Expat families moving to Russia will need to consider their education options carefully. Public schooling is free to both locals and foreigners, but instruction is in Russian and the focus is very much on rote learning. Many expats find this in stark contrast to the critical thinking approach favoured by schools in the US and the UK.

Most expats opt to send their children to international schools in Russia, and those who can’t afford the hefty price tag attached to these institutions will usually send their children to private schools.

School attendance in Russia is mandatory from age six to 15. This phase is known as Basic General Education. Students who remain in school beyond the compulsory period will continue for a further two years, taking either an academic or vocational path.

There are some favourable aspects of sending an expat child to public school in Russia – in particular, the country has a high rate of literacy and performs well in mathematics. Public schooling can also help expat children to integrate with the local culture.

It’s essential to consider the language barrier, however. Young children can pick up a language fairly easily, while older children will struggle. This can worsen the already difficult relocation process and cause distress. As a result, public schools aren’t recommended for expat families unless the child is very young or has prior knowledge of Russian.

If the family is settling down in Russia permanently, children may benefit from public schooling, but otherwise it’s a particularly difficult path to follow only to relocate a year or two later.

Though the state of the curriculum and the teaching methods utilised in private schools still align with those of public schools throughout the country, class sizes are generally smaller, facilities better maintained and extra-curricular activities more accessible. Unlike public schools, private schools charge fees. They’re still usually cheaper than international schools, though, and can be a good middle-ground for those who lack the funds for international schooling.

The teaching language of private schools is Russian. Again, unless the child has some language foundation or the expat family plan to stay in Russia long-term, international schools are likely to be the best option.

Most expats moving to Russia prefer to send their children to international schools. These schools uphold the teaching language and curriculum of select countries. Major cities such as Moscow have a good selection of international institutions including American, British, French and German schools. Some of the schools also administer the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum alongside their home-country curriculum.

The most prestigious schools in Russia tend to have long waiting lists. For this reason, expats should apply as early as possible once the details of their relocation have been confirmed.  Admissions are sometimes based on priority, with the children of diplomats and certain larger companies given the first available spots. Sometimes children of a certain nationality will also be given priority.

Lastly, tuition fees at international schools in Russia can be very high. If an employer does not give an education allowance, expats should be absolutely sure that their monthly wage is high enough to cover the costs associated with these institutions.