Modern children, as products of consumer society, are difficult to handle and educate. Most parents are frustrated about their upbringing methods which do not work. Media, social networks and computer games seem to have taken over the role of family and school. The education became a rat race. Everyone speaks about the crisis of the education system. Desperate parents in many countries set up private schools or switch to homeschooling. What is the best option for the future?
As a mother of a little girl I started asking myself about the proper school for her. We live in Austria where one can find a range of state schools, classical private or alternative schools, as well as homeschooling. However my understanding of education was not covered by any of these. Something essential was missing in all of them.
One year ago I learned about one outstanding boarding school in Russia which seemed to fulfill my ideal and this year, together with my husband we went there to check it out.
The School lies on the shore of the Black sea in the very South of Russia. We came in July and found the School full of children studying as if it was not a holidays time. „We take holidays whenever we want“ – was the reply of a student. Besides, we have met many children who came for the entry selection. We asked one mother, why her daughter wanted to study in the School. The answer was: „To become a true human being“. That was the answer I was looking for!
(NOTE to images: ALL buildings are constructed and decorated by the school students alone)
But we will come back to that later. First some hard facts and first impressions:
- The day starts at 5.30 a.m. and ends at 9 p.m. In-between they study, build houses, engage in artistic painting and handicrafts, sing a cappella in eight voices, do martial arts and folk dancing with professional skill, cook their meals, do administrative work and write their own text books. In the evening they always take one hour to reflect on the day and their relationships with each other and with the world.
- All the school facilities including study spaces, an auditorium, administrative office, cooking area, dining room, toilets, shower rooms, boarding rooms and other facilities are designed and built by the students. All these building works are full of grace and beauty reflecting the inner nature and outer skills of the students and the excellent quality of the school activities. “It is not just that we place our own tremendous emphasis on music, visual art and dance—these activities should make themselves felt in the school on a day-by-day basis, and this is the crux of the whole thing.” Schetinin
- Once a week they take politics as a subject where they watch important news and analyze and discuss all that is happening in the world.
- Children do have ‘smartphones’ at school, which they use for accessing information quickly on the subjects they are working on. For TV and games there is neither a desire nor time.
- All the students have an amazingly straight and dignified posture, and impress everyone with their beautiful Russian language. Their way of communicating with each other and school guests is admirable; it is full of friendliness and respect in a way one rarely finds in modern teenagers. They are attentive and caring.
- The methodology of learning would require another article, it’s a fascinating and huge topic. I can only note that the core principles are Systematization and Integration of all subjects. A pupil learns how to imbibe the essence of a subject, how to find the interconnections with other subjects and how to see the world as a complex interdependent System. They learn how to discover the macrocosm in the microcosm; they learn how to see the Oneness.
- Another thing which is striking is the combination of discipline and flexibility–to an extent I have never experienced anywhere.
- Dress code: The girls choose themselves not to wear short skirts or cosmetics. Knee-long-skirts and dresses are the standard female wear. No jeans, and sport trousers only for sports. Boys mostly wear shirts and trousers and military style apparel for martial arts.
- The children are keen on studying (and at any time of the day!) I gave some German classes at 7 p.m. and their attention and their interest was still fresh (keeping in mind they get up at 5.30 a.m.)
- Even though they deliver such amazing results the children remain very humble.
- The boarding school is under the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Education. It charges no tuition fees. And, even though the school does not advertise itself, it has no vacancies.
- There are students at the school from over 40 nations and different religious backgrounds.
The school in Tekos exists since 1994 and is impressive due to both its educational and holistic developmental results. Entering the school at 12, a child is able to finish the curriculum of the Russian secondary education (which is more difficult than most western curriculums) within one or two years, acquiring a diploma of one or two higher educations by the age of 18. At the same time one becomes certified in two disciplines such as a cook or builder as well as a set of other professional skills like painting, dancing, martial arts, even beekeeping. But on top of that–and what is definitely more important and interesting–a child grows into a stable, beautiful personality, broadly educated not only intellectually, but at heart.
The core idea of Schetinin’s method is not about raising prodigies, but about raising beautiful human beings, fully developed mentally, physically and spiritually. The children in the Tekos School become loving, caring, giving; they are collective and responsible, strong and clear about their ideals and goals. A child becomes a personality who perceives himself/herself as part of the whole, not only responsible for, but actually capable of contributing to the betterment of humanity. Isn’t this the type of people we desperately need today when the world seems to be falling apart in ecological, economical and socio-political terms? Schetinin dreamed of creating “The School of the Third Millennium“ and it turned out to be an excellent model of what the world needs in the highly demanding times we live in.
