It has been brought to my attention (repeatedly) that Russia has vastly different schooling traditions. Apparently some people I know think that their way is much better. I am not sure I think it’s all better than our way, but I am interested by the differences and thought I would share a little taste of culture. I think some of it might be better and some might be worse – but of course, it’s all a matter of opinion.
*please note I am going off of discussions with my Mother in law, my husband’s small amount of answering my questions and what I read on the internet. So if any of this is wrong, or unlike your Russian school experience, forgive me. Sometimes things get lost in translation.*
1. Day of Knowledge. School starts all over the country on the same day. None of this some schools start one day, some schools start the next week, some don’t start until after Labor Day crap. They all start on September 1 and they all have a big celebration. It’s called “day of knowledge” and it’s a huge thing. The kids all dress up in their finest clothes. Suits and dresses and hair done and nice shoes. The girls wear GIANT white bow things in their hair. The bigger the better. The teachers dress up and come out and meet their class and the kids give them flowers and all the parents are there, also dressed up. When you are in “class 1” it’s extra special and a girl student from first grade rides on the shoulders of a “last class” (11th grade) male student and rings a bell signifying the start of the school year. Everyone claps and and all the old ladies say “first class first time” to each other a million times. And ooo and ahh about how precious it all is. There is singing and poetry and the director of the school comes out to welcome everyone in. Apparently some places the teacher runs into the school with her class. The children only go to school for a short time the first day and when they go home, most families have a big dinner (which always includes drinks) and have neighbors and family over. (some things I read say that the classes between 1 and 11 don’t do the celebration part at the school, but in my husband’s area apparently they did)
2. When the children are small they go a little bit more each day to school before going full day to get used to sitting after summer.
3. The children go to school with the same teacher and the same classmates from 1st to 5th grade. The teacher knows the students and how they learn and the class becomes like a little family. Some of my teacher friends said they can’t imagine having to remember the curriculum for, develop plans for, and teach all of those grades. I think it sounds nice, though. A teacher who really knows you would help a lot…. unless you are “that kid” or just don’t mesh well with the teacher. And I suppose if you had a classmate you hated you would have to live with it instead of hoping they would go to a different class next year.
4. The Russian schools don’t have homework in the younger grades. To be fair, neither did I, probably until about 5th grade, but apparently these days they do. Most nights.
6. They serve a lot of soup at school lunch. Everyone knows that soup is very important for digestion. (I have actually been reading that things like soup and fermented foods like pickles ARE very good for digestion, so I can’t knock it.) I don’t think they take lunches from home in Russia either.
7. When it’s cold, they don’t play outside. I grew up in Wyoming. If it wasn’t 0 degrees and a blizzard, we went outside. Here in Colorado the rule is below 32 degrees with the windchill, or heavy rain or snow. I think it’s good to get outside and burn off energy. My son takes a coat and gloves and hat and boots and scarf every day of the winter season and he loves going outside with his friends. In Russia, though, you get sick from being out in the cold, or wind in your ears, or drinking drinks with ice in them…. so I can see how parents wouldn’t want you to go out in the snow.
9. Where my husband grew up everyone went to the same school building all through the years. You didn’t have an elementary school and a middle school and a high school. They were all in one building.
Honestly, I don’t know how the education is there. My husband is very smart. He learned 3 languages in school, but I think that’s because he went to a special Armenian school in Russia. They learned Russian and English in the regular Russian schools even in elementary age school and he learned Armenian as well. He is very smart, especially in math and even though it doesn’t sound like he loved school, he did well. Most of the younger people I met there speak some English and understand more. That alone is better than most schools I have been associated with here. They all have excellent handwriting and he says they were forced to practice over and over until the letters and numbers looked perfect. My handwriting is atrocious and I never cared to fix it, and I wasn’t made to. Over 50% of high school students go on to college and graduate. They don’t put money into school and not graduate. I know they know how to work hard and to respect their elders. Other than that, I can’t speak to their actual quality of education.