Some students from the former Soviet bloc have been able to make use of new freedoms and affluence to gain a traditional, British, boarding-school education.
In the days before the Iron Curtain came down, the granddaughter of former Russian leader Josef Stalin was one of the few children from Eastern Europe or the former Soviet Union to attend a British "public" school, as those which are chiefly supported by student tuition are referred to in the United Kingdom.
But that is changing, as some students from the former Soviet bloc have been able to make use of new freedoms and affluence to gain a traditional, British boarding-school education, one aimed at gaining admission to a top university.
According to the U.K. - based Independent Schools Information Service, or ISIS, there are now more than 100 fee-paying students from the former Soviet Union enrolled in British schools. Moreover, while the few students who came to England during the Communist years tended to be the sons and daughters of government officials, today's are the offspring of successful entrepreneurs.
John Towey, head of ISIS's international branch, said he is aware of about 40 such students who matriculated to U.K. schools last month, adding that there are bound to be more. But why bother sending children to a school so far away?
"It is a mixture of things," said Brian Jnderwood, headmaster of Sussex-based
Newlands Manor, whose tuition is a hefty 210, 185 ($16,250) a year, and which currently has more than 10 students from the east. "Safety, security, health, and of purse the English language and the British public-school system's reputation for a vigorous intellectual education."1
Mr. Underwood added: "I have one boy whose parents own what is probably
Moscow's best restaurant. He cannot go outfor fear of being kidnapped. Others were sent here to get away from the pollution in places like Kiev in the Ukraine, which is close to Chernobyl."
To meet growing demand, a number of agencies have started up, which, for a fee, will research and recommend U.K. schools for foreign parents looking to place their children. Mr. Towey said he is reluctant to endorse any of these, however, as some do not cover a comprehensive range of schools.
Citizens of the former Soviet Union seem more able to afford British school fees than those from the rest of Eastern Europe. Indeed, say experts, there are few fee-paying students from countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic attending school in England. There are, however, a number of sixth-form students, or those about 16 to 18 years of age, who have been granted free places.
The Headmasters' Conference East European Initiative, a privately-funded program aimed at bringing Eastern European 'students to British schools, has given 76 full scholarship places to pupils this year, having given 55 in the 1992/1993 school year, the first in which it operated. The program grants places to teenagers of outstanding academic ability and unspecified personal qualities.
Robin Schlich, the European liaison officer at the £12,210-a-year Uppingham School in Leicestershire, which has a number of scholarship pupils, says that the "personal qualities" may include all sorts of things.
"Some of them are obviously outstanding sportsmen, and many of them do all sorts of things like editing student newspapers," said Mr. Schlich. "I think we are really looking for the sort of people who are going to be the leaders of the next generation," he added.
Other British schools often considered by Eastern European parents, say observers, include Holmewood House, a prep school based in Tonbridge Wells, Kent, and Taunton School, in Somerset. In Britain, so-called "prep" schools are for 7- to 13-year-olds, while "public" schools are for 13- to 18-year-olds.
While the fees of such schools are evidently within the means of some East European and Russian parents, there are many more, of course, who wish to send their children to Britain but simply can't afford it. Roger Wicks, headmaster of Kent College, a public school in Canterbury whose tuition is £9,627 a year, said he had two students from Lithuania enrolled for this year's fall term. But he received short notes from each set of parents — one the day before the term started and one the day after — saying that the students would not be attending.
No reason was given, but he said he suspected that tuition costs were the problem.
There have also been unsurprising hitches with a few children. "There have been problems with a few Russian children who have turned up unable to cope linguistically or emotionally, in that it is simply a huge culture shock," said Mr. Schlich.
But the benefits of having students from Eastern Europe in Western schools are many, according to those who teach them. Indeed, many teachers enthuse about the benefits to teenagers of meeting others from different cultures and say that such exchanges should draw Western and Eastern Europe closer in the future.
And as more parents living in the East reach higher levels of affluence, some add, more of their children are likely to attend schools in the West.
/Economist, Dec. 15, 1994/
I. Say what’s meant by the words and word combinations:
To gain admission to; to enroll in; not to cover a comprehensive range of schools, unspecified personal qualities, to be within somebody’s means, a culture shock.
II. Say what you know about:
a) Public school, student tuition, boarding-school, scholarship, prep school;
b) The Iron Curtain;
c) Kent, Somerset, Canterbury.
III. Points for discussion:
1. What makes British boarding-school education attractive?
2. The benefits of having students from Eastern Europe in Westernschools are many, aren’t they?
3. Can we say that our system of education lacks «safety, security and health»?