[home page][map of the server][news of the server][forums][publications][Yabloko's Views]

The Moscow Times, August 12, 2003

City Plans to Keep Kids in School Until Night

By Francesca Mereu

Convinced that the devil finds work for idle hands, the Moscow city education committee has hatched a plan to keep children in school until up to 10 at night.

Starting in September, 219 of the city's 1,600 schools will offer an experimental program in which schoolchildren will have the option of trying their hand at sports, music and other extracurricular activities instead of going home after classes.

"Some schools will be open until 5 or 6 p.m., but others will be open until 10 o'clock in the evening," said Yevgeny Bunimovich, a Moscow City Duma deputy who advises City Hall on education issues and is a prize-winning math teacher.

Children in grades one through three attend classes until 12 to 12:30 p.m., while older students get out at 3 p.m. But, as in Soviet times, students have the option of staying for the so-called prodlyonka until 6 p.m., during which they get help with their homework.

The difference between the prodlyonka and the new program is that the latter is more structured, Bunimovich said. "Schoolchildren will not only be offered help with their homework, but they'll also be offered a series of after-school activities," he said.

The main aim of the program is to keep latchkey children busy and "away from the dangers of the street," he said.

"Many schoolchildren have parents who are engaged in two different jobs in order to make ends meet and who don't have time for their children. With this new program, City Hall is trying to help those parents and their children," he said.

The city has pumped 600 million rubles ($19.8 million) into setting up the program, which will be offered to students for free.

The plan, however, is being met with some skepticism. "Everybody agrees that something should be done about schoolchildren, but you don't solve their problems by dropping them off at school all day," said Yelena Birukova, editor of September 1, a biweekly publication focusing on school problems.

Birukova said schools lack the resources to help older students deal with serious problems. "But with schools open all day, parents will be encouraged to leave their difficult children at school instead of really helping them overcome their problems," she said.

What's more, she said, a full day at school could be very tiring for younger students.

Oksana Vlasova, whose 12-year-old daughter will start the fifth grade next month, agreed. "Children are so overloaded with homework now, and I'm afraid that if they begin the after-school activities they won't have any time left for themselves," she said.

In this way the experimental program seems to contradict Education Minister Vladimir Filippov's ambitious plans for school reform. Filippov has repeatedly said students are assigned too much homework and they do not have enough free time.

"It is an old quarrel between Filippov and me," Bunimovich said. "We are not going to force schoolchildren to study math all day."

Natalya Orlova, the mother of a 9-year-old boy, said she might put him into the new program -- even though she hired a babysitter rather than leave him in the prodlyonka last year.

"He only got tired there. He did not learn anything new," she said.

But if the after-school activities are better organized, Orlova said, she would be happy to have her son take part. "He could learn music right at school and with the other children," she said.

The economic turmoil of the 1990s led to huge cutbacks in state-funded social programs, like sports and cultural centers, which previously provided a gathering place for young people. City lawmakers say the lack of organized activities has left many children with too much free time on their hands and helped contribute to an increase in drug abuse and crime.

City Hall for some time has been considering opening new sports fields and youth clubs in an attempt to deal with juvenile delinquency, but tight budgets have prevented any of the projects from getting off the ground, Bunimovich said.

Then the idea of an after-school program was born. "We thought that we could use school gyms and classrooms to keep students busy after school. In this way they are away from the street and at the same time learning something interesting," Bunimovich said.

Svetlana Ivanova, a deputy department head at the Education Ministry, said she supports the new program but "for the time being the project is just experimental and we are not talking about expanding it to all Moscow schools."


See also:

the original at

Reform in Education

The Moscow Times, August 12, 2003

[home page][map of the server][news of the server][forums][publications][Yabloko's Views]

Project Director: Vyacheslav Erohin e-mail: admin@yabloko.ru Director: Olga Radayeva, e-mail: english@yabloko.ru
Administrator: Vlad Smirnov, e-mail: vladislav.smirnov@yabloko.ru