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.