September 14, 2015
Translated from French by Tom Winter
Last day of August I was surprised by the number of people in the street with flowers in their hand. They told me it’s back-to-school day, and the flowers are for the teachers! I decided to visit the school of Novofedorivka, a small town on the Black Sea in Crimea.
What is striking at first is to see all the pupils respecting a dress code. Typically pants or skirt in navy blue, and a white blouse or shirt. In addition, they are required to have proper attire, i.e. an outfit that does not offend decency. You notice that the clothes and shoes are spotless.
Another element of surprise is that the establishment welcomes the students through both primary and secondary education. Thus, a student can do all his schooling in the same institution.
A tradition is that the oldest student, aged 16-17, carries the youngest girl, age about 6, on his shoulders. The two thus make the tour of the school grounds while she rings a bell signaling the start of the school year. This is the very picture of the instructions to the older students to protect and help out the younger ones, the principle of solidarity being a concept very present in school life.
It is surprising, too, to see the teachers be covered with flowers and be made the objects of many marks of respect, both by parents and students. True it is, that they are heavily involved in the life of the child. Thus, each student is assigned a principle teacher who sometimes as difficulties are met, behaves as a second mother.
Teachers organize a lot of field trips (tours, museums, excursions, shows), to help open the outside world to the students, including the most modest.
But what is most striking in all this is the visible pleasure that the students have in going to school. Their school — their common home. Each student also helps out in the cleaning or maintenance of the school. This is seen as a common good. This is the same care they will probably take later for their other common home: their country, Russia.
This is not to judge our French education system — though one can nevertheless wonder about the factors that transform our little darlings into savages or even hooligans. It might be appropriate to take a look at what is happening in Russia. The Russian school is probably not perfect but students come out able to read, write, and count properly — and especially with moral principles.
As for the teachers, they are — just like their French counterparts — poorly paid, but they enjoy the respect of both the parents and the students. They have the rightful place in society that those who possess and share knowledge deserve.
Teaching the values and knowledge that underpin a nation, the Russian school deserves the name of national education.