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Russian schools in the world
Photo: Astrakhan Oblast Governor's Administration Press Service and Information Department / edu.gov.ru (CC BY 4.0)
258 million people in the world speak Russian: 146 million in the Russian Federation and 112 million abroad. But the situation is not static. Somewhere Russian language is "abolished" along with Russian culture. Somewhere, on the contrary, it is in demand. The number of Russian schools is growing in Uzbekistan, some Russian classes have been opened in Laos after a 30-year break, Tajikistan has a high request on our teachers.
FOR A BOX OF PENCILS
27,000 Russian schools, universities and colleges operate outside Russia, according to the Center for International Cooperation of the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation. The number is astonishing. With fewer than 90 schools affiliated with Russian embassies, who established the rest?
- Enthusiastic and dedicated people, - says Olga Uzorova, a methodologist and teacher with 15 years of experience. - I know exactly, because I personally gave lectures in many of these schools.
Olga is a record holder of the Russian Book of Records. The circulation of her textbooks and teaching aids has exceeded 60 million copies.
- Let’s see: There's an international Russian boarding school in Antalya with tuition starting at $4500 per month. In Bishkek, the Gazprom Kyrgyzstan School is regarded as one of the elite institutions, charging 25,000 soms monthly ($280). Despite that, there are many free schools out there, as well.
Olga Uzorova: Yes, these are mostly private schools, where parents pay for tuition, but often it is pennies. I know a woman who flew to Thailand with a daughter, who at first went to a local school, but later her mom realized that the child would not get any decent education. Public schools teach Buddhism and discipline. In private schools it's the same, plus smiles to the parents. That's it! When the embassy school is out of reach, people with teacher backgrounds take matters into their own hands, establishing kindergartens or schools. These dedicated individuals, like Irina Novikova, deserve recognition. Irina, a mother herself, now owns the accredited kindergarten in Pattaya.
There are also elite schools with high tuition. But majority of private institutions do not bring any income. I gave lectures in one of European schools that payed about 5 euros per lesson to their teachers. For understanding: a pencil in Paris costs 1 euro, in London -1 pound. Nonetheless, the teaching level is excellent. A teacher's daily earnings may cover a pack of pencils, but one also needs to eat and dress. I experienced this firsthand at a Russian school in Frankfurt, where 3d-graders are diligently followed the Russian federal program for their language classes. Quite the unique experience, isn't it?
- What's so special about it?
Olga Uzorova: In a typical Russian school students attend classes five days a week. However, at the Russian school in Frankfurt there are classes on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It's a bit different from the European norm, where Sunday schools are more common. Another variation is when students attend a German school during the day and a Russian school in the evening. Remarkably, teachers manage to cover the required two school hours per week, ensuring that performance aligns with the federal program of the Russian Federation. It happens that Russian-speaking Germans bring their children to a Russian school in Germany first. Mixed families come second, and finally there are some German families that are interested in this kind of education.
- Is this happen in Asia as well?
Olga Uzorova: Not quite like that. Parents commonly opt to enroll their children in a fully Russian school, where attendance spans all five weekdays. The preference is often for a school certified by the Russian Embassy, allowing students to undertake the Unified State Exam and obtain an official certificate. This strategic choice ensures a robust connection to the Russian education system.
Although, at first parents hear "about very good local schools" where they learn both Thai and English. They say, "Oh my God, that's great! My child will know many languages!" They think that all schools have roughly the same curriculum, just taught in Thai and English.
- So, is the math is taught in different way there?
Olga Uzorova: Elementary schools often lack emphasis on math, leaving 9-year-olds counting on their fingers. Parents, realizing this, opt to enroll their child in a Russian school, sometimes losing a year or two. By my point of view, it's more beneficial to go to the primaryRussian school, where the focus is on teaching a child how to learn. This approach establishes a solid foundation for mastering Russian, one of the world's most challenging languages. Young students also get proper math education and English lessons. With such a groundwork, transitioning to the fifth grade of an international school becomes seamless and more cost-effective.
- Where do Russian schools get their staff?
