by Rocky Macy
As noted in a previous entry, I was a participant in a social work tour of Russia and Sweden during 1999. While our group was in Moscow we were able to visit three types of institutions for children. The first was the Slavic Anglo-American School that was for English speaking children who were living in Moscow. The second was an orphanage and school for children who were separated from their parents called The House of the Child. It contained children of all ages, including infants. The third facility, 24th Hostel for Orphan Children, took in parentless and homeless street youth between the ages of six and nineteen. The information that follows is from my sketchy notes and memories from that time. I believe that it offers an accurate reflection of what our group saw and experienced.
The Slavic Anglo-American School was an independent school that established in the early 1990’s during the period of Perestroika. There were also Christian schools created in Russia at about the same time. By the time of our visit there were 47 accredited private schools in Moscow. Some of those were elementary grades only, while others went all the way through grade eleven.
In 1999 there were 230 students attending the Slavic Anglo-American School in grades one through eleven. They ranged in age from six to seventeen. We were told that the maximum size of each class was eighteen. Those who fell behind could be mandated to stay late or to come in during breaks. They could also come in early in the mornings for tutoring. The school year was from September through May, and the hours were 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Summer school was offered each June for new students to catch up with the established classes.
Many of the students at this school were the children of Americans working in Moscow, or the children of Russians with means who wanted their children to become conversant in English. Students were interviewed by school personnel prior to being accepted. Parents were responsible for arranging transportation for their children to and from school.
Russia gave minimum financing to the school amounting to $10 per student per year. The remainder was financed through tuition of $2,000 to $5,000 per year, with brighter students getting price breaks. The actual cost of a year of education at the school was $4,500, so the students who paid more than that were helping to subsidize others. Children of teachers at the school attended free. The principal was quick to explain to us that he did not regard the cost of tuition as being prohibitive.
The students were divided into three groupings: Elementary School (grades 1-4), Middle School (grades 5-9), and High School (grades 10-11). They followed a national curriculum, with twelve or thirteen subjects per week. Some subjects were taught twice a week, and others were taught five times a week. The “O” level exams (“ordinary” level) were given after grade nine to determine who could go on to higher education and who would be redirected to the job market.
Language instruction began at the age of six when students were taught Russian and English. When they entered 3rd grade, students chose a second foreign language, either German or French. Upon reaching 9th grade, those students who had chosen to learn French in 3rd grade now had to also take up the study of German language, and vice-versa. The minimum amount of time that a child had to take any language was three years.
Students at this school also studied literature, science, biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy and math. School personnel said that American parents told them that American schools were behind this school in math. The principal talked about Microsoft helping schools in America get on the Internet, and noted that no programs like that existed in Russia.
The Slavic Anglo-American School had snacks for students in the mornings and lunches at noon. The school owned a van to use for student field trips. The school had a contract with the Bolshoi Ballet that allowed them to get tickets to the best ballets for only $5.00 each. Another interesting activity that our group was told about was the school’s support of the Moscow Zoo. The school sponsored a “Read-a-Thon” where sponsors paid students 10 rubles for each book they read. That money was then used to adopt an animal at the zoo. The principal also said that the school gave soft toys to a maternity home.
What about children under the age of six? The principal told us that children could attend kindergarten in Russia from ages three to six, in both public and private schools. The school day for kindergarten went from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. allowing parents to work without childcare issues. He said that in most households both parents have to work, and kindergarten was obviously a very popular and necessary program.
(Note: There is a more current write-up on this school on the Internet. It is now called the Slavic Anglo-American School ‘Marina’. According to that article, the school's present enrollment is three hundred. It still utilizes the national curriculum of Russia, but it also draws from the curriculum of the American state of North Carolina. The full article is at http://www.english-schools.org/moscow/slavic-anglo-american-school.htm)
Coming Next: The House of the Child Orphanage and School