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Russian moms call for "smarter" schooling


08:17, June 04, 2012

MOSCOW, June 1 (Xinhua) -- It was lucky for eight-year-old Marus Spangelis that his family had just moved to a new apartment on Moscow's outskirts. Thanks to the recent housewarming, Marus became the richest boy in his class: he possesses dozens of empty cupboard boxes to build a toy city.

School No.1247, where Marus studies, is unique in Russia, having been selected by the Ministry of Education for a pilot project which dramatically changes the shape of national education.

Unlike traditional schooling where children are taught math, physics, chemistry and other subjects, the new program offers practical skills.

This experimental approach is one of the reasons why the first-grade students here carry no textbooks or notebooks but cupboard boxes, Lego sets or packs of seeds. They learn basic crafts such as cooking, pipe fixing, electric wiring, painting along with writing, reading and computing.

"Ask me what is the formula of sulphuric acid and I tell you it is H2SO4. But what's the use of it for me in my daily life? My son may not know the formula but he knows how to produce hydrogenium from that acid in a practical way," Marus' mother, Yelena Dudaleva, told Xinhua.

Newly appointed Russian Education Minister Dmitry Livanov made it clear in his introductory remarks that he would limit free education to the few basic subjects knows as "three Rs": reading, writing and arithmetic.

His point, however controversial, is as practical as the educational mode he suggested: the Russian economy needs working hands more than brains.

Despite parents' worries that they will have to pay for everything exceeding the "three Rs", children seem to love Livanov's proposal.

"Mom, I don't want to go for a walk, I'd rather go to school!" Yelena has often heard these "dream words" of any parent from her son.

One reason Marus and his peers prefer spending time at school is that they learn the subject not written in the formal curriculum: the science of human compassion.

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