On Thursday the 24th June 2021, The Russian Education Consortium (REC), The Russian Embassy in London, and Rossotrudnichestvo came together to host the 2021 Russian Preschool Conference.
In cooperation with Russian Schools across the UK, including Znaniye UK and Germany, Skaska Russian School, EDC Lingua, Cambridge Russian School, KCOPC Scotland, Bilik Azerbaijani School and more - together we shared updates on Early Years Education (Age 5 and Under) as well as news on new books, materials and methodologies.
Also making appearances were education experts including psychologists, teachers and speech therapists.
Due to restrictions in London beginning to ease, we were able to host a small number of guests in person at Rossotrudnichestvo, with the rest joining virtually.
To start, we were welcomed by the representative of Rossotrudnichestvo in the UK, Anton Chesnokov, who organised our in-person offering, followed by a wonderful opening speech from Mr Ilya M. Erofeev, the First Secretary - Information, Press and Culture at the Russian Embassy London, who discussed the importance of Russian Education beginning in the early years of a child's life, as well as noting the updates on books created in partnership with RUDN University and Znaniye Russian School; as well as noting exciting news on the new Russian and GCSE and A Level Text Books we are creating - the first of their kind in the UK.
Following this, our host, Ms Aina Mamaeva, Founder and Director of the Russian Education Consortium and Znaniye Russian School touched on how important these early years are to build a students educational foundation, which is why we are continuously working to improve the materials available, this following on to the accountment of the release of our new books, which are now available in the UK for other Russian Schools, and families to use.
Angela Victorovna, Director of RUDN Univserities Russian Institute then walked us through the relationship and partnership they hold with Znaniye Russian School, and the developments in the preschool methodology we have worked on together in the last few years to research, create, and launch - plus, the next projects we will begin together to expand this invaluable cooperation.
Next to speak was Dr Virginia L. Lam, Senior Lecturer for the Department of Psychology, currently at the University of Roehampton, and spearheading the research project 'Growing Up Billingual.' Dr Lam walked us through updates on her research in the field of Bilingualism, national and global statistics, and how bilingualism can both affect and benefit early year students. She touched on how Znaniye and other Supplementary Schools are at the forefront of raising bilingual children, but, how this needs to be echoed in mainstream schools as well. You can find out more about her work, here: https://growingupbilingualproject.wordpress.com/
We were next joined by Evie Hill, Operations Manager at Znaniye Foundation, and project coordinator for ‘Springboard into Education: Lessons, Support, Guidance and Training for Early Years children, parents and carers to help with the first steps into academic life.' Evie went into detail about this current Early Years project they are running, which was applied for shortly after REC's First Russian Teacher Symposium at the Russian Embassy in January 2020. Through this, they are working to build confidence, emotional strength and emotional well-being, whilst at the same time recognising that all children are individuals who develop at different rates.
Our next highly esteemed speaker was Marina Kunovsky, of RUDN University - co-author of said new preschool books, titled 'Bukvograd' - the 1st of which was released in November 2020, the second launched during this evening, and the final shortly to be published, which will finalise the full set of materials. Marina kindly mentioned the easy relationship she has had with Znaniye Russian School and our team, with us bringing the practical methods, and them being able to bring years of knowledge and understanding to the table.
Alla Barkan - Master of Philosophy at the University of Vienna spoke next, discussing the mental development of an early years child, how we need to give them opportunities to grow their own personal talents, without pushing targets. She shared with us methods of integrating this into children's learning, which she has written about extensively in her many books.
Alla was followed by Elena Carter - Head of Carter's Language Experience, and Director of the Cambridge Russian School. Elena's topic of conversation was online learning, which we have all had to adapt to and develop since the pandemic. She mentioned that while this isn't necessarily the best learning method for our youngest minds, it did allow us to at least continue working, and is something that we are now having to develop.
Next, and joining us in person, was Skaska Russian School - who gave us a fully interactive demonstration and explanation of ways in which they work! We were able to see video of their lessons, learn of games and songs that they use (which we joined in with) and how beneficial these activities are.
To conclude this incredibly informative section of the event, we at Znaniye introduced our full preschool team - 1 by 1, from 3 years old to age 6 +7 as well (the stage after preschool, which prepares them for the primary level learning.)
Frist, Svetlana Jonikane - introduced the books "Think, Write, Draw, Play, and Read"
used in all of our locations at school. She expertly went through methods used in the books, how easy they are able to be used in class, due to their adaptability.
Second, to present from the Znaniye School Team, was Aisha Ismailova - a Montessori specialist - who compared Montessori methods with those we use in class. She elaborated on how we have combined these methods, British and Russian, to offer children an integrated approach to learning that has proven to not only be effective but highly enjoyable for the students.
Thirdly - our wonderful Raisa Michalenko - introduced our Reading and Writing books, whilst also giving an example of a lesson, which showed colleagues how easy they are to use, along with examples of own teaching materials she has created to compliment the books.
And to conclude from Znaniye - Gyuzel Teregulova, and her presentation on our curriculum and book set 'Azbuka', also created with RUDN. Comprised of 7 books, which covers a full year of lessons and homework for students age 6-7, the stage between preschool and primary. She shared in detail how the lesson is planned in the books for the teacher, and for the child at home, and how they were used in pandemic to aid online learning and allow children to not stop learning progression. She ended with sharing examples of the handwriting workbooks that compliment Azbuka, and some best examples of handwriting.
The penultimate speaker was Speech Therapies Irina Fursa, who recently partnered with Znaniye and Znaniye Foundation. She has over 30 Speech Therapists in her team who work with exciting modern methods. We are looking forward to developing these relations as more children begin to need this support. If you would like to speak with Irina directly, please do get in touch with us.
And to close - an entirely different topic, but one that is incredibly vital in today's society, and particularly in education - Zumrud Jalilova - teacher at Bilik Azerbaijani School (located within Znaniye Chelsea branch) and Consultant on diversity and inclusivity at The Clear Company, walked us through the importance of said diversity and inclusivity in the classroom. Zumrud expertly showed us examples of how you can seamlessly work these themes into lessons, what to look out for and how to ensure you are working towards a fully diverse and accepting learning space.
We want to thank all of our speakers who joined us on the day - whilst we still held part of the conference online, after so much time apart it really was a pleasure to see some people in person and have many similar faces join us virtually.
Due to time constraints and limitations, not all schools were able to present, but due to the wonderful feedback and requests for conversations to continue - we are now working on a follow-up Roundtable event, in person, once we can all meet face to face.
We want to again thank Rossotrudnichestvo for welcoming us again, and to the Russian Embassy in London for their continued support of our work and efforts.
Keep an eye out for more upcoming publications on our work and the work of all Russian Schools in the UK.