Ismail Akhmetov: “So far the Russian school is educating absent-minded and lost people”
The founder of Homogarmonicus school — about the flaws of modern secondary education and about why one should not push the child to the mandatory choice of specialization
What is the main problem of the modern education system in Russia and the West? How to bring up a well-integrated and free personality in school? Why is home schooling not the best choice? How important is the role of cleaning and cooking in education? The founder of the Moscow school Homogarmonicus, Ismail Akhmetov, answered these and other questions in the interview with Realnoe Vremya.
“You cannot raise children harmonious and free if you do not follow this direction yourself”
Mr Akhmetov, to start I would like to ask about the origins and prerequisites of the appearance of your educational project. Why at one point did you decide to start doing something different from ordinary schools in the educational sphere of our country?
The prerequisite was very simple — it's watching my own children. I have five of them, and everyone I wanted to give them the best possible education because I myself loved to learn and was extremely receptive to what was happening around.
My eldest son is 33 years old, and he is, so to speak, a pioneer who studied and experienced everything. The older children studied in Europe and then got an education in English, Paris, Vienna universities. As I watched, I realized I wasn't entirely satisfied with what I was seeing.
Over time, I had three more children, and by that time I had already known that they should be taught differently. It seemed to me that I could organize the process much better. Thus our own way started.
The cornerstone in your school is “harmonious development of free personality”. How to raise such a person in school? What tools do you use for this?
First of all, it is necessary to form an environment of like-minded parents and teachers. Without a group of associates, nothing will work out. If there is a carrier of the idea, but there are no like-minded people and a stable environment, the idea will be doomed to failure.
Our main focus is on maximum grouping around families. Parents and teachers work together: everyone tries to become more harmonious and free. Becoming an example for children, adults themselves begin to understand better what harmony and freedom are. It is absolutely useless to bring up children and not to be the example to follow for them in terms of results.
If there is a carrier of the idea but there are no like-minded people and a stable environment, the idea will be doomed to failure
“The state exam encourages children to specialization, propels into narrow bounds”
What other differences from the usual Russian schools would you note?
First, in ordinary secondary schools, there is the division into “basic” and “additional” disciplines. The first category includes literature, mathematics, Russian and English languages, the second — music, art, robotics and so on. The first global difference lies precisely in that we do not have such a division: both mathematics and art are absolutely mandatory disciplines. Children develop physically, aesthetically and intellectually. I wish that the love for and understanding of all disciplines remained with children forever.
Focused specialization can appear in a person's life — especially modern — many times, and in different directions. At 18, you may feel that you are very interested in robotics, but there is no doubt that in five years there will be a saturation of this field and there will be some other area of activity — for example, in the field of chemistry or biology. And if you choose only robots, it will stop you in development to a certain extent.
This will not happen if you approach the educational process as a project education. However, the developed free mind will not condemn you to the mandatory choice of specialization and dedication for life to one thing. We see that the change of professions occurs constantly, and it is on interdisciplinary relations that major breakthroughs occur.
Most importantly — no fixation on the state exam. This exam drives into a very narrow framework. Children should know mathematics, literature, biology, music and all other disciplines equally well.
Judging by your desire for “community”, you do not welcome homeschooling, don’t you?
Yes, homeschooling has one global flaw — this method does not take into account that human being is a social being. Children especially need friends. Home education doesn't do that. In my opinion, 90% of success lies in the learning environment. There is no such environment in home education.
Of course, if the child is special or he or she, for example, has certain health problems, then they have to do homeschooling. But let me remind you that we have schools with inclusive education for such children.
The developed free mind will not condemn you to the mandatory choice of specialization and dedication for life to one thing. We see that the change of professions occurs constantly, and it is on interdisciplinary relations that major breakthroughs occur.
“We try to form a community consciousness in children, not an individualistic one”
Did you rely on some international practices in the creation of the school?
Certainly. We monitor everything that happens in Singapore, Finland and the United States. At the same time, we do not focus on that “it is necessary to do only this way”. We go partly our own way, but if we talk about what is closest to us, I would say that this is the Soviet system. I myself graduated from a Soviet school, and I have almost no complaints about it.
Moving into adulthood has two main points: education and upbringing, what is more — few people are engaged in the latter, even in Western systems. Ideology stands behind the upbringing. In general, in my opinion, the main thing that every person should have is the meaning of life and understanding why he or she has there.
We try to create a community consciousness in children, rather than focusing on the prevailing individualism today. There's a lot of power in that. In doing so, we draw attention to new elements of this community: for example, the recently popular notion of synergy. At his time, Tsiolkovsky talked about that in the process of synergistic association of people, the opening of totally new beginnings, energy multiplication occur. In addition, an important element is the study of empathy — as a tool of synergy. We live and work in society, it is necessary to be able to interact with others, listen to and hear each other.
It is also important to focus on the formation of consciousness of the creator — as opposed to the consumer society that we now have. In addition, we show how important the role of labour. Ordinary, understandable work, starting with self-care, basic cleaning, cooking and so on.
We go partly our own way, but if we talk about what is closest to us, I would say that this is the Soviet system. I myself graduated from a Soviet school, and I have almost no complaints about it
What kind of person is brought up today in ordinary Russian schools?
I think, so far the Russian school does not educate anyone. Or it educates absent-minded and lost people. In my opinion, this is due to that we do not have a formed goal in our country. What country are we? Where are we going?
Unfortunately, most schools aim to score points and get high grades. However, it is still considered fashionable to go to some Western university and to get a job somewhere abroad. I would like to note that in the last couple of years, a lot of schools have begun to appear, which are clearly focused on educating not only patriots of their country but people who really connect their future with their homeland and culture.
The process of this transformation of the system has gradually begun, and, in my opinion, independent new schools will play a key role here. Especially I would single out family schools that really want to give their pupils a happy life. If the state does not prevent them from developing, but, on the contrary, provides support, the educational system will receive a very good vector.
Are you planning to scale, expand to other cities? Perhaps you have plans to launch a similar project in Kazan?
In my opinion, the approval of a single matrix and its spread to other countries or cities will only limit and inhibit the educational process. In our case, it is only about expanding ties and relationships, as well as joint projects with people who think and work in the same direction as we do.
If there is an initiative group or just an interested person in Tatarstan, they can come to us, live here, get acquainted with our methods, “mature and, perhaps, start a family school in a year.