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Comparing Russian and American STEM Education

evgeniy's picture
By evgeniy, 05/17/2016 - 13:26

Hello, my name is Evgeniy, and I’m from beautiful city St. Petersburg, Russia. I moved to the United States when I was 13 years old to play hockey. I had to attend to the American school that was challenging for me because I didn’t know the language well. I only knew a few phrases, but I observed a lot of differences between Russian and American school.

I moved to St. Louis and attended local middle school. Everything was very different for me, and it took quite of bit time to adapt to the new environment.  The structure of the education system was very dissimilar compared to Russia. But it was easier. In some ways, I liked it much more because it gave me an opportunity to create things and look deeply into the different types problems.

In Russia, our schools are very strict and follow the cultural traditions. You cover a large amount of material in short period of time. Classes are only 45min long. From the grade 7 kids learned physics, biology, algebra, chemistry, and geometry. Those classes are mandatory for the rest of school until the 11th grade (that’s when you graduate).When I first went to the American school, I found out that classes like math or science were easier because the information I learned here was not new to me. I covered same material in Russia during 6th grade. Like for example in Algebra class here I already knew how to solve complex equations unlike rest of the kids in my new school. 

The main difference I found is that in Russia scientific classes focus more on theories and how to get the right answer rather than on practice and creativity. You learn a big load of information, but sometimes you have no opportunity to use it or practice it.  You have quizzes and test, but you don’t have as many projects or labs. For example in American school during the physics class after learning the material, we would have labs that would help us to understand the material. For our final project we made a Rube Goldberg machine where we used every piece of information we learned during the year. Learning the technical material  is also crucial because it is your base, without it, you can do nothing. Schools need a good mixture of learning theories and being creative. Creativity helps us to think bigger. By creating anything, we improve our skills and grow as an individual.

Also, another main difference between Russian and American school is after school clubs and activities. There are few clubs you can join in Russia, but it’s not as promoted and developed as here. In our schools, you can join like basic clubs like singing or dancing. But if you want to do something like robotics then, you would have to search for private classes that cost a lot of money. Even not every school in America offers robotics, but I think it should be one of the main options because you can learn things like coding and engineering. It would help you in future. Also, in the American school, I had an opportunity to do an internship for my senior project in “OPO Startups”. I worked with many startup companies and learned a lot of new things. One of my favorites was Maker Makers where I found out about 3D printing, Unix OS and even created my own computer. That was a great experience for me as high school student, and I wish there were more opportunities like that  in my home country.