Dear parents!

As principal of Dubravushka Private Boarding School since its foundation in 1989, I would like to tell you a little more in detail about us and how we live. Dubravushka is the work of my life; or to be more precise, it is my life.

Having examined the many questions asked by our parents over the years, I have divided the information about Dubravushka into five topics:Dubravushka Private Boarding School

1. Founders, licensing and accreditation

2. Health and safety

3. Education

4. Upbringing and Discipline

5. Sport and leisure

To make my story easier to follow, I will, as much as possible, adhere to the above format.

1.Founders, licensing and accreditation

Parents, I feel, are reassured to discover that one person is both the School’s founder and principal. That, as well as the School’s mature age (it was 12 last January), our title to the Dubravushka buildings and grounds and a full set of appropriate state licences and accreditations, vouchsafes for our stability and reliability. It is common knowledge that many private schools have been forced to close, by the State Health Standards Authority or the Education Ministry, because their facilities were not up to scratch, others abruptly ceased to exist because their founders, indifferent to the cause of education, had seen a more lucrative way of using their assets.

Unlike most independent boarding schools, which are authorised to teach only age-groups of five to ten, or eleven to sixteen-year-olds, our school, with its highly qualified staff, is fully accredited to teach from the first grade to the eleventh (the equivalent in Russia of primary school and secondary school through to graduation) and is authorised to award State Certificates of Education (the equivalents of UK GCSE and A-Level Certificates).

Some particularly inquisitive parents are keen to know where I come from and are pleased to find that I am a university-trained teacher with many years of experience. Most of my family have been closely involved in the creation and development of the School. Katya, my granddaughter, has been a boarding student at Dubravushka for seven years. I dearly hope that in time she will continue our family teaching tradition.

2.Health and safety

We get many questions on this subject. I will try and answer the most common ones.

Who takes care of the children before and after classes? Does someone look after them at night?

The children are under the direct supervision of tutors 24 hours a day. There is one head supervisor and two tutors per dormitory, housing 15-20 students. They deal with all the children’s problems, from house-keeping to purely personal questions. I might add that all the School’s employees – and there are 160 of them for 150 children – are fully trained in first aid techniques, whilst the students themselves take health and safety courses.

            What exactly is meant by secure, protected grounds?

It means that the entire boarding-school territory is guarded around the clock by our security personnel. In the case of any concern the caretaker presses the long-distance call-out button, whereby a police squad arrives within three minutes. No strangers can get into the school grounds unchecked. Obninsk is a quiet, academic town, but all parents agree with our belief that it is much better to be safe than sorry.

Don’t the older students bully their juniors?

According to our rules, bullying is one of the three practices which warrant automatic expulsion (the others being, leaving the grounds without permission and suspicion of drug-taking). But it very rarely comes to that. The children are quick to appreciate the warm family atmosphere and are happy to comply with our rules. I always tell our parents, that all children’s failings are due to the lack of attention from adults. Children like order and want to be good; simply, adults and state schools often don’t have enough energy or time or imagination to show them the right way.

What action do you take if a child falls ill?

Our school is equipped with all facilities and provisions necessary to take care of a child falling ill or one with a higher than average susceptibility. Our principal concern is to keep everyone fighting fit. But in a family of over a hundred children – all very different – health has got to be a priority. Dubravushka has a wonderful, very experienced children’s doctor, Svetlana Vladimirovna, four nurses – two on day and two on night duty, plus a six-bed isolation unit. If a student falls ill, Svetlana Vladimirovna examines him or her and advises on an immediate course of action. The parents are notified the same day and may, if they wish, take the child home until he/she recovers. In the clean, pine-infused air of Dubravushka, colds are cured quickly and allergies disappear. Since our dormitories, classrooms, san, admin and dining hall are all in different buildings, the students are always on the go. In their spare time, whatever the weather, they are play or stroll in the park gardens, which along with a vitamin-rich diet (lots of fresh veg, onions, garlic!), we believe to be the best immunisation against illnesses and epidemics.For five years now – touch wood! – the School has been spared from outbreaks of flu.

What about bad habits?

Our school pursues a zero tolerance drugs and alcohol policy. It has been a success so far and we are committed to keeping it so. Smoking, despite our determined efforts, is trickier to deal with. Having thrown all our pedagogical big guns into the battle, we cannot yet claim 100% victory, but retreat is out of the question. Occasionally, a teenage sophist will challenge us: “Would you rather I lied to you? I do smoke at home over the weekends, anyway, you know.” We bite the bullet and quote the philosopher who said that, under certain circumstances, a lie is the last refuge of virtue. But water wears away stone. We have seen (we would not dare say, worked) quite a few miracles whereby, for example, a former weekend puffer joined the vociferous ranks of our healthy life style campaigners.

