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Children's education in Russia. Preschool education for children. School education and homeschooling.

Non-formal education and extracurricular activities for children. New education reform in Russia. Modernization and computerization of Russian schools. Professional and higher education in Russia.

A Russian student in the chemistry class

Education system in Russia

The education in Russia is regulated on the federal level. Education is split into a compulsory Basic Education, (free and obligatory) and ongoing Higher Education. The public educational system in Russia includes preschools, general schools, specialised secondary and higher education. The public education is free which is guaranteed by the country’s constitution. Private institutions account for 1% of preschool enrollment, 0.5% of elementary school enrollment and 17% of university-level students. Secondary education was 10 years long but at the end of 1980s – early 1990s 11-year schooling was introduced. In 2007, 11-year secondary education was enforced as compulsory nationwide. Before this time, one could graduate from school after nine years of studies.

The state preschool education is represented by kindergartens – full day child-care institutions for the children of 3 to 7 years of age. Most state kindergartens have nurseries which children under 3 y.o. can attend. State kindergartens usually require a small monthly fee paid by the parents (20% of cost). The rest of the fee is compensated by the regional and local authorities that regulate kindergartens. Mass appearance of public kindergartens in Russia was started after October revolution and in the Soviet times aimed at replacing the family upbringing. These Soviet legacy institutions are still most numerous child care options in Russia. However having a child attend one has become the critical problem for many parents lately. In 1990 many preschools and kindergartens where closed in light of economic and demographic considerations. Very few have been built since then.

Preschool education in Russia

Nowadays as Russia is experiencing the biggest baby boom since the Soviet times, Russian parents face a dramatic shortage of public child caring institutions. Almost all kindergartens have waiting lists where parents sign their children as soon as are born. The facts of strikes of Russian mothers complaining that city kindergartens are overcrowded and will not accept their children as well as facts of bribes and corruption in this area make headlines in the news. The increasing demand in child day care and preschool education boosted the appearance of numerous private nurseries and education facilities for junior children. They are day-care for children aged 18 months to 4 years old and half-day preschool for 3 and 4 year old. Many include meals, transportation, creative learning, arts, dance, chess, multi-sport activities, therapy, English lessons and even summer camps. The schools use a variety number of methods and innovative like Waldorf or Montessori approach, Zaitsev's method, etc. Many of them operate illegally due to numerous bureaucratic obstacles one has to overcome to operate the private kindergarten in Russia. Legal or not they are highly popular anyway.

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School education and modern school reforms

A Russian girl - future ballet star

Russian children go to school at the age between 6 and 7 depending on individual development of each child. Eleven-year secondary education in Russian is compulsory since September 1, 2007. The eleven-year school term is split into elementary (grades 1-4), middle (grades 5-9) and senior (grades 10-11) classes. Primary is 4 years, secondary is 5 and high is 2. After the fourth grade, children continue in the same school. Children of elementary classes are normally separated from other classes within their own floor of a school building. They are taught, ideally, by the same teacher through all four elementary grades (except for physical training and, if available, foreign languages). School starts on September 1, also called the Day of Knowledge in Russia and remains in session till the end of May, with June being the month of exams. The school year is comprised of 4 terms with vacations in between: one week in November, two weeks in January, one week in the end of March and almost 3 months in summer (except for the time when students are busy with their exams). Most schools run with a program six days.

Russian schools use five-point grading system, introduced in the Soviet Union in 1837. The grades are as follows: 5 = excellent, 4 = good, 3 = satisfactory, 2 = unsatisfactory, 1 = poor. Even though "1" grade exists officially, it is rarely given. The mostly used grades are five to two. The idea of reforming the traditional grading system has been discussed for the last 15 years in Russia. Many educators support the shift to 12-point system as the one providing a better assessment of the pupils. Ukraine has already introduced 12-point system while Belarus is using 10-point system in schools.

Study program in schools is fixed; unlike in some Western countries, schoolchildren or their parents have no choice of study subjects. However Russia has been redesigning its schools around a multi-choice student-centered concept. The new radical and debatable full-scale educational reforms aimed at individualized learning are being prepared by the Russian government at the moment. The idea is to give a student a discretionary power to form his own curriculum in accordance with the student’s preferences. The reform implies that the only compulsory subjects on the curriculum will be Personal Safety and Security, Physical Education, Mathematics, and Russia in the Global World . The pupils will choose six additional subjects and decide whether they want to study them at the basic or professional level. Besides, some dubious subjects have recently been introduced in the curriculum, teachers, admit. These innovations are designed to bring Russian school education in line with the European model, yet they have caused a public outcry. Parents feel the reforms are an attempt to destroy a classical general education, which Russia was always proud of.

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The most controversial change that already took place was the introduction of national standard tests (EGE - Unified State Exam) required for entry to university. All school children take the multiple-choice tests which are marked by computer and could not be more different from the previous system, which relied on oral tests at the universities. EGE was introduced to make it easier for students from the provinces to apply to study in other cities, where previously they would have had to apply in person. There is much criticism about EGE though. The opponents say it is dumbing down Russian education, with questions such as: "What colour eyes did Anna Karenina have?" The teachers admit the previous system had more ambition. Furthermore, EGE itself has not destroyed corruption but increased the number of corrupt deals in school.

Russian Teenage Girls Using Touchpad

Modernization and computerization of Russian schools

Almost all Russian schools even in the rural areas are computerized nowadays. The classes are equipped with a PC, on provision of the government and local authorities or sometimes owing to the parents or sponsors. Russian schools have had computer labs for years with Informatics (computer science) as a separate subject since 1986. Most schools have computer science and information technologies studies in the secondary school (12-16 years).

In Russia the Presidential program "Children of Russia" from 1998 states that all children should have equal education and equal access to information. In 2001 the federal program “The development of the integrated educational information environment” which aimed at planned implementation of information technology in Russian schools started. Under this program a number of projects like “Computerization of rural schools of the Russian Federation - 2004 " and “Delivery of the computer equipment for libraries of the basic and secondary schools of the Russian Federation " have been implemented.

Nowadays Russian educational system is undergoing extensive modernization to have the students develop up-to-date skills by means of computer literacy, internet connectivity and use of modern digital technologies in pedagogical process. The number of modern computers in Russian schools has doubled since 2006. In addition all school were connected to the internet by the Russian government in 2006 and 2007 .

The use of digital educational programs, internet recourses and computer use in general has become more consistent in pedagogical practice. Teachers are encouraged to use computers or the Internet to prepare for and manage their classes. The teachers with access to computers in their classroom create and demonstrate instructional materials and video presentations during the lessons.

Primary school children are also involved in the computerization and are being the target of "Computers for Students" project sponsored non-governmental foundations.

In 2010 large scale introduction of IT services in Russian schools began. Schools are required to shift to electronic document management, records management and workflow, web-based electronic diaries (which already in operation in 30% of Russian schools according to the Russian Minister of Education), have their websites with regularly updated info, provide pupils with the access to electronic educational resources and use IT in out-of school education.

More about Russian education

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