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January 26, 2013
VIP Kids: The Cost of Care for Armenian Children
By Hasmik Soghomonyan
JNews intern
Courtesy of Heqiat

All parents want their children to be accepted to the best educational institutions and very often plan budget for their higher education before they are born, as fees for high-rated universities can be really expensive. However, before planning the budget for higher education, Armenian parents should deeply explore, analyze the market of children care centers, services provided and the fees charged. It turns out that playing with a toddler is far more expensive that educating a youngster in a prestigious state university.

According to the Ministry of Education and Science of Armenia there are 50 registered non-state and 166 state kindergartens in Yerevan. While in the regions of Armenia state kindergartens suppose some monthly fee, in Yerevan all state kindergartens officially declare free admission and caring about the children.

There are 3 main categories of state preschool institutions which vary basing on the age of the children they accept. So children from 2-3 years old are admitted to mangers ( msur in Armenian), those who are 3-6 years are accepted to regular kindergartens, third type of institution is the combined one – which accepts children of both age categories (children in those kindergartens are separated in different groups according to their age).

State kindergartens usually involve 1 nurse and 1 mentor/educator. Generally 2 staff members are responsible for the group of 35-40 children. This proportion of energetic children and adults is one of reasons why most of the parents prefer their children to go to private kindergartens where there are usually 15-20 children in a group that is coordinated by 2 members of staff. Though, there are far more reasons.  The state kindergartens lack financial assistance to have better conditions for ensuring proper and clean conditions for children.

“I prefer my 4 years old son to go to a private kindergarten which works part-time. I don’t trust any kindergarten (no matter how expensive and prestigious they are) that they would care about my child as I do” – says one of the parents.

Private kindergartens mostly work the same hours. As usual business entity each private kindergarten improves the accommodation conditions (colorful rooms with comfortable beds, rooms full of different toys) and tries to employ different specialists (dance, chess, music and English language teachers, psychologists).

Prices for the attendance of those private kindergartens vary from 50,000 to 120,000 AMD (US$120-300) monthly. “Though I paid average 90,000 AMD (about US$220) monthly for care centers, I’ve decided to take my child to different classes separately, because none of the kindergartens could ensure the development of my child in different spheres properly,” complains one of the parents.

Many private kindergartens even take children as young as 1 year. So for children in the age of 1-6 years old it seems that there is wide variety of care centers.

The general tendency is that closer to the city centre the kindergarten is, the services are more expensive. 32 persons of the explored kindergartens charge 80,000AMD (about US$200) monthly for every child. Usual package of services offered includes team games, dancing, playing, sometimes group cooking, caring about children’s lunch and daily sleep.

So if one wants to take their children to a private kindergarten with good and clean conditions, they should plan a yearly budget for 880,000 AMD (about US$ 2,170). Just to compare average tuition fee for higher education in state universities in Yerevan varies from 250,000- 750,000 AMD annually (from US$650-1,850).

Alternatively, if one doesn’t want to take their children neither to state, nor to private kindergartens, there are babysitter and mentors who take care of and play with the children in one’s house. Mostly 3500 - 4000 AMD daily (about US$10) is considered to be the usual rate for this kind of services. So if parents work 5 days a week, they should plan an average monthly budget for the nurse 70,000 AMD (about US$172). In this case yearly budget will make 840 000 AMD (about US$ 2,000).

“I prefer to hire a nurse who will cook the food that I buy and care about my children in my house,” says Arpine, who has 2 sons, “I pay her 110,000 AMD, it’s not too much if you realize that you are trust your children to someone else.”

Caring about children during their early childhood when they explore the world, play with toys, sing, dance and play with other 3 years old children could be more expensive than gaining knowledge at higher education institutions when one is getting fuel for their future career and life path. Ironically, it turns out that much bigger budget is needed for a newborn to this world during their first years of life in comparison with more serious phase of further education and development of a person. So, by growing up into a teenager and youngster, one eases their parents’ financial burden as it is cheaper to be a regular student rather than a VIP toddler.

“It is very important to look at the prices from both sides: I give a huge part of my salary to the babysitter, however, caring about the children is a hard work without any breaks, it supposes a huge responsibility and very specific personality, so I think that $300 monthly is a fair rate”.

Hasmik Soghomonyan studies for master degree at the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Managment of Georgian Institute of Public Affairs


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