Most boarding schools in Russia close down for weekends, sending all their pupils home. One or two pupils might occasionally stay behind, on the empty premises, feeling abandoned and bored. That is why parents often ask:

How many of the children stay in Dubravushka at weekends, and what do they do then?

About half of our students go back home for weekends, a special bus taking them to Moscow on Friday evening and bringing them back Sunday afternoon. For the other Boarding School, Moscow Region "Dubravushka"half, we arrange special sporting, academic and culinary menus. Some children stay specially to get in some extra work with their tutors.

Even though our parents have nothing but the highest praise for the School’s regular 5 meals a day (the vitamin salad bar and home-made pies make the biggest impression!), we always try to make the weekend menu special, the way it would be at home. The kids join in making pelmenis, barbecuing shashlyks, baking cakes and purchasing ice-creams. All in all, weekends are an important, exciting and very agreeable part of our children’s school life.

Students can use phones (there is one in each dormitory), fax or e-mail to contact their parents. If a child rarely gets home, parents are obviously concerned about the washing and mending of the child’s clothing, shopping for small necessities, etc. All these issues are easily resolved by our own launderette and tutors and the matron who will always lend a hand with minor washing and mending.

On top of daily showers, we take our×àñòíàÿ øêîëà "Äóáðàâóøêà" children to a sauna every weekend. Parents normally leave some pocket money, which is kept in the School’s bank, and when the need arises, the child will be taken out shopping by a tutor or the School will buy the necessary items for the child. So you do not need to worry when leaving your child at Dubravushka for long periods of time: we accept full responsibility and deal with all the problems, however big or small. The children learn to live independently, with loving care and assistance always at hand.

3. Education

Now, we have come to the main point – the purpose that brings the child to our school in the first place. This is certainly the most essential Education and complicated topic, which is raised by many parents ahead of health and discipline issues. “I want to give my child a good education!” is often the opening gambit. Before proceeding with answering your questions, I will cite a few facts and figures.

 Structure and Staff

            Our school is divided traditionally into Primary (1-4th years), Secondary (5-9th years) and Senior (10-11th years). The usual class size is 8-12 students. If the number of students, in any one year, exceeds 15, we split them into two classes. Each class is monitored by a tutor trained in psychology. Out of the 62 teachers working at Dubravushka, 40% have the Top and the rest, the First Teaching Grades.

The school year is broken up into for terms: September to October, November to December, January to March and April to May. Our holidays fall on the same days as in state schools: the first week of November, the first two weeks of January, the last week of March and June to August. Parties and various festive events, such as The Pushkin Readings, Dubravushka’s Birthday Party, etc., take place before the holidays, and tests and exams, immediately after, allowing the students to put in some extra prep work, if necessary, over the holidays.

           Now, back to your questions.

           Do you take in all applicants? Are there entrance exams?

             At the point of entry, applicants are tested in mathematics, Russian and English. They also have an interview with our Chief Psychologist. Convinced that every child is gifted, we do not regard previous inadequate schooling (which is never the child’s own fault) as a valid reason for rejection.

            Children with behaviour problems are admitted for a trial period. Those who come to us with serious gaps in their knowledge are offered tailor-made catch-up programmes. They will temporarily follow a separate schedule, with one-to-one tutoring, and, if necessary, stay at the School some weekends for extra coaching.

            Our individual approach works both for slow learners and for high-flyers. Scientists from local research institutes and university teachers are engaged to help the gifted youngsters develop independent research skills, encouraging them to be creative and to go beyond the school curriculum while preparing papers for conferences and scholarly competitions. Every senior student can choose to do a supervised research project, resulting in a paper, which is first presented at the School’s Annual Conference. Then the best papers go to the All-Russian Youth, Science and Culture Conference, sponsored by Dubravushka. All research work is co-ordinated and facilitated by the Dubravushka’s own Academy of Sciences.

             What are the chances of your student's success at university entrance exams?

