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These points are all specific to schooling in Moscow, but there is plenty of general information for choosing schools for all ages anywhere, especially kindergartens and day schools.
Choosing a Kindergarten: Points to Ponder
First, A general point of interest:
If you are thinking of returning to the UK and wish to see how well your child is keeping up with the National Curriculum, useful Key Stage work and exercise books can be purchased from CGP Books www.cgpbooks.co.uk. These are particularly helpful if you find or believe your child is not being given enough homework.
Things to consider as you go looking for a school (especially kindergarten and play school)
- Safety and upkeep and cleanliness of playground equipment.
- Teaching qualifications of staff. Especially for playgroups and kindergartens. Don’t simply accept a degree and TEFL; must have a teaching diploma as well.
- What is security like? Very important, given the Beslan tragedy and deteriorating relationships between Russia and the US.
- If school is above ground level, are there bars on windows to stop younger children falling out?
- Be aware that Russian teachers favour discipline and will put pressure on a child to participate as part of a group, which some parents found occurred at the expense of individuality and creativity.
- Ask about the teacher student ratio and the target size of classes.
- Ask if all teaching materials will be on site at the start of the school year.
- Opt out clause – what if your child decides they don’t like the place after a few weeks: do you get your money back or at least some of it?
- Drive to all the schools you are interested in at pick up and drop off times to check traffic situation. Very different on a weekday compared with a weekend day.
- Does the school have an annual plan or curriculum that you can look at?
- What sort of extra-curricular outings take place?
- How much sporting activity is there?
- What is the homework policy?
- What is the dress code and how is it enforced?
- Which subjects are offered at higher levels of the school? If you plan to be in place for several years and perhaps in the same school, don't be afraid to do some advance plotting. For example, The British International School (Moscow) has a limited range of subjects and timetable clashes may prevent your child being able to take three sciences at IGCSE level. At AAS in middle school, sciences are taught on a year by year basis, eg. Chemistry this year, then Biology next year, and Physics the following year which depending on when the child leaves may impact on ongoing educational choices.
- Find out if all textbooks for courses your child will be doing, will be in place at the start of the school term.
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