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:
1. Founders, licensing and accreditation
2. Health and safety
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
school year is broken up into for terms: September to
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
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
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.
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
Upbringing and Discipline
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.