21.11.2017
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Armenian students obliged to serve the army at the expense of education

Image source: http://www.historyoftruth.com/

The European Students’ Union supports the Armenian students in opposing the proposed law according to which students would not have the option of military deferment anymore. Students have been threatened with low grades and with the abolishment of free education for protesting against the draft law that obliges male students aged 18 to serve in the army.

Forcing students who should be free to educate themselves to follow military service is unacceptable and deplorable. ESU is completely against any legislation that encroaches on students’ rights.

An equally deplorable act is the persecution of those students participating in protests. A society that allows its people to speak their mind freely, even and especially in disagreement with the state’s policies, is a mark of a free society while the opposite is the sign of limitations on people’s fundamental freedoms, such as. freedom of speech and assembly. Moreover, this kind of repression of the views of the academic community and students’ voice are to be regarded as a direct threats to the academic freedom.

Armenian Higher Education Institutions are one of the signatories of the Bologna Declaration and pledged commitment to academic freedom and institutional autonomy, Armenian ministers have committed to implementing the necessary reforms in the framework of the Bologna Process to ensure the enhancement of fundamental values in higher education systems and institutions. We would like to particularly highlight the following:

Yerevan Communiqué (2015): Ministers committed to working towards achieving an EHEA in which higher education contributes effectively to the development of inclusive societies founded on democratic values and human rights. Also, ministers promised to support the higher education institutions in enhancing their efforts to promote intercultural understanding, critical thinking, political and religious tolerance, gender equality, and democratic and civic values in order to strengthen European and global citizenship as well as to lay the foundations for inclusive societies.

Bucharest Communiqué (2012): Ministers expressed a commitment to support the engagement of students and staff in governance structures at all levels, and the ministers reiterated their commitment to autonomous and accountable higher education institutions that embrace academic freedom.

Bergen Communiqué (2005): Criteria such as academic freedom, institutional autonomy and student participation were included as part of the Bologna Process accession.

Prague Communiqué (2001): “Ministers affirmed that students should participate in and influence the organisation and content of education at universities and other higher education institutions. Ministers also reaffirmed the need, recalled by students, to take account of the social dimension in the Bologna process”.

All the aforementioned points reaffirm once again the responsibility of the State of the Republic of Armenia to engage students in governance of higher education – including the discussions about laws and their implementation, especially when those directly affect the learning experience of students.

ESU appreciates the fact that after several days of protest, students now have been invited by the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia to roundtable discussions to express their concerns and suggestions and we are looking forward to witness those outcomes satisfying students demands and complying with their rights.

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Background information

On September 2017, the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Armenia proposed a draft law, according to which students would not have the option of military deferment anymore. Previously, male students with high admission grades were granted a governmental scholarship and a right to deferment. The new law states that at the age of 18, male students – usually newly high-school graduates – will have to serve in the army.

For around a week, hundreds of Armenian students gathered for a strike in protest against the adoption of the law. The student initiative “For Developing Science” who organized the strike claims that the law is a short-term and ineffective solution for the defence purposes of the country.

The initiative proposes that deferment spots, available during previous years, should continue to exist.  Students claim that the efficiency of the new law is not thoroughly studied. They highlight the negative effects of this law on education and on the scientific development of the society.

According to some sources, there are ongoing repressions in Armenian universities. Other public authorities warned members of the academic community to not get involved with the protests. Professors have threatened students with low grades and with the abolishment of free education.

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