Talking to Russian youth

I’m in Novosibirsk to blog about the Forum Interra. Thanks to the Goethe Institut in Novosibirsk that invited me!

Our discussion with Russian bloggers on social media and education also carried a great opportunity to talk to some young Russians about their educational experiences. School time is far shorter here than in Germany, where we have up to 13 years of school education:

“For Russian children the serious side of life begins at age six or seven. Those who enter school only with seven years just have to go to elementary school for three years. Following up to this is, without a change of school, the fifth grade at a secondary school […]. What’s happening to the fourth grade? It’s only attended by those pupils who have been schooled in at age six.

With the ninth grade the secondary school in Russia ends and with it compulsory education. Most students continue to attend school after passing their exams. Either at a general-education school where after the eleventh they receive a diploma that entitles them to apply for university. Or they move on to a technical school […] where they receive vocational training and a diploma of equal value after three years.”
— from: Meißner, Barbara and Reuther, Henrike: Glasok

That’s why one of the bloggers we met, who was schooled in when she was just five years old, could attend university at age fifteen. But even those who go to school from on the age of six or seven will be able to go to university when they are seventeen years old. I was the second youngest student in my class and still I had just turned nineteen when I got my Abitur, so this seems quite strange to me.

My first thought when i learned about the low age of Russian high school graduates was how they feel deciding about their future. One girl I talked to told my that she would soon finish her master’s degree in economics and that she “totally didn’t [knew] what to do”. In fact, she explained, many young Russians just take up studies that promise a fast financial gain.

That may also be rooted in their situation. As the girl told me, it is very uncommon to take some time off after graduating from high school. Therefore, young Russians only have about three months to transition from school to university. This change is often combined with a move to a new city as well. One of the bloggers explained to us how some youth who are coming from a small town located in the stark vastness of Siberia enter what seems like a different world when they enroll at a university in some of the bigger cities.

After all, I am happy to have had my 13 years of school in Germany, even though it was often boring and at several times I wished that I had the opportunity to focus more on my interests. But when I finished my eleventh grade, the best time at school was still waiting for me. I had just found blogging then and had also become politically active within the previous months, two experiences that since then have shaped much of my view on the world. At the time when Russian youth have to decide what to do with their lives, I had just started to explore my possibilities.

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