My personal motivation to carry out this research was the great will to be part of the change in the higher education system in Armenia – I believe it still needs to go a long way towards improvement and delivering high professionals ready to enter workforce. First, organic agriculture – the broad case of this doctoral thesis – is a relatively new concept in the country but has a huge potential to boost. To reveal this potential together with the stakeholders in the field was the second incitement for me to carry out this research. Thirdly, the concept of participation – till now only few researches have been employing participatory research as the main approach of their research in Armenia, and barely any of them work for the higher educational level. Despite of the difficult context for participatory research (pandemic, war), another personal impetus was to spread the culture of it in the scientific community of Armenia. My study, entitled ‘Transforming Pedagogy – the Participatory Development of an Organic Agriculture Master’s Program in Armenia’, is a meeting point for these three together with fragile ties of transdisciplinary action research. It aims to investigate an approach of participatory curricula development on Master’s level including a more bottom-up learning and teaching approach using organic agriculture as the thematic area; to observe the process and to learn from it. The study took place at the Armenian National Agrarian University (ANAU), Yerevan.
The research was conducted in the framework of the project Building Organic Agriculture in Armenia (BOAA), which aimed to improve the knowledge and skills of organic stakeholders through participatory curriculum development and outreach (APPEAR funded project BOAA with cooperation of BOKU, Vienna and ANAU, Yerevan).
Agriculture is the main source of employment in Armenia. Organic agriculture and agriculture in general still suffer a lack of specialists and educational programs, as current curricula development practices have been inherited from the Soviet times and do not meet the requirements for this generation. In the meantime, there is a great perspective to foster organic agriculture in the country and therefore it can significantly improve the livelihoods of rural population.
With this, I want to contribute to the knowledge in the field and be part of a wider community of action researchers. My expectations were to benefit from the experience and develop many transferable skills that I would be able to use when I move to further research and employment.
That journey was full of struggle and thriving, but also excitement and joy. Throughout the years of my doctoral journey, I was surrounded by people that supported me. However, this research would have never been possible without the scholarship of the APPEAR program, OeAD, funded by Austrian Development Cooperation. I want to express my sincere gratitude for the support and life changing opportunity!
Hasmik Hovakimyan recently received her doctoral degree at University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU). She graduated from secondary school in Sisian, a small town in southern Armenia, and achieved her Bachelor’s and Honorary Master’s degree at Armenian State University of Economics (ASUE) in Yerevan. She looks back at more than 7 years of work experience in different governmental organisations, at teaching experience at ASUE and has attended numerous conferences and summer schools. For 5 years Hasmik Hovakimyan has been a member of Youth Parliament, National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia. She is an author of more than 12 national and international articles and a study manual.
Hovakimyan, H.; Klimek, M.; Freyer, B.; Hayrapetyan, R. (2021): Sustainable Shift from Centralized to Participatory Higher Education in Post-Soviet Countries: A Systematic Literature Review. Sustainability 2021. 3(10), 5536; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13105536
Hovakimyan, H.; Klimek, M.; Freyer, B.; Vogel, S. (2021): Participation in Higher Education Curricula Development in Armenia and Possible Effects for the Labour Market – The Case of an “Organic Agriculture” Master’s Program. Soc. Sci. 2021, 10(9), 331; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci10090331