Promoting health education in Armenia

In October 2022, 130 teachers from 75 schools in Armenia’s Tavush region completed a 5-day training course to prepare them for organizing the new Healthy Lifestyle Club activities (lessons) for their students during the first term of 2023. 

Health education in Armenia has evolved over the past decade from an experimental and optional Life Skills curriculum to a mandatory Healthy Lifestyle course for learners in grades 5 to 11. Initially delivered as a standalone curriculum taught mainly by physical education teachers in grades 8-11, the course is now integrated into “Me and the Surrounding World”, a core subject in primary school (grades 2-4). In grades 5-11, Healthy Lifestyle club activities are obligatory and address a variety of topics under 8 core themes, including nutrition and physical activity; growth and hygiene; safety; mental health, personal and social skills; relationships and gender; harmful habits; violence and harassment; and sexual and reproductive health.  

This new curriculum was developed by the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture, and Sports of Armenia, with support from UNESCO IITE, UNFPA, and UNICEF. 

Since 2021, the new curriculum has been piloted in 75 schools in Armenia’s northeastern Tavush region for grades 5, 7, and 10. In October 2022, teachers from these schools received a refresher training to further develop their interactive teaching and learning skills and to familiarize themselves with the curriculum for grades 6, 8, 9 and 11 in preparation for delivering it during the Spring term of 2023 

New teaching skills 

We have been getting together with other teachers from the Tavush region for the second year in a row to further explore approaches to teaching this course. This time, we are focusing on new topics, building our skills in effectively delivering them, and brainstorming solutions to challenges. 

Narine Shagsuvaryan, Bagratashen Primary School No. 2 

The subject is important for children’s self-development 

The topics covered in the Healthy Lifestyle curriculum are crucial for children’s self-development, as they have been tailored to meet the specific needs of their age group. After a discussion on smoking, two of my 7th-grade students approached me and asked for additional materials to take home and share with their family members. Later on, they told me that they were able to initiate a conversation at home about the negative economic and health effects of smoking, ultimately convincing their fathers to quit. 

Ani Melkumyan, Nerqin Tsaghkavan Secondary School  

New skills to engage all students in the learning process 

I would like to emphasize the role of group work in teaching this course, as well as during our own training sessions. We have been introduced to new teaching techniques on how to engage all students in the learning process. Today, for instance, we have been shown an interactive game called “Looking for a Friend” helping students learn more about themselves and their values, and in turn, understand their peers better. 

Taron Babajanyan, Ptghavan Secondary school 

A course about life 

I highly value the fact that we have this subject offered in our schools. This course is about life, and I am certain that it will be in high demand among the students. Through this course, we teach concepts that may seem basic but are crucial for each student to discover their place in the world. 

Arev Nersisyan, director of Berd school No. 3 

Boosting students’ motivation through group learning and cooperation 

I teach 5th and 7th grades and I see a high level of interest in this course among the students. The course prepares them to make well-informed decisions about their health and wellbeing. They learn to communicate effectively, to help and support each other, to understand what it means to have a friendly attitude, how to assist people in challenging situations, how to empathize, and how to identify trustworthy individuals. 

Armine Khachatryan, Verin Tsaghkavan secondary school 

In March-April 2023, national experts who trained the teachers last October will be visiting Tavush region to attend and observe Healthy Lifestyle lessons in the pilot schools. The experts will be assessing the teaching and learning processes in the classroom, including the teacher’s performance, instructional approaches, relevance and accuracy of the information shared by the teacher, as well as students’ participation and reactions. The information collected during lesson observations will inform improvements to the lesson plans for grades 6, 8, 9 and 11, as well as future teacher preparation and support efforts. 

UNESCO IITE thanks UNFPA and UNICEF offices in Armenia for providing photos and content for this article.