School year starts with Knowledge Day

The start of September heralds the beginning of the new school year in Russia, when millions of children across the country return to the classroom after the summer break. The first day back is known as Knowledge Day, and it's a special time for first-gra

They meet their teachers for the first time and present them with flowers. It's an old Russian custom. The day starts with the ringing of a bell, when a first-year pupil rings a school bell while being carried on the shoulders of a final-year student.

In one school in the southern Russian port of Astrakhan there was a special guest speaker at the year's first assembly – Russia's President Vladimir Putin.

“I congratulate all who are present here and those in other schools in Russia. I also congratulate the parents. For all of us it’s a great celebration – a big, bright, and beautiful celebration. As for this school, I like it very much. It will turn 50 next year, but I think it can be easily classed as modern, first of all, due to its headmistress and the team of teachers. They use a modern way of paying wages and modern ways of teaching. Much attention is paid to extra-curriculum activities. The children told me, they like to stay here after classes for several hours more,” said Mr Putin.  

Traditional Korean dance
Traditional Korean dance

The day will be full of speeches and presentations before the real work begins and lessons commence. Nowadays there are many national schools in Moscow which allow pupils to study the customs of other countries, for example Georgian traditions and etiquette, or Korean national dances, language and atmosphere.
 
“The Orient is our future. My son learns the English and Korean languages because we are very interested in Korean culture,” explained Lyudmila Sinyagina, a pupil’s mother.
 
At one of the national Jewish schools classes don’t start for two more days, so there is time for some finishing touches. The celebration will include prayers and biblical readings – the key elements of the school’s curriculum.
 
“We try to provide the widest possible knowledge of Jewish disciplines, so that a student will not only know some parts of the Jewish law and Jewish tradition, but will also pass them on to others,” commented Aron Golovchiner, school director.

School of the future

For some in Moscow the school year is starting with a new trend in education as the doors have opened to the 'school of the future'. 


Here we can see some elements of the open education – you come in and see this huge globe. It's difficult for a child to resist and not to come closer and explore it. That's where the world of knowledge starts. We teach pupils not only in classrooms.

Natalya Rybakova, Director of the school

Costing $US 43 MLN, the project aims to inspire its pupils to higher levels of learning. The building is equipped with mini-labs for children to explore science, while the corridors are flowing with installations to help children think inventively. Each child will be given a personal laptop and will be able to log on to the school's own network.

“Here, I think, children can get the maximum knowledge possible. In this school my daughter will study both foreign languages and have additional courses,” said Irina, mother of a first-year pupil. 

Irina is also glad that she'll be able to leave her daughter at school for the whole day when necessary, as it provides more than 30 hobby groups and sporting classes. The school has its own publishing centre, a picture factory, Internet club, two swimming pools and gym halls.

“Here we can see some elements of the open education – you come in and see this huge globe. It's difficult for a child to resist and not to come closer and explore it. That's where the world of knowledge starts. We teach pupils not only in classrooms,” believes Natalya Rybakova, Director of the school.

'School of the future' corridor
'School of the future' corridor

Meanwhile, more and more schools have tightened their safety procedures by installing CCTV cameras and electronic pass systems where a passcard is needed to enter school. 300,000 police officers are on the streets across Russia today to make sure that pupils get to schools safely.
 
Not the least reason for this is the tragedy three years ago in Beslan, where the first of September is not the Day of Knowledge, but the beginning of three days of mourning.