to schools, outlining the range of programs offered and providing information about entrance exams and other requirements. Students also visit universities to gain a better understanding of their future educational options.
A strong team of teachers who offer career guidance has been formed in nine rural schools in the Armavir and Aragatsotn marzes, as part of the Professional Orientation program. COAF provided trainings to these teachers so that they could effectively conduct career guidance using up-to-date information and methodologies.
COAF has formed partnerships with the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan to promote English language instruction in rural communities throughout Armenia and to emphasize the importance of the English language as a key factor to success for Armenia’s youth. These partnerships increase their ability to participate successfully in the socio-economic development of their communities, and gain the skills needed to compete for and participate in future U.S. exchange and study programs. In addition, their English language skills increase their competitiveness in future careers.
One major program (2011-2013 English Access Micro-scholarship Program) has been completed within the framework of this partnership and two new programs are currently on-going, namely: 2013-2015 English Access Micro-scholarship Program (ACCESS) and Expanding English Access – Reaching Remote Villages with New Technologies Program.
ACCESS provides a strong foundation of English language skills to approximately 100 bright, economically-disadvantaged students from COAF-supported communities through after-school instruction and intensive sessions. English Summer Camps are an integral part of the ACCESS Program. During these camps, students enhance the knowledge and skills acquired during the main courses of the program. Spending a minimum of five hours daily at the summer camps in addition to regular English classes, students participate in various cultural and sport events, art, music, dance activities and field trips. Most of these activities incorporate American games, music and dance, and the school facilities renovated/refurbished by COAF are utilized to host the camps.
COAF promotes integration of information and communication technologies into the teaching and learning process in an effort to expand instructional strategies and practices. The main components of this initiative focus on training teachers on the proper use of smart boards and ICTs with a focus on PowerPoint and research tools.
With the aim of strengthening the use of technology, COAF has established modern libraries in villages that feature digital cataloguing systems, up-to-date resources, digital content and improved library management. We have successfully created an environment attractive to both youth and adults, who enjoy visiting libraries and making use of the various services offered. In this respect, rural school libraries have also undergone substantial improvements, such as being enriched with digital content/e-books and trainings for librarians. Networking opportunities have been established within rural school libraries and with the Fundamental Scientific Library (FSL) of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia.
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