The Skolkovo International Gymnasium began the new school year on Friday in a brand new purpose-built building with more than twice as many pupils as last year.
Children line up with flowers to give their teacher, as is traditional in Russia, outside the new premises of the Skolkovo International Gymnasium on Sept. 1, celebrated as the Day of Knowledge in Russia. Photo: Sk.ru.
On Sept. 1, which is celebrated across Russia as the Day of Knowledge and first day of school, gymnasium pupils, teachers and parents gathered for an official opening ceremony in the sunshine outside the new school building, located near the giant Skolkovo Technopark.
“Today is a very special day and a wonderful celebration: we have got a new home,” said gymnasium director Oksana Demianenko.
Present at the ceremony to welcome the gymnasium pupils was Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich.
Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich attended the opening ceremony and wished the pupils good luck. Photo: Sk.ru.
“Ten years ago, when my colleagues and I were coming up with the idea for this city, for the SKolkovo project, we understood that a city is only a city when there are a lot of children in it, so from the very beginning we planned a school here. This is the first school and gymnasium. Now you are here, and we are a real city,” Dvorkovich told the assembled children.
“Of course, you will have to study hard – knowledge doesn’t come easily – but it will come in useful,” he assured them, before wishing them luck in their studies.
The Skolkovo International Gymnasium was previously housed in 2,000 square metres of another building inside the Skolkovo innovation city. Its new premises are more than 10 times bigger, covering 22,000 square metres, and boast state-of-the-art classrooms and labs, and sports facilities that include two indoor pools, two gyms and a choreography studio.
Skolkovo Foundation President Victor Vekselberg had sent a message for the occasion that was read out by Igor Drozdov, chairman of the board of the Skolkovo Foundation.
“Today is a momentous event in the history of Skolkovo,” Vekselberg’s message began. “Our International Gymnasium has got its own, attractive building equipped to cutting-edge standards, and is opening its doors to students. I’m sure that from within its walls will come many famous people who will bring glory in the future to themselves and their country, make outstanding discoveries, be successful in business, and become experts in their field.”
Science and Education Minister Olga Vasilyeva also sent a message with a deputy, saying that she was confident today was the start of the journey for many future space explorers, oceanographers, great scientists, engineers and humanities scholars.
Skolkovo Foundation board chairman Igor Drozdov (right) and Dvorkovich inspect one of the gymnasium's two indoor swimming pools during a tour of the school. Photo: Sk.ru.
The gymnasium, a private school catering for children aged two to 18, is this year welcoming 336 students: a significant increase on last year’s 137 pupils. Last year, the gymnasium received International Baccalaureate status, which is recognised by prestigious universities around the world, and the school’s curriculum combines the IB programme with Russian state education standards. As befits a school located inside an innovations city devoted to fostering tech startups, there is a focus on natural sciences and technology – pupils are taught robotics from first grade – as well as foreign languages: English (taught by native speakers), Chinese, German and Spanish.
The school is perceived as a crucial part of the Skolkovo ecosystem of startups, partner companies and the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech), and this is reflected in the involvement of those startups and companies, as well as Skoltech professors and postgrads, in the gymnasium’s educational programme. On Friday, on the agenda for older pupils was a visit to the Boeing training and research centre located at Skolkovo, plus lectures by Skoltech professors and classes by resident startups.
The first day of school featured lectures by Skoltech professors and other entertaining activities. Photo: Sk.ru.
“Your school will become the best school in Moscow,” Skoltech president Alexander Kuleshov told the assembled children and parents.
“We will do everything possible to make that happen. The enormous educational resources of Skoltech will all be here … We will do everything we can to make you proud that you attended this school.”
Classrooms inside the new purpose-built gymnasium building are spacious and light. Photo: Sk.ru.
If last year, all the pupils were the children or grandchildren of people working at the Skolkovo innovation centre – such as startup entrepreneurs, Skoltech professors and Skolkovo Foundation staff – this year, 30 percent of pupils have come from outside Skolkovo, having competed to study at the school. Demianenko welcomed this progression in a recent interview with Sk.ru, noting that it increases healthy competition among the students.
Oksana Demianenko, director of the gymnasium. Photo: Sk.ru.
Another innovation planned for this year is the introduction by teachers of augmented reality in their lessons and activities. The teachers have been trained in AR by resident startups.
The gymnasium also recently reached an agreement with its first partner institution: a school in Beijing specialising in natural sciences. The first student and teacher exchanges are planned for the spring, and a school in the Netherlands is due to become the gymnasium’s next partner.
Despite the impressive academic arsenal at the gymnasium’s disposal, school and education are ultimately about more than academic knowledge alone, as Skolkovo board chairman Drozdov reminded those present on Friday.
“School is not just about studying,” he said. “School is about true friendship, and school friendships are some of the most sincere relationships that happen in a person’s life. So I truly hope you make some faithful friends.”
Drozdov noted that there are 1,700 startups within the Skolkovo innovation city, “but the most important startup for us is our school. The success of our startup depends on you, our children,” he said.