Choosing a School in Moscow
I lecture for two days a week in a Russian university for teachers in Moscow. This is a job I tremendously enjoy as the students are sincere, hardworking and very bright. There are, however some depressing aspects to the job, the worst of which is the attitude which some of these Russian students have towards their own education system. During a recent class I was dismayed to discover that only three students out of my current class of 12 were prepared to say that they would become teachers in a Russian school. Various reasons such as low wages, high housing costs and the challenges of the new Russian curriculum were discussed. In many ways, the situation in that class would be analogous with the situation in a teacher training class in the UK or elsewhere, where conditions in the state secondary school system, with ever-evolving national curriculums and salary expectations leave a lot to be desired. I thanked them for their honesty and left that class rather depressed.This has not always been the case in Russia. Ideological factors aside, Soviet education was highly respected for the quality of its teachers. A few older, highly professional Russian teachers are still working today because of the deep connection they experience with their profession and the fulfilment at it brings. Younger teachers, also deeply dedicated to their chosen vocation, follow in the footsteps of these older teachers. But there are not enough teachers of high enough calibre to guarantee continuing high standards. The world, including Russia, has changed. Whilst more resources are being put into the Russian system, many Russian parents say that quality has sadly become patchy. Talented young Russian teachers today need to be able to afford to enter the profession that they love at precisely the time when Russian society needs them the most.
The 21st century demands highly qualified professionals in the sciences but there is also a need for people in the burgeoning creative industries. Soviet secondary schools traditionally specialised in the sciences, and most, but not all Russian secondary schools still focus on non-humanitarian subjects. Without the ability to think laterally, it is unlikely that young people, indeed any of us, will succeed when just about every profession is challenged by artificial intelligence. Today’s teachers need to be able to spot, cultivate and nurture a talent in a child, even if the talent is not in the sciences.
So how on earth should parents in Moscow choose the right school for their children? If you are a parent seconded here for a while, you may wish to consider the private secondary education sector for your child’s education. Despite the ‘crises’ which strangely have not really affected the amount of money Russians (and some foreigners) have to spend on their children’s education, these schools are now competing with each other. That means that parents have more choice and can demand more for their money. Money is undeniably an important criterion, but not the only one. Just because a school is charging international fees does not mean that it is necessarily providing international level education. Parents need to be highly vigilant. Questions which parents may consider to be important are: Are ALL the teachers really professional, experienced, highly-qualified English native speakers, and how long have they committed to staying in Moscow? Do the school’s fees include all the hidden extras such as transportation costs, uniforms, charges for extra specialised lessons and activities, or not? How ‘international’ is the school in actual fact? Was it founded here in Moscow, and thus has been experimenting (on children) with different curriculums and teaching methods or is it a truly international organisation, able to draw on a vast bank of know-how? Finally, just how attractive is the school for teachers because high teacher turnover is the bane of all international schools in Moscow.
One school which you may consider checking out (along with others) is the large, newly opening (2018) Brookes School, one of the expanding Brookes International school network of 7 schools. The school answers all the above criteria and more. It considers all of its schools, for example, to be integrated into one large educational establishment. So if you wish your son or daughter to find out what living in let’s say Vancouver for a term or two, that can be arranged at no extra cost because the Brookes team happens to believe that understanding and sharing cultures is important for the development of a child. Conveniently, the teaching curriculum is the same in all the schools. This school aims to celebrate Russian holidays, and the national traditions of all children studying in the school. To find out more, and there is a lot more to find out about, please do contact Brookes sooner rather than later, as special deals are available for founding families.