Education and Schools in Russia

The system of education in Russia has remained a point of contention since the end of the Soviet era. The old regime passed on a collection of overcrowded, underfunded schools which couldn’t accommodate the students enrolled and were decaying faster by the moment.

Though reforms have since been made, expats generally attest that state schools in Russia still have a long way to go before they will be on par with the standards upheld by most Western countries. It follows that most expats opt to send their children to international schools in Russia, and those who can’t afford the hefty price tag attached to these institutions will usually send their children to private schools.

The school year in Russia generally runs from September to June.

Public schools in Russia

Public schools in Russia are plagued by underperforming staff and a lack of finances. Teachers don't usually receive very good salaries in Russia. As a result, many talented Russian teachers abandon the industry in search of more lucrative options or opportunities abroad. 

Apart from these setbacks, the education system in Russia is still very much in a state of transformation. The curriculum was overhauled at the end of the Soviet era and teaching methods expanded, but there remains much debate as to what should be taught in schools, who should control the curriculum, and whether rote learning is still acceptable.

The language of instruction at public schools is Russian. Two days a week are generally afforded to foreign language classes, such as German or English, but many feel this instruction is inadequate. Tuition and books are free in state schools. Parents pay only for meals and school uniforms. 

Unless one plans to spend time in the country long-term, or one's child has some previous knowledge of Russian, public schools in Russia are not a viable option for most expats. 

Private schools in Russia

Though the state of the curriculum and the teaching methods utilised in private schools still align with those of public schools throughout the country, class sizes are generally smaller, facilities far better maintained and extra-curricular activities more accessible. Tuition costs for these schools usually depend on the age of the child and the institution which they attend.

The teaching language of private schools is Russian. Unless one's child has some language foundation or expats plan to stay in Russia long-term, international schools are likely to be the best option. 

International schools in Russia

Most expats who move to Russia with school-aged children prefer to send their children to international schools. These schools uphold the teaching language and curriculum of select countries. Many of the major cities have a healthy selection of international institutions including American, British, French, Japanese and German schools. Some of the schools also administer an International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum alongside their home country curriculum.

The most prestigious schools in Russia tend to have long waiting lists. For this reason, expats should apply as early as possible once the details of their relocation have been confirmed.  Admissions are sometimes based on priority, with the children of diplomats and certain larger companies given the first available spots. Sometimes children of a certain nationality will also be given priority.

Expats should be sure to bring their child’s previous transcripts, vaccination records and teacher's recommendations with them. When selecting accommodation, expats should also note the location of these international schools. In Moscow, for example, international schools are mostly outside the city centre and thus require a far commute from students living centrally. 

Lastly, tuition costs at international schools in Russia can be astronomical. If an employer does not give an education allowance, expats should be absolutely sure that their monthly wage is high enough to cover the costs associated with these institutions.

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