The Russian Centre for Science and Culture in Nur-Sultan has hosted a ceremonial presentation of certificates to students of the Online School of St Petersburg University for the 2019/2020 academic year. The course was attended by 30 Kazakhstani schoolchildren; in total, more than 150 students from Latvia, Estonia, Spain and Kazakhstan have graduated from the project this year.

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By the second academic year, the geographical region of students at the Online School of St Petersburg University has expanded, and the number of course participants has doubled. In addition to organised groups of schoolchildren, individual students from the UK, Germany, Uzbekistan and other countries joined distance learning classes. Throughout the training period and even during the pandemic, the children continued to study and successfully completed the course. From October to May, every Saturday they had the opportunity to listen to lectures on the Russian language, Russian literature and the history of Russia.

The presentation of the long-distance educational project ‘The Online School of St Petersburg University’ took place in December 2018 at Moscow House in Riga.

At present, schoolchildren and students from many countries throughout the world are interested in receiving education in Russia, including online education. St Petersburg University, as one of the most attractive Russian universities for international applicants, makes great efforts to create additional opportunities for gaining new knowledge. The Online School of St Petersburg University is one of the projects that makes it possible to broaden one's horizons and become familiar with the culture of Russia. Online lectures by the University’s teachers have become popular: the University is receiving applications from foreign institutions interested in distance learning for schoolchildren.

The Online School of St Petersburg University is a unique project. Of course, outside Russia there are problems with receiving an education in Russian. However, many people are interested in it, and our project has been created precisely to help them in solving this issue.

Dmitry Ptyushkin, Acting Director of the Language Testing Centre at St Petersburg University

‘Only three subjects are currently being taught, but we are actively working to expand our programme. So, there will be more of them in the autumn of 2020. We are waiting for everyone in the next academic year, which will begin in October,’ said Dmitry Ptyushkin, Acting Director of the Language Testing Centre at St Petersburg University.

Students who join the classes this autumn will also be able to listen to lectures in the geography of Russia, physics and chemistry. This is in addition to the three existing courses. These disciplines were selected based on a survey conducted among international schoolchildren and representatives of the University’s partner institutions. New courses are now being designed. St Petersburg University specialists have already conducted trial testing for prospective students to determine their level, and to understand what syllabus should be provided as part of the educational process. It is also planned to introduce the teaching of Russian not only as a native language according to the curriculum of the Russian high school, but also as a foreign language for those students who are just starting to learn it at the Online School of St Petersburg University. The list of academic courses will continue to expand. It will include both natural science and humanitarian subjects, so that schoolchildren can sign up for courses and choose targeted subjects. In the future, a subject testing system will be added to the project. Following the results of the course, any student can be assessed how well they have learned the material and receive a certificate confirming their knowledge.

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In the new academic year, St Petersburg University will launch an Olympiad on the history of Russia for students of the Online School of St Petersburg University, as well as for all foreign citizens interested in Russian culture. In foreign countries, there are a large number of Saturday schools and leisure centres for schoolchildren, in which, in addition to the Russian language, the history of Russia is also taught. However, in our opinion, until now there has been no sufficiently complete and comprehensive Olympiad targeted specifically at international students,’ explained Dmitry Ptyushkin. ‘We would like to organise an intellectual competition in which the Chinese, French, Italians, Americans and residents of other countries could compete in knowledge of the history of our country. Since 2018, the University has been holding an international Olympiad in Russian as a foreign language. We also plan to expand the range of such competitions.’

Additionally, this autumn, it is planned to create a separate portal of the Online Schools at St Petersburg University. It will provide comfortable conditions for studying not only for organised groups of schoolchildren, but also for individual students who are interested in receiving a high-quality education in Russian. On this website, students will be able to create personal accounts where they can see schedules and announcements of future classes, and recommendations on further reading. There they will also be able to: have interim assessment and subject testing; sign up for participation in the University’s competitions; assess their level of Russian proficiency; and take the Test of Russian as a Foreign Language (TORFL) and receive a certificate confirming their command of Russian.  Useful materials for the learning process will be supplemented by an information unit representing the multifaceted activities of the University: information for applicants; information about the latest publications of St Petersburg University; video excursions to the University’s museums; and much more. ‘The portal will provide international students with ample opportunities to acquire knowledge and an independent assessment from the leading experts of St Petersburg University. It will also make it possible to get acquainted with St Petersburg University: if a person wants to receive an education at the oldest university in Russia, they will have a clear idea where they will study and what opportunities they will have,’ said Dmitry Ptyushkin. ‘So, we will continue our project with distance learning in classes and, at the same time, help the children who live in small towns that the University or the Online School have not yet reached to participate in our Olympiads, tests and contests.’