This week, we interview Marina Byakisheva, Deputy Director of Allterra Education agency in Russia, about the trend of primary school-aged children study overseas.

Is it common for primary school children in the Russian market to study overseas?

If we focus on language studies, I think there is a global move towards early ESL learning. For example, we see a splash of interest for British/bilingual nurseries and prep schools in the city. Many sign up for English kids' clubs that are available during weekends or download early ESL learning apps and study on their own paths.

Now Russians start learning English at their primary school, earlier than the previous generation. This surely leads to a higher demand for studying English overseas. Parent and child programmes are very popular with us with the youngest baby student turned three recently!

I am personally very keen on early foreign language learning and my son has been studying English since his early years. As an industry enthusiast, I also consider a family programme in the UK so maybe I will get a first-hand experience to share!

If we talk about primary education, this is still pretty a rare enquiry. For Russians it's not typical to send their children overseas and put them in boarding until they turn at least 11 or 12.

It doesn't concern Russians expats leaving in other countries of course. They are very likely to follow the traditions of the country they live in. I know a Russian family who moved to London several years ago. Their children did go to a local boarding school when they were seven and eight.

Roughly what percentage of business do primary school aged children account for?

If we look at 2014 – 2015, it's about eight per cent of our business, and we registered a steady growth.

How long do primary school aged children booking through your agency typically spend overseas?

The average is from three to six weeks.

Which destinations are popular with primary school children?

Travel time is a key thing to consider. As a mother of a five-year-old boy, I am personally not very enthusiastic about a 12-hour transatlantic journey. It doesn't mean you don't do that, but more commonly you look for something closer, mainly in Europe.

In St. Petersburg which is based in the North-West of Russia, local people miss sunshine so many opt for Malta, Cyprus and Spain whereas others prefer more traditional ESL destinations – England and Ireland.

How do you ensure that their personal needs are catered for e.g. do parents travel with them, do they have a host family and/or guardian?

Their parents travel with them and either live in the same accommodation (with a host family or in a guest house/hotel) or leave them in the residence. However if they do, they still stay locally to be able to check if their children are all right enjoying their experience.

It's not necessarily the mother who accompanies the child though it's of course the most common case. It could be an active granny/grandpa or nanny. Fathers are less enthusiastic to participate.

For primary education, the mother usually travels with a child and stays with him/her for an adaptation period or even for a whole academic year. This is not an ideal model if we look at the family as a whole, but this is the best way to support a child and assure a smooth transitioning between different educational systems.

This interview constituted part of an Industry Issues feature on young learners in the June 2015 issue of StudyTravel Magazine.  

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