Private education rings in new year with quality focus

Russian private schools, including those oldest and most distinguished, have slashed fees for families hit by the economic crisis.

Since 1989 they have coached kids into some of the world’s best universities, and former pupil Ekaterina Smirnova says its personal touch made the difference.

“They personalized my tuition so when I moved to England I was ahead of my class, and it gave me the confidence to apply to Oxford.”

The advantage of private education is that it is tailor-made, from scholarships for the poor and gifted, to one-on-one counselling of troubled rich kids. One example is Dubravushka boarding school in Moscow region, which provides one worker for every two students, who mostly get into their first-choice university, as well as providing 50-100% discounts to families who've lost their business in the economic crisis.

Tatyana Popova, Obninsk Deputy Mayor for education, says the government also subsidises private education.

“We give concessions to private colleges, such as half-price rent of government buildings. They provide several services that state schools, in their sheer size, cannot.”

But the fear is that in the credit crunch parents will cut long-term expenses, including specialised training for their children.

Individual attention seems to be the key for most parents, making the investment in private education. But currently in Russia only 1% do, that’s 8 times less than in the UK, leaving plenty of room for growth.