All these facts are pretty amazing but there is much more behind! And, of course, you can imagine that the personality of its founder and sustainer must be extraordinary. I was lucky to talk and learn from this fascinating Man.
Mikhail Petrovich Schetinin is an alternative Academician since 40 years. When he started teaching he was keen on understanding of a genius’s nature. How to preserve a genius in a child? He realised the need of developing all abilities, using to the same extend the left and right brain halves.
However the core idea of Schetinin’s method is not about raising prodigies, but about raising beautiful human beings, fully developed mentally, physically and spiritually. The children in the School become loving, caring, giving, they are collective and responsible, strong and clear about their ideals and goals.
I identified three basic principles of Mikhail Schetinin’s philosophy of education:
1.School is not a preparation for life. School is the life itself!
We are being taught that the first 11 years at school we should „preprare“ for life, then we take to a high school study where we also „prepare“ for life, and then finally the life begins – what an absurd idea. Many people reflect that the school was the darkest part in their lives – probably it was no life at all?
Schetinin believes that we can and should make every school day a life experience, where a child is actively involved in meaningful activities (gardening, building, painting, cooking, cleaning, dancing, beekeeping etc.). The joy of creating real things and giving real help is the most uplifting.
2.Knowing each and every child. Schetinin knows and understands all his students deeply and thoroughly. He loves them tremendously, and this is felt every minute. No need to say how much the students love and respect him. Mutual love and respect create the base for the flourishing cooperation.
3.Every child should know the meaning of its life, understand its roots and see the goal in the future. And the goal for Shetinin is nothing less than the Common Good, the Well-being of his Motherland, the transformation of the whole world. He sets up very high goals before the children, but this is what inspires them and they are imbibing this philosophy gratefully (I mean, who would not?). The best examples in the human history show us that people, guided by high ideals and goals, do wonders and bring about real betterment for the human race. Now let’s honestly ask ourselves what goals we set up before our children…
As a result of such wise upbringing philosophy, the School graduates have one fantastic ability: they are always looking for the best solution, for the enhancing of anything they touch with their hand or attention. Recently some children were passing final exams in the law college, and, after giving all answers, they have offered the concrete law improvement under every exam question – to the astonischment of the examinators.
Currently the whole school is working on a „Universal Teacher“ project, in cooperation with one Russian pedagogic High School they develop a curriculum for a universal theacher who could teach all the subjects (for instance, for village schools).
Schetinin’s dream to create “The School of the Third Millenium“ has come true. Let’s hope that in the third Millennium, which has already started, we can indeed learn from that great example and start implementing, at least partly this most amazing school model.
Here are some quotes of that great pedagogic Legend of our time, Mikhail Petrovich Schetinin:
„The potentiation of Kindness to the Absolute is our job as teachers“.
“We see education gradually turning into a two-edged lie: the young ones pretend to study, the older ones pretend to teach. The mighty energy of the human spirit gets squeezed out by the rigidity and inflexibility of educational technology.”
“In our world today the whole educational curriculum is divided up into divergent layers, isolated from each other. The world of perception is transformed into isolated ‘corridors’ to such an extent that it is sometimes hard for the pupil to believe that they are all part and parcel of a single whole. Art draws its very strength from the fact that it synthesises fractionalised phenomena, offers a holistic system of education and child-raising, and inculcates a holistic world-view.”
“It is not just that we place our own tremendous emphasis on music, visual art and dance – they should make themselves felt in the school on a day-by-day basis, and this is the crux of the whole thing.”
“After all, why is the idea of the harmony of the individual so attractive and so productive? Because it alone is capable of appreciating the harmony of the world as the most valuable treasure, capable of preserving this integrity, this very harmony that has been in the making over millions of years of evolution…”
“…Years are behind us now. I have held on to the conviction that Man can do everything! It is precisely through making sense of this saying that our multifunctional school, the whole school complex, the whole school-Man, has been developed. Our purpose is not ‘knowledge-know-how-habits’. It is not endless drilling and rote-learning, or the spoon-feeding of information. Rather, it is the raising of Man to live harmoniously, to act in harmony with society – a Man who, when he sees and analyses the phenomena of life which surround him, can feel their interconnection, can perceive the world as a whole. And no matter what he becomes – an engineer, physicist, chemist, builder, teacher etc. – he will understand that he is going out into a whole, complete, unified world!”
A wonderful short film about the School in Tekos (in Russian)