After just over a week of being in the U.S., eight Russian teachers participating in a three-week professional development and exchange program at UGA feel right at home.
“Visiting your schools, I feel like I’m home,” says Sergey Abramov, who teaches computer science to 9th, 10th and 11th graders in his home region of Tomsk.
Abramov and his seven colleagues, speaking through a UGA student serving as a translator, talked about the educational structure in Russia, along with its strong mathematics and science curriculum during a brown bag lecture late last month.
The Russian teachers in math, science and informational technology are visiting the UGA campus and schools in northeast Georgia for “Teachers Training Teachers” to learn how they can improve education practices in their own country.
The program is a partnership that includes UGA’s Office of International Public Service and Outreach, the College of Education, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and four Georgia school districts. It is sponsored by the American Councils for International Education.
The visitors are in interested in learning how American teachers motivate students, address communication and language issues surrounding new immigrants and use technologies to aid instruction in the classroom
“There are problems here that we don’t have there and vice versa, however, I see more similarities in our schools than I do differences,” says Abramov.
There are stark differences in the structure of the two educational systems. Some Russian children begin pre-kindergarten at 1 to 3 years of age, followed by kindergarten from ages 3 through 7 and pre-elementary school from ages 6 to 7. School until this point is optional; however, Russian law states that children between the ages of 7 and 15 must attend primary and main school.
“The Russian educational system is known for its strength in math and science,” says Glen Ames, UGA’s director of International Public Service and Outreach and primary supervisor of the program.
One of the main reasons for this is that math and computer science are implemented into children’s curriculum at an early age, according to the teachers.
“Russian children are first introduced to computers in 2nd grade,” says Yalena Taleyko. “Children become familiar with computers and we use special computer games to teach children, and as they grow older they learn the basics about computer design, animation and modeling computer language programs.”
Similarly, math in Russia begins in 1st grade and continues through main school. Students have the option of taking advanced mathematics in secondary school to better prepare them for the university test, the teachers say.
Regardless of which grade children are in, both Russian and American teachers agree that teachers and parents must work together for students to succeed. In Russia every teacher has two roles: teacher and adviser. Teachers have Saturdays off from school, but set aside times for parents to drop in and talk about their children.
The Russian teachers, on campus from Oct. 17-Nov. 1, attended training seminars led by UGA faculty, observed local public school classrooms and visited with teachers and administrators in those schools.
“One aim of these trips is to show our guests how Georgia’s economic success depends on education, similar to Russia,” says Ames. “Quality education is the key to succeed in a global economy.”