Olga Uzorova: Some very good teachers arrive from Russia. Southeast Asia presents many good things, such as sunshine, delicious food, and pencils cheaper than in London. Teachers aren't burdened by bureaucracy, there are no crowds of education officials and inspectors.
- It’s hard to believe there are no downsides.
Olga Uzorova: There is so called “general relaxation” called in Thailandese "Sabai-sabai," which means “life is beautiful.”
Parents here seem to have the flexibility to take their children on trips to islands for a few weeks without worrying too much about missed lessons, as they believe they can catch up later. This approach is quite common in warm countries. Unlike other places where teachers bring a 1st-grader up to the 4th grade, parents with kids often relocate to islands or neighboring countries very often. It's an interesting dynamic.
- Is it easy for Russian teachers to get a work visa in "warm countries"?
Olga Uzorova: It is difficult. In order to obtain a work permit for a foreign teacher, the school must employ four its citizens, paying them a salary not lower than the average rate. That's why private schools need help from Russian federal programs. But to make the Russian language sound in the world - they need help.
- Where do they get textbooks?
Olga Uzorova: This is a worldwide problem. In both large and small towns in Europe, it is difficult to get them. Sometimes some school is lucky and receive them from Russia on coated paper, with bright illustrations. But not everyone is lucky. Schools are different, some have 300 pupils, and some have only 17. Not so long ago I traveled around Germany with school lectures. I brought books with me and my colleagues photocopied them.
CYBER TEACHERS ARE NOT POPULAR
- Sensitive subject: Have Ukrainian parents withdrawn their children from Russian schools?
Olga Uzorova: after the start of the special operation, a few cases were reported in some Thai schools. However, there are no Ukrainian schools present, and likewise, there are no schools for those who migrated from the post-Soviet republics.
- What challenges could impede the establishment of Ukrainian schools in Thailand?
Olga Uzorova: While there's no obstacle to creating Ukrainian schools, the current reality shows a prevalence of Russian schools. Nevertheless, it's not a significant issue, as we all coexist well with families from Ukraine and even the West. As long as a person is reasonable, it's not a challenging situation.
- As artificial intelligence advances, is there a temptation to transition to a virtual-distance learning format? It's cost-effective, and it resolves numerous issues. Could virtual learning be the future?
Olga Uzorova: The future undoubtedly leans towards traditional educational institutions, especially in elementary school. No electronic system can substitute the personalized approach of a teacher.
Under the Russian Teacher Abroad project of the Ministry of Education, our teachers travel to different countries to teach Russian or to teach subjects in it. Currently operational in eight countries, the project aims to expand its presence to 14 countries by the end of the year, with upcoming launches in India, Bahrain, Egypt, and Ethiopia.
Applications are now being welcomed for subject teacher positions for the 2023-2024 academic year in 11 countries. Notably, there are openings for mathematics, computer science, physics, chemistry, and biology teachers in Serbia. In Vietnam and Mongolia, there is a need for teachers of Russian as a foreign language. Tajikistan is looking for teachers in Russian language and literature, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, geography, and informatics. Uzbekistan has vacancies for Russian language and literature teachers, while in Kyrgyzstan, they seek teachers in Russian language and literature, mathematics, physics, and elementary education.
The top 12 most widely spoken languages in the world, based on the number of speakers are:
1) English - 1.348 billion
2) Chinese - 1.120 million
3) Hindi - 600 million
4) Spanish - 543 million
5) Arabic - 274 million
6) Bengali - 268 million
7) French - 267 million
8) Russian - 258 million
9) Portuguese - 257.6 million
10) Urdu - 230 million
11) German - 135 million
12) Japanese - 126 million
By the way, among the 27,000 Russian schools
1.5 thousand are located in Belarus,
1.2 thousand in Kazakhstan,
1 thousand in Uzbekistan,
300 in Azerbaijan,
Moldova and Kyrgyzstan each have 200 Russian schools.
There are no official statistics on so-called "Russian weekend schools" after the beginning of the special operation, but it is estimated that the largest number of such schools is in Germany and the USA, at least 100 in each of these countries.
Source: Rossiyskaya Gazeta