This guide was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Travel to Russia is currently not advisable due to the area's volatile political situation.
The system of education in Russia has remained a point of contention since the end of the Soviet era. Accessibility to education is high, although the quality can range dramatically.
Though the system has undergone reforms, state schools do not always meet Western standards. Most expats opt for international or private schools. This is especially the case given that the language of instruction in state schools is Russian, while international schools provide more language opportunities.
The school year in Russia runs from September to June.
Public schools in Russia
The quality of Russian state schools varies. The vision of general education is to equip students with skills for life and contribute to their intellectual, physical and emotional development. That said, debate still exists as to what should be taught in schools, who should control the curriculum, and whether rote learning is still desirable.
Public schools in Russia face several challenges. Teachers don't usually receive good salaries. As a result, many talented Russian teachers abandon the industry in search of more lucrative options or opportunities abroad.
The language of instruction in 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.
While tuition and books are free in state schools, meaning parents pay only for meals and school uniforms, public schools in Russia are not a viable option for most expats. That is unless one plans to spend time in the country long-term, or one's child has some previous knowledge of Russian.
Private schools in Russia
The curriculum and teaching methods utilised in Russia's private schools still largely align with those of public schools, but class sizes are generally smaller, facilities are better maintained and extra-curricular activities are more accessible. Tuition costs for these schools usually depend on the age of the child and vary from school to school.
The teaching language of private schools is usually 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 Russia's major cities have a healthy selection of international institutions including American, British, French, Japanese and German schools. Some 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 being given the first available spots. 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 will necessitate a long commute for those 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 sure that they can afford these costs.
Homeschooling in Russia
Homeschooling is legal in Russia and has been growing in popularity, especially in Moscow. There are certain regulations that parents must follow if they are homeschooling their children. Children must be enrolled in a state-licensed school that can act as a supervising body. In some cases, they may use teacher support and school resources. Otherwise, there are minimal rules in terms of curriculum.
Special-needs education in Russia
Some schools in Russia provide support for certain physical disabilities. There are schools for the blind and learning opportunities for the deaf. That said, the school system has not adapted to provide enough support to children with mental disabilities.
In some cases, children with intellectual disabilities and developmental delays may be in mainstream schools receiving compensatory classes. The extra support is limited, however, and does not meet Western standards. As a result, children with disabilities are often excluded and isolated, with homeschooling as the main option.
That being said, some international schools in Moscow are transforming to provide facilities, education and a warm, encouraging environment to children with disabilities. Expat parents who have children with disabilities will need to do much research on their needs and opportunities for support in Russia.
Tutors in Russia
Tutoring is growing in Russia, especially in big cities. Tutoring services largely focus on students learning English as a second language, although it is also available for individuals preparing for university or college entrance exams.
Tutoring children is also becoming more popular, and tutors can now be found through various online portals. These allow expat parents to connect with tutors and find someone matching the child's needs, in terms of age, subject and level. There are tutors for a range of subjects including maths, biology, music and various languages.
►See International Schools in Moscow for a list of schools in the capital
►For an overview of the Russian healthcare system, see Healthcare in Russia
"For Russian speakers, Russian schools in Moscow are good but rigid in their approach (discourage creativity and encourage learning by rote). Expat schools vary. The best is International School of Moscow and the Anglo American School (in that order).
The French school is also highly recommended. Some of the other expat-focused schools allow the percentage of Russian children to be too high and this affects the rate of development of classes and also the quality of the teachers that teach there. For young ones, some of the small Montessori groups are excellent. Generally this stuff costs a lot of money and supply is constrained." Read more about Stephen's experience living as an expat in Moscow.
Are you an expat living in Russia?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Russia. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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