The Difference Between American and Russian Schools

Val Yakovlev breaks down the difference between Russian and American schools in his experience.

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The Difference Between American and Russian Schools

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My Background

I came to U.S. when I was 13 and it was one of the biggest changes in my life. People ask me questions all of the time about my experience, but the most asked question that I get is, what is the difference between Russian and American schools. Throughout these years I have analyzed the way American schools work and here are some of my thoughts on how different the schools are.


First Day

In Russia, the first day of school is a nationwide celebration of the Knowledge day, when every year, September 1, children and parents come to meet with teachers and give them flowers. During the Knowledge day, also known as the “First Bell”, students sing and dance and teachers give inspiring speeches.

In U.S, the school year begins in August or early September. Exact start dates vary by school or school district, so there is no specific day for schools all together, and is not celebrated.



In Russia, the school system requires all students to write in cursive, and those who graduate from Russian schools are shocked

Example of the writing style in Russia.

that generations of American youth did not learn how to write in cursive. Russian schools really focus on writing skill so writing incursive is an everyday thing. In Russia, everyone writes in pens to make it easier to read and look more neat but it is also hard. Students have to develop their writing skills through many mistakes, but the upside to that is through school years, students develop very neat handwriting.

Examples of the many different writing forms in America.

In U.S. writing is not developed. Schools  teach you to write but they do not prioritize the neatness of the handwriting. In U.S. schools, students write with pencil, and are not required to write in any form most of the time. From personal experience, when I came here I was shocked by how many people were unable to write neatly, also schools don’t teach students how to hold the pen correctly, and seeing a lot of people holding pens in different ways is kind of disturbing.

The standard writing form in Russia.

In Russia and many other European schools, all students are taught only one hand grip for holding the pen and is it the most efficient one, especially for cursive writing.


In Russia, the schedule is fixed. The schedule is filled as much as possible with core knowledge classes, and the elective classes are not prioritized.

In the U.S. the schedule consists of about 50% elective classes, so the students do get much more freedom in choosing their classes, but for the most part, especially coming from personal experience, I’ve seen many students that don’t care about the school, so their schedule is made up of very easy classes that do not take much effort to pass. The upside to choosing your own schedule is that those students that really work hard, can really focus on their career interest and take those classes that will actually help them in the future. Many people complain that some very hard core classes that were required in Russia were not useful in the future at all, so having that opportunity to choose your own classes really benefits people if they try.


Schools Structure

In Russia, the schools are organized from grade 1 through 11, and all of the grades are in one school rather than divided into elementary, middle, and high school like in America.

Russian grading system is different too. It focuses on five point scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being “Unsatisfactory”, 2 – “Pass”, 3 – “Satisfactory”, 4 – “Good” and 5 – “Excellent”.

Academic grading in the United States commonly takes on the form of five, six or seven letter grades. Traditionally, the grades are A+, A, A−; B+, B, B−; C+, C, C−; D+, D, D−; F; with A+ being the highest and F being lowest, and each letter represents its percentage region where is A – 100%-90%, B – 90%-80%, C – 80%-70%, and so on.


They are different in many other little ways too, but overall those were the major differences between Russian and American schools. Going through the changes was very hard, and even 5 years later as I moved through the states, I am still getting used to the new environment that is different from state to state, so overall I am very glad to go through such changes because I get a lot of experience from it which will be very useful in the future.

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