Nowadays, when science and technology are developing day by day, and globalization processes deepen, the acquisition of new skills and knowledge of foreign languages have become a priority and an indicator for understanding and perceiving the world in a new way.
From this perspective the concept of Open Education has become a fundamental goal for the development of educational policy in different organizations and educational institutions.
The American University of Armenia is the pioneer and a good example of the Open Education system in Armenia.
In 2014, thanks to the cooperation between the Syunik-Development NGO and the American University of Armenia, the AUA Open Education regional office was launched in Yeghegnadzor, Vayots Dzor region.
Since the foundation of the regional office in Yeghegnadzor, more than 1500 people have benefited from the Open Education Department trainings in order to increase their knowledge in the sphere of Human Resource Management, Finance, Business Management, Tourism, Marketing, and in other modern areas. They have also learned practical English, professional ethics, and skills of effective communication.
In addition to the courses offered by Open Education, and within the scope of its Social Development Program in Vayots Dzor Region, Syunik-Development NGO has conducted digital marketing and SMM training by the specialist of AUA, supported by the German Brot fur die Welt organization.
The majority of graduates are working in tourism centers, guest houses, have founded their own small businesses, and have participated in various international projects.
The successful cooperation between AUA and Syunik-Development NGO was helped by the involvement of the Canadian Atken Armenian Foundation (AAF) from the very beginning. In the early years, individual AAF scholarships were given to local Armenians for the English Language Training from a wide variety of donors. Later, thanks to the generosity of AAF benefactor Tony Halepli, these scholarships were greatly expanded to ensure that all interested students from socially vulnerable families in the region could participate.
Armen and Azniv Aleksanyans are a good example of participants who benefited from training.
This couple earns their living by themselves. Armen is a taxi driver and Azniv works at the post office.
They have a beautiful garden, a spacious house; they know the secrets of Armenian cuisine and are keen to host tourists and local visitors.
”As you know the most informed people are taxi drivers”, Armen says with a smile.
“We know the news about the political situation in Armenia, Russia, and America and we are informed about city news, problems, and perspectives at the local level. In the last years, there is an increasing number of tourists visiting our region (I don’t want to speak about the pandemic, it is a challenge which we can overcome soon). It was very hard for me to communicate with the tourists when I was guiding them to Noravank, Jermuk, and other landmarks of the region. That made me think I should start learning English. If I had the skills to communicate with foreigners, I would be able to present the wonders of our region with its tradition and history. Together with my wife, we decided to challenge ourselves.
Holding hands, we attended a series of English and Tourism courses provided by AUA Open Education. Surprisingly the courses went quite smoothly, in a positive and interactive way. It is nice to mention, that there was even a constructive competition between me and my wife. We have now established our own Guest House. My wife is busy welcoming guests, and doing the marketing of our business, while I organize the transfer of tourists.
Thanks to the gained knowledge now I can introduce our region to the tourists and offer tours towards various touristic destinations.
The income we gain helps us to take care of our children and grandchildren, and to make small investments in our business”.
The modern world and the reality we live in prove the importance of gaining new, constant knowledge and skills, the need for resilience of ideas. And the solutions to such problems, perhaps, are through the process of open education and self-education. From this perspective COVID-19 time is a good opportunity to build valuable skills to discover their new business model and structures needed to survive and thrive.