Mediamax interviewed Adviser to Armenian President on Education, Co-founder of Ayb School, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Ayb School Fr. Mesrop Aramyan.
- In July, Ruben Vardanyan announced his intention to create FAST. According to him, the Foundation for Armenian Science and Technology should become a platform for Armenia’s technological breakthrough. I know that you took an active and direct part in development of FAST idea and discussed further steps with Ruben Vardanyan and other partners recently. What did the discussions come to?
- At this point, we are confirming main directions and stages of the project, clarifying probable founders, investors and partners. I would like to stress that FAST is an initiative that requires serious unification. There are organizations and individuals that already showed some interest towards the project. Naturally, the project’s efficiency depends greatly not on ensuring the necessary amount of investments, but on the team and experts working on the project. For a successful launch of FAST, it will be necessary to unite the scientific, technological and innovative potential of Armenians worldwide.
- Our modern history has but a few cases when successful people from different fields managed to unite, form a “coalition” and get common achievements. What are the guarantees that this initiative will work?
- Indeed, we need to unite success stories.
Every success story is essentially a story of faith and hope for our country. We have success stories not only in Armenia, but in Diaspora as well. Sometimes they are notable, sometimes not so much. When you present these stories one by one, people say, “Yes, that is great, but one flower doesn’t make a spring”. It is more convincing when you give a single picture of many successes.
I made a presentation on Armenia recently in several renowned scientific and education centers in USA. I tried to show the Armenia ten years later, based on success stories of the last 10 years in Armenia. The presentation is an fictional but probable and realistic image of our country, because every element of this picture comes from current success stories in Armenia. Trust me, seeing such an Armenia was a revelation for the participants of those meetings. In fact, they are constantly flooded by negative information flows from Armenia, and no one gathers or provides positive ones. They were surprised not only by impressive projects, but also by the number of “crazy people” realizing them, who try to move forward despite all pessimistic attitudes and “unbeatable” obstacles of favoritism, oligarchy and corruption. If not for these people, we wouldn’t have Ayb, Tumo or UWC Dilijan College. Neither would we have multiple technological companies that show impressive results and economic growth. High-tech sector’s annual growth by 20-25% in Armenia is also a unique example globally.
Interesting changes take place in technologies and education, and our country’s future is connected to these fields undoubtedly. For centuries, this was our peculiarity, our competitive advantage.
Often deprived of statehood, we still had good education, science, art and crafts; we had surprising abilities to create and managed to achieve success.
We should be guided by the same mindset now. Of course, we should give a great scale to this initiative, make large investments into it, and form development projects for the field. We should not leave things to their own fate or to individuals and communities.
Many people think that there is so much bad now that the good will drown in it. But that is not true, because the good is backed by faith, inspiration and work. You only need to unite the good and ensure the necessary number of project participants.
- The issue of FAST financing and investors is also very important. Ruben Vardanyan expressed his readiness to make USD 10 mln investment, to be followed by organization of an international fund-raising campaign aiming to get the volume of the foundation up to USD 200 mln in three years. I suppose that the main part of this sum will be raised by the Diaspora. Many people claim today that “the Diaspora is disappointed” and has no wish to invest in Armenia.
- I believe this is a matter of trust. If this initiative gathers those individuals and organizations that inspired trust in the Diaspora for years with their actions and results, then I believe this project will succeed. People like to invest in good causes and don’t like to be deceived. In this regard, it is important to obtain necessary trust for this initiative, and we will try to.
Ayb and Luys foundations support this project and are ready to bring their investments in this strategic initiative, which aims to build Armenia’s future.
Of course, we shouldn’t forget about current issues while we discuss the future ones. I’d like to remind that the necessity of FAST initiative came from the analysis of the April war. There are many people today in Ayb community as well who want to apply their professions in solving current issues of military industry.
There are also clear examples of such actions. Ayb community member David Pakhchanian quit his job in Moscow and was appointed Deputy Defense Minister of Armenia, aiming to contribute to development of our military industry.
Therefore, I’d like to stress that no solution will be effective if we don’t have well-founded projects for future. So I call on everyone to unite as strongly as we can around this initiative, important for scientific and technological advance of our country.
Going back to fundraising, I have to note that we shouldn’t view only the Diaspora as a source of financing. There are individuals and companies within Armenia as well, which will be ready to make some investment.
I am sure that the state will also support this project as such large initiatives cannot succeed without it.
I have been working for 25 years among pessimistic attitudes in Armenia. However, the mist of hopelessness can be pierced only by the readiness to reach the light and effort. We should realize that every achievement is a result of a dream and a belief. A nation cannot live without high goals, dreams and a vision. Being united just by the past will only weaken us. Nations that have a vision for future and work for it every day are stronger.
Let me say that people who constantly complain about disagreement between Armenians don’t know our people well and are looking for a reason to not act. Armenians have a great potential for unification, but the rules of the game should be honest. I can say, based on the example of Ayb, that an idea of several friends developed into a big movement, which includes today hundreds of people and companies. They united around one vision – to bring up an educated and morally strong generation that can take on the responsibility for future. Why did the people unite? Because they saw that it was the future they dreamed about for their children and themselves. We need high goals and inspirations.
- Cooperation with the state is indeed an interesting and multilayered issue. Obviously, this initiative cannot work without support from the state, but it’s important to determine the ways and mechanisms of that support from the very beginning. For instance, it is often said that Armenian National Academy of Sciences is an outdated institution that doesn’t actually contribute to development of science. However, I am sure that there are competent and talented people and working agencies within the Academy. What should be done to avoid making them feel isolated and engage them in cooperation with FAST?
- FAST aims to create competitive technologies that will be in demand not only in Armenia, but on the global market as well. It is no easy job to find your place in the hard competition of today. The only condition of success is striving to be the best. Therefore, strict quality standards and clear evaluable outcomes should be established.
Of course, FAST has to gather scientific and engineering potential of Armenia. Meanwhile, we should not forget that we have a large Diaspora and successful experts of Armenian descent worldwide, cooperation with whom will have a principal meaning in realization of this project. We should also work with renowned international companies and make Armenia attractive for them.
- The Western model of technological advance is that talents are born and “brewed” in universities, around which foundations and companies are built. For obvious reasons, our universities don’t have that “brewing pot” function. Can we hope that FAST will also facilitate creation of such an environment?
- It’s impossible to ensure technological advance without significant educational preconditions from schools to universities. Development of technological educations is one of the main directions of FAST work. We will try to strengthen certain branches of the universities we have, and a serious discussion is held on the idea of a technological university in Armenia.
When Armenian President visited Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in spring, the main reason of the visit was to use our ties and opportunities to found a technological university in Armenia, which would comply with the highest international standards. After all, if FAST grows to a large scale and manages to bring to life such an institution, I believe that it will be the greatest achievement of this initiative.
MIT is not just an education institution, but an environment that generates technology and technological business. From the very first course, students learn not only science but also skills to apply it. In that way, the chain is complete.
We need to form that kind of education environment. Knowledge should become practical result. Nowadays, learning within projects has become the leading basis of school education. Projects come to schools out of need to balance requirements of modern life and education, and as a result, school education becomes more creative and efficient. Naturally, the majority of those projects is modern technology-related today. Higher education should reflect these developments in modern life even more, so that it can produce according specialists. It is evident now that our higher education has to change essentially. Armenian’s high tech sector surpassed the education sector, and universities can’t keep up and produce the necessary number of good specialists. This is one of the biggest challenges in advancing high-tech and economy in general in Armenia.
Ara Tadevosyan talked to Fr. Mesrop Aramyan