On the 16 of February 2007 in Saint-Petersburg „Memorial“ a training-seminar “Methods of teaching Russian language as a foreign language in the schools with a multinational structure” was carried out. The seminar was held within a framework of a long term project “Tolerance, equality and integration in the school education“with the support of European Commission.Invited were the teachers of the schools from Saint-Petersburg and Leningrad province, teachers and volunteers from the centre of adaptation and education of the children of refugees and forced migrants under the Committee „Civil support“ (Moscow), the representatives of regional education committees of Saint-Petersburg and Leningrad province, teachers from the Intercultural communication chair of philological faculty of RSPU of A.I. Gerzen, as well as the mass mediа.
Children from the non native language regions, when being in Russian schools, face the problem of poor knowledge of the Russian language and with the impossibility of getting a full-fledged education. The same applies to the kids belonging to the national minorities, constantly living in Russia (Tatars, Roma etc.). The school teachers in multinational schools often have to deal with a complex situation. They lack an adequate methodology of educating kids that do not know the Russian language or that do not know it well enough. Before the training in „Memorial“, on the 15th of February 2007, a scintific-practical seminar of laboratory-schools of Saint-Petersburg had taken place “A dialog — the way to understanding. Integration of migrants by means of education“, that was carried out in the school No.462 in the Alexandrovka settlement of Pushkin region of Saint-Petersburg. This school is one of the first that paid attention to the problems faced by the children from migrant families and ethnic minorities, getting education in Russia. And since 2005 it works in a laboratory-school mode under the theme „Integration of children into cultural and language space of Russia within a polyethnic school as factor of successful socialization of school children“. Among various topics on the seminar there were those dedicated to teaching Russian as a foreign language. The experience of the employees of „Memorial”, teachers and volunteers, the centre of adaptation and teaching for children of refugees and forced migrants (Moscow) in this seminar was very valuable from the point of knowledge of the existing reality in multinational school. As the main objective of the training-seminar „The principles of teaching Russian as a foreign language in the schools with multinational structure of students“, that took place on the 16 of February, the organizers put the exchange of experiences and developed principles that will help teachers in their work with kids from migrant families and ethnic minorities, that lack a sufficient knowledge or do not speak Russian language. Besides that, it is necessary to gather the public organisations, university and school teachers as well as state representatives together to world over this problem.
In the introduction made by S. B. Kulaeva, the director of „Memorial“, spoke about that the important thing for us — is the integration of experiences of specialists from various fields: public organisations, schