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The Russian Educational System vs the British One

29 October 2021

Often, open-minded parents look for a replacement for the Russian school system, seeing obvious flaws in it. A good alternative would be a British school. Such education is highly valued in many countries: England occupies the first position in the world’s best universities ranking.

The structure of the educational system


The first difference is that a kindergarten in Russia is usually an independent institution, while in the UK, children can go to school from the age of 3. There, several stages of preschool preparation are organised for them, each of them has its own pedagogical goals.

At the British International School, for example, there are 2 groups where we prepare children for basic education: Nursery and Reception. The teachers communicate with the children in English, but just in case there is a Russian-speaking assistant in the class.

Primary And Secondary School

Children are admitted to Russian primary schools from the age of 6-7, while in the UK, children enter the first grade at the age of 5. This is obligatory for everyone.

Secondary education is compulsory in both the Russian and British systems. Pupils at a comprehensive school in Russia can receive a certificate after the 9th grade, whereas in the UK it’s only after the 11th grade. Years 10 and 11 are devoted to studying the IGCSE programme. At the end there are exams. After successfully passing them, an international certificate of secondary education is given. This is the last stage of compulsory general education in the UK.

Pre-University Training

Some schools offer pre-university training in Years 12 and 13. By the way, BIS is the only one in Moscow that offers its students two international programmes to choose from: IB Diploma and A-level. They each last for 2 years and are highly regarded by universities around the world.

Holidays and School Calendar

In a typical Russian school, each academic year consists of 4 quarters of 2–2.5 months. Senior students attend classes 6 days a week, younger students go to school 5 days a week. After each quarter, children go on holiday, which lasts a week-and-a-half. At the end of the year, the longest break is as long as 3 months.

In the UK, they study by trimesters. In the middle of each trimester is a week of rest, or half-term break. There are long holidays between terms: 6 weeks in summer, and 2–3 for Easter and Christmas. Children go to school 5 days a week regardless of age.

Study Load and Programme Slant

In these aspects, the school systems of Russia and the UK differ greatly.

First of all, the British curriculum is structured completely differently. The older the students, the fewer compulsory subjects. From the very beginning, this system helps students to determine their areas of interest and to choose subjects useful for future work. The Russian system is the opposite. In the first grade, only basic subjects are studied, and more new subjects are added every year. The goal of the Russian educational system is to broaden students’ horizons as much as possible, whereas the British one helps to choose the future profession.

The second great difference is the approach to teaching. You can often hear about the individual approach in Russian schools, but it is important to understand that it is hardly possible to implement it there. It is all about the number of students in a class. In Russia, there are 25 and sometimes 30 people. In Great Britain it is 15–20. Therefore, British parents can be sure that their children will definitely be able to receive material adapted to their individual abilities, and the teacher will have enough time for everyone.

In addition, the focus of the educational programme is different. From an early age, the British are brought up to be responsible and independent, while Russian children are brought up to be patient, you cannot say otherwise. In Russia, schoolchildren get a huge number of homework assignments, many of them require learning by heart. In a British school, on the contrary, they encourage children to research, to find information by themselves and to come to conclusions. In the classroom, they discuss - not retell - textbooks. A great deal of time is devoted to creative tasks.

The British International School has been working in Moscow for 27 years and teaches children according to the national curriculum of England. Our experience shows that the British educational system is truly progressive. It gives not only deep academic knowledge, but prepares students for further study, work and adult life.

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