About Public Schools
Public school in Russia is free from 1st grade through 11th grade, and inexpensive for pre-school (about 5,000 RUR per month). Most schools operate 5 days per week, while some operate six days per week, with only Sunday off.
Overall, the curriculum is comprehensive, but Russia fares low on international tests. On the 2006 PISA, Russia placed 37th of 56 countries in reading, 32nd of 57 countries in mathematics, and 33rd of 57 countries in science.
The biggest problems with Russia’s public school system are the poor condition of infrastructure – most buildings are old and only rarely touched up – and the extremely low pay for teachers. Many talented teachers have been lost because of it. The collectivist concept is also still prevalent, with students expected to carry their lesser-performing classmates along with them (to preserve the honor of the class), and collective delivery of work (copying homework and test answers) is still common and accepted.
Choosing a School
From school to school, differences in quality are low. On the 2006 PISA, Russia ranked below average in both within-school variance and school-to-school variance of results. It is not customary to rank or assess public schools by excellence from school to school. Emphasis is on the performance of the school system as a whole. Schools may, however, offer specific specializations, for example, in art, a specific foreign language, or a sport.
If enrolling in public school, the school is chosen based on proximity to the home. You can, however, choose any public school in Moscow. Priority is given to children who live close to the school, and those who have older siblings at the school. Beyond that, space is assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis, with wait-listing possible.
To find the public schools closest to you (among the over 1000 schools in Moscow), use an online search. With a little help from a Russian-speaker, the site below allows you to search for both public and private Russian schools by general area, closest metro station, and/or specialization:
http://www.edu-all.ru/ (Russian only)
Students are accepted into first grade beginning at age 6 1/2. Parents must present their own and the children’s passports with valid long-term visas, and registration paperwork for an address in Moscow, or ideally, in the immediate vicinity of the school. In addition, a medical card is required for the child. This is a standard document that can be obtained at any public clinic for a small fee; or from the nurse at the child’s kindergarten or pre-school, if applicable.
Public school enrollment begins April 1st, and most public schools have open houses for future first-graders and their families in the months between April 1st and September 1st, which is the first day of school. Check notice boards at nearby schools for exact times. If you cannot make the open house, you can come to the school’s office anytime during office hours after April 1st to enroll your child. Office hours may vary, and online information is typically not available, so you need to either visit the school in person or call on the phone (Russian only) to verify. Bring a Russian-speaker with you to enroll your child.
If you move to Moscow in the middle of the year, the process is the same – visit the school office with the required paperwork, and your child can begin attending school as soon as the next day.