Yay, finally! Back to School – День Знаний

back to school

Yayyy, finally! Nooo, not again! It’s this day of the year again when opinions tend to differ sharply in Russia and the rest of the world – День Знаний (“Knowledge Day” – 1st of September)! As especially the children, who begin their first year in school, look forward to finally beginning in school, I dare say that most of the older pupils are not super amused. Don’t misunderstand me – when you grow up, you realize from year to year more how important school is. Thinking back to when I was at school, I know that this excitement about the 1st of September decreases every year. Spending summer holidays with family, sleeping late and doing whatever you wanted to is just more fun. In this blog I would like to provide you with general information about the Russian school system, vacations and special rites when it comes to the first ever school day for the youngest.

School system

In Russia, children usually start school at the age of six or seven. Afterwards, the compulsory education lasts nine years. Depending on your grades and goals, you can choose to attend either a college after the 9th grade (ГИА – государственная итоговая аттестация) or a university after the 11th grade, which is way more prestigious. Only if you are doing well in school, you can attend the 10th and 11th class and to take A-Levels (ЕГЭ – единый государственный экзамен), which is a requirement for applying at a university. Nevertheless, if you don’t perform well, you have to attend the college for two more years to get a chance for a place the university. With this certification you get the qualification but not the permission to enter the university, because you must pass a very demanding entrance exam for the university.

Grading system & holidays

Imagine, it’s the end of the school year. You receive straight As, but your parents are very upset about your performance. How is that possible? In Russia, a five-point academic grading system is used, where the grading system is exactly the contrary to the one we know. This means, if you receive straight As, it means for Russians you performed very poor.
The dates of holidays are rather similar like in the rest of Europe. Only the summer holidays last one month longer, except for the 9th and 11th, who take their exams in June.

Spring:                 22nd – 29th of March
Summer:             1st of June – 1st of September
Autumn:             4th – 14th of November
Winter:               1st – 15th of January

Rites

On the first of September all pupils and teachers usually assemble in the schoolyard. It is the first meeting and the beginning of the ceremony (Линейка в Школе). The principal of the school welcomes everyone and holds a speech in front of the scholars and parents. In Russia it´s a well-known tradition that the older students from the 11th grade take the first graders on their shoulders, who have a bell in the one hand and flowers for their first teacher in the other hand. This rite is called “Первый Звонок”, which means literally translated “the first ring”. Moreover, the children receive balloons from the school and let them solemnly fly. Afterwards the pupils meet their teachers in the class rooms to discuss the time-schedule, the school uniform and the different subjects, which include mathematics, physical education, Russian handicrafts lessons and paint lessons. Another tradition is the „Парад первоклассника” (1st of September parade). It is usually held in the city center and is not mandatory – anyone who wants to can attend. The children meet on the main square and walk together the main street down. Click here if you want to know more about Russian school vocabulary!

school uniform Russia
Линейка в Школе – Ceremony on September, 1

Anyway, if you are still attending school, studying at the university or already taking care of your children – the first day of September affects everybody, whether on the full streets or in the crowded shopping centers…you can’t escape the buzz and atmosphere of this holiday. I wish everyone a good start into the new school year and all the best for the upcoming challenges!

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