                       Our in-house career advisors monitor entrance requirements at all major universities, review previous years’ test papers and results and arrange opportunities for our students to come into contact with professors and students from Obninsk and Moscow universities. This expertise, combined with a comprehensive assessment of each of our students’ interests and fortes, enables us to help school-leavers and their parents to pick the right university to apply to and to ensure there is a realistic chance of success at entrance exams and in subsequent studies. Once the university is chosen, the school-leaver gets advice and help in preparing for the exams to that particular college, in addition to working on his/her chosen core subjects.Boarding School, Moscow Region "Dubravushka"

            We have a well-established relationship with the Moscow State University and the Moscow State Humanities University (the former Moscow Historical Institute). However, the geography of our students’ university enrolments extends far beyond those two. Over the last two years alone, Dubravushka graduates won places at the Moscow State University, the Griboyedov Institute for International Law and Economics, the Prague Law Academy, The US Ken University, the Oxford University College in Budapest, the State Academy of Administration, the High School of Economics, etc.

            For a shorter answer to your question, I should refer you to our 1999 statistics: out of the 17 Dubravushka graduates 17 became university students.

 4. Upbringing and Discipline

 Why do we group these two together? At our school, children are not bullied into submission, although there is a set of strict rules, infringement upon these rules entailing punishment, in extreme cases - expulsion. But the rules, or the School’s Constitution, if you wish, are created, amended, ratified and undersigned, in the spirit of  human freedom and democracy, by all the stakeholders in the education process, including, naturally, the students themselves. You should hear the debates raging around some controversial issues! But these, too, are settled in a democratic manner. At the start of every school year, the children and the staff elect from their midst a court of arbitration by open ballot. Should any differences arise concerning infringement of The Rules or disagreement between students or between students and a member of staff, the Arbitration Court, composed naturally of the most highly regarded and upright individuals, will convene and pronounce a verdict, which will not be subject to appeal.

            There is also the School Council, elected at the same time as the Court of Arbitration, which also plays an important role in maintaining discipline, in the best sense of the word. Discipline, after all, is but one of the products of  upbringing.  It is the latter that demands the most comprehensive and dedicated attention, taking advantage of all opportunities – in class, at meals, while playing sports games or partying. Children learn to love when they are loved, to respect when they are respected, to behave with dignity when their dignity is secured.

Lessons taught through everyday experience and by personal example are backed up and enhanced by the special subjects in the curriculum: Ethics and Etiquette in the 1-7th years, Aesthetics in the 8-9th years, Psychology of Self Development in the 10th year and Psychology of Interpersonal Relations in the 11th year. Major religious holidays are observed in our school. Older students enjoy the annual trip to one of the nearby monasteries.

Most of our children identify themselves, in one way or another, with Orthodox culture but this does not preclude respect and interest towards other cultures and religions. Like all of us, children seek answers to the questions: who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? And believe me, help with this quest might play a crucial role in the child’s development.

Our psychologists make an invaluable contribution to the children’s upbringing. It is much easier to find the right approach and to predict and prevent risks if you know your child’s inner strengths and weaknesses.

Children who have spent a few years at our school are normally confident, friendly individuals and good communicators who will have also learnt to exteriorise their love and respect for their parents.

 5. Sport and leisure

            Like all healthy children, ours love sports and games. Therefore, on top of PE lessons, we offer them the widest possible choice of sports opportunities. Swimming, oriental martial arts, football, basketball, lawn tennis and horse-riding are traditional Dubravushka sports. However, if a student wants mountain skiing or figure skating, for example, this will be readily arranged. Right behind the School, there are excellent mountain skiing pistes frequented by aficionados from Moscow and Kaluga.×àñòíàÿ øêîëà ïàíñèîí "Äóáðàâóøêà"

            Dubravushka has its own sports heroes. Gleb Molotkov, in his 10th year, simultaneously became President of the School Council and the 1998 karate youth champion of Russia. Our football and basketball teams show good results at town championships, urged on by the entire Dubravushka population. Katya Presman, 9th year, has won a junior master’s grade in gymnastics and a tremendous following among her schoolmates.

            Mens sana in corpore sana. As for leisure, various creative pursuits are available: a dance class, an amateur dramatics circle, a chess club and - everybody’s great favourites - the Boys’ Choir and the Girls’ Choir, to name but a few. We do not cultivate couch potatoes but there are video-playing facilities in every dormitory’s hall and, of course, in the isolation unit. The computer room is accessible to all students throughout their waking hours. We also do a lot of celebrating. There is the 1st of September, Dubravushka’s Birthday, New Year’s Carnivals, Students’ Birthdays, the Day of the Last Bell and the Graduation Ball. The festivities are showcases for our young performing talent and for the work of all our studios, clubs and circles. Students take photos, videos and indelible memories of the festivities home with them.

 

            Saying good-bye to you for now, I suggest that you have a browse around our Photo Gallery.

 

 
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