In the course of studying my articles and the book Education for Life. School Program: Productively and Without Force, many have decided that I am absolutely against school education of any kind. That is not really the case.
I like Finnish schools and expensive private schools in Switzerland and the United Stated. My daughter Katya has gone to study in one of the best boarding schools that is among the top 100 schools in the US. I am quite deliberately ready to pay over $60,000 annually for her going to school for four years given that Katya was quite comfortably, just for kicks, admitted to a free lyceum in Minsk.
Why choose a US school and not one of the best schools in the CIS? It’s because I can see an insurmountable difference between the results of education in high-class private schools in the US and those schools that are believed to be the best in the CIS.
The first and most important difference is in how the child feels through all these school years. Unfortunately, children in school often feel humiliated, helpless, and powerless to make any change or to defend their opinion. It is no secret that schools in the post-Soviet territory bring up obedient and easily managed cogs.
Another significant difference is the applicability of the knowledge received. People often think in stereotypes. Something like, “He can do differential equations – it was a great school, he can’t – he’s poorly educated.” It is rare that anyone asks, “When in real adult life to we use differential equations?” It usually happens just like in the old anecdote:
“Professor, have you ever used your knowledge for anything in real life?”
“Of course! Once, I dropped my watch down the toilet and fished it out using an integral-shaped piece of wire!”
That said, practically no one ever thinks about how often in real life you have to compromise, defend your point of view, work in a team, present your ideas or talk in front of an audience.
It is quite obvious that many can live very well without differential equations. However, their life somehow rapidly deteriorates without communication or presentation skills. They cannot manage either a raise or a promotion and they cannot sell themselves, their products or services if they are freelancers or businessmen. They have to learn these skills separately, while in a good western schools children master theses skills in the course of attending classes.
Another important point is an amazingly friendly relationship on equal footing among American teachers and students. Bullying is not allowed at all. Dislike is mostly expressed by the fact that a person is not invited somewhere.
As far back as elementary school they try to instill the courage to defend what is right and fair. Otherwise, even if the child is not a victim of bullying, but is one of its active participants, this negative experience warps the mind, anchoring the false feeling of power, permissiveness and the herd instinct, all at the same time. Such atmosphere is a good enough cause to look for something radically different.
Yet another significant point is the ability to make decisions and to be responsible for them. Unlike the post-Soviet schools, where required subjects are forced on the student who cannot refuse them in favor of more interesting subjects, American high schools have a fairly small number of required classes. Each child has an opportunity to choose electives, as well as their number and level. Everything is designed towards growing creativity and responsibility; looking for non-standard solutions and critical thinking are encouraged. All problems are posed in such a way that you cannot find a ready-made answer online. Children are taught to actively seek out information and draw independent conclusions and opinions on its basis.
It is very important that American private schools raise people who can lead others first and foremost, regardless of whether they’ll have their own business, join top management of a large corporation or simply become self-employed outsourcing contractors.
The entire education system in expensive top private schools in the USA is geared toward growing a top manager – a person who knows how to work in a team, as well as how to be a leader capable of organizing other people. In fact, the required subjects are of the “leadership” type. Self-presentation and teamwork skills are nurtured at school age in the West, while far from every adult has these soft skills in the post-Soviet territory and must attend various paid trainings if these skills are required.
Besides, in American private schools children have a certain social circle; teenagers, who will later on become outstanding businessmen, top managers, or members of the government, become friends.
Going to a local school in the province will give your child a very different level of friends and acquaintances than going to Harvard. Besides, the probability of admittance to any of the top 10 universities in the world is so many times higher after graduating from a good American high school than trying to do it after graduating from a regular school.
We discussed with Katya what would be more expedient: to pay over $300,000 for four years of study including air travel, insurance, etc. or to buy a good apartment. Katya quite rightly said that in those four years she will get significantly more practical knowledge and skills for real adult life, future work or business than if she spent that time at any university in the CIS and that that knowledge and skills will allow her later to earn several times the amount of such an apartment.
So I am ready to work more in order to pay for such education for my children that will allow them to use present-day social lifts in full in order to move up.
My parents had no education and had worked in a factory all their lives. I graduated from colleges in Minsk and Moscow; I have an MBA and have started a successful business selling online training. My oldest daughter has gone even further: for a year and a half she has purposefully studied English on her own in order to get good scores on TOEFL and SSAT and, as a result, was admitted to an excellent high school in order to have an opportunity to study later on at one of the best universities in the world. We are very glad that she made it despite enormous competition this year.
High standards of education and communications with equal or even more successful people are worthy goals for well-rounded and ambitious teenagers. It is important for parents to plan their professional and financial growth in advance in order to be able to support their children on their way to a better life, to give them the most for a successful start in life, because a truly high-class education pays back manifold.