The signing of the TUMO Berlin plans took place jointly in Yerevan and Berlin earlier this year.

Germans Adopt Armenian Digital Education Model

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BERLIN — When German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Armenia in August 2018, she was impressed by the innovative spirit pervading the country. Not long before her arrival, Armenia had gone through a “velvet revolution,” which reminded many Germans of their own peaceful revolution that replaced the East German Communist regime in 1989. It was not only in the political and social realm that fresh winds were blowing; also in technology, Merkel encountered creative new approaches.

The German chancellor was fascinated by the TUMO Center she visited in Gyumri. A physicist by training, Merkel marveled at the effectiveness of the original concept developed there to educate young people in computer sciences. Accompanied by the Minister for Science and Education Arayik Harutyunyan, Merkel said at the time that she “saw teenagers develop innovations while holding fast to the roots of Armenian culture. I just realized what a knowledgeable society exists in Armenia.” Due to her keen interest in the project, she discussed the possibility of opening such a center one day in Germany.

That day is now on the agenda. On February 13, during a joint press conference with Merkel in Berlin, visiting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced the opening of the first TUMO Center in Germany. He and Merkel praised their growing bilateral economic and technological cooperation, of which the TUMO project is the impressive centerpiece. Pashinyan said he was “very happy with the agreement” to set up the facility. “It is a great honor,” he said, “for us to share our advanced experience with a technology-intensive country like Germany.”

The TUMO Center for Creative Technologies, named after poet Hovhannes Tumanyan, is the brainchild of Sam and Silva Simonian, Armenian Americans originally from Beirut. The first center in Armenia appeared in the capital in 2011 and now there are three more, in Gyumri, Dilijan and Stepanakert, capital of Karabakh (Artsakh). The Simonians’ foundation has generated similar institutions in Paris and Beirut as well.

Berlin will host the first German center, which is slated to open by autumn of 2020. The contract for license and franchise was signed on January 21 between TUMO and the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), a financial institution that sponsors education as well as development projects here and abroad. Dorothee Bär, the State Minister for Digitalisation in the Chancellor’s Office, Armenian Ambassador Ashot Smbatyan, KfW Board Member Ingrid Hengster and (connected by videostream) TUMO Chariman Pegor Papazian signed the cooperation agreement in a festive ceremony.

 

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Creative Self-Education

The TUMO Center will provide free education weekly for 1,200 youngsters between the ages of 12 and 18, who will go there after school hours. The concept developed in Armenia allows students to achieve competency in digital technologies in a creative manner. They work together in self-learning sessions and workshops, and learn programming, animation, 3-D modeling, robotics, as well as music, photography and theatre.

Young people profit by such an opportunity to acquire skills in the frontier digital technologies, after school and free of charge; this means teenagers from all family and social backgrounds can benefit equally. Such education is a plus not only “for each individual student,” Bär stated, but “also for our society and economy.” These skills are required “to shape the future of our country,” she said, adding, “I am confident that TUMO will become a similar success story as it is in Armenia.”

Dr. Hengster emphasized the significance of the KfW’s supporting a program that was created in a country with whom the credit institute already has experience in development cooperation. “That is especially exciting,” she said. “Because in the digital field the same applies: Only when we learn from one another can we face challenges and truly encounter success.” She said she hoped many more partners would be found in Germany to join the effort.

For his part, Papazian said, “The opening of a TUMO Center in Berlin is a milestone, because Germany is a forerunner in technology and engineering, and we are particularly delighted to be able to contribute to these achievements.” Armenia is well known in this technological sector, which was already very advanced at the time of the Soviet Union, and enjoys a freedom of Internet access on a par with that of France.

Topics: technology, Tumo
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