Abu Dhabi’s new Russian school welcomes its first pupils

The institution will teach mainly in Russian and aims to reflect the country's curriculum

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Abu Dhabi's first Russian school has this week started welcoming pupils.

The Russian School of Abu Dhabi is operated by The Primakov school, which lies west of Moscow and is often named among the top educational institutions.

It opened with about 50 pupils this term and is continuing to enrol.

Olesia Popenkova, its director, was vice principal at the Moscow school and moved to Abu Dhabi recently.

"There is great demand for the Russian curriculum because there are many people here from Russian-speaking countries and we are open to any nationality," she said.

“We're expecting some other families joining us in September and next year we will get older grades, we will grow in number.

“This year, we have Russian as well as Emirati pupils. We also have pupils from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Spain and many nationalities.

"We are really proud of the Russian curriculum and would like to show the best of it outside the country."

The launch comes as the Russian-speaking population in the Emirates grows. The only other Russian-language school is Russian International School, located in Dubai's Muhaisnah district since 1996.

Growing population

The striking new red-brick building has a capacity for 500 pupils. The Russian educational system lays great emphasis on academic results and fundamentals, as well as discipline, said Ms Popenkova.

The curriculum uses a personalised approach to find every pupil’s talent and help them develop it, she said, and the school's pupils are known for their academic prowess, often participating in Olympiads.

“It’s one of the top schools [in the Moscow region], though it's rather young," said Ms Popenkova of the parent school that has existed since 2017.

The school opened to the west of Moscow and its bilingual Russian and English education and wide range of extracurricular activities has been popular with parents. The school is known for its rigorous entry process and high standards.

The focus in its first year was to ensure pupil's Russian language abilities were up to speed as subjects such as mathematics, literature, science would all be taught in Russian.

"We do know that different pupils are at different levels in Russian and we really need a very personal approach this year," she said.

Tuition fees for nursery and kindergarten one and two are Dh17,750 for the year 2022-23. Victor Besa / The National

Families drawn to Abu Dhabi for schooling

Fees at the school have been discounted by 50 per cent in the current academic year and tuition fees for nursery and kindergarten one and two are Dh17,750 ($4,832) for the year 2022-23.

The school has opened its doors for pupils in pre-kindergarten to grade five.

For Tatiana Chuchalina, 39, a working mother-of-three, ensuring her children had a Russian education was so important that the family decided to move to Abu Dhabi from Dubai.

They had moved from Moscow to Dubai only six months ago for better work opportunities.

Mrs Chuchalina and her husband work in Dubai and will be travelling from Abu Dhabi a few times a week so their children can attend The Russian School.

“I find the Russian educational system a very good one, because of how deep they go into the subject," she said.

“We preferred our children to study at The Russian School and for this we had to move to Abu Dhabi, which was very difficult for us."

Valeria, 9, will attend grade four while Mark, 7, is in grade two and Maria, 6, in grade one.

Olesia Popenkova is the principal at The Russian School of Abu Dhabi. Victor Besa / The National

She said the Primakov school was known in Russia for high standards.

She said when she found out a branch was to open in Abu Dhabi, "I immediately gave a call to the school and fixed an appointment".

Mrs Chuchalina said she immediately asked if they would be relocating teachers from Primakov to Abu Dhabi — and was thrilled to be told they would.

Taking the International Baccalaureate diploma was also an important factor, as it meant her children could have the option of international education at university.

“This is something that I want to give to my kids," she said. "I want to give them two diplomas. The first one can be from a national curriculum school so that if they decide to go back to Moscow and to study further, they will still have this option.

"From the second point, they still have the option to enter international universities. And this is the best that I can give them as a mother, that all the world is going to be open for them."

Updated: September 14, 2022, 5:43 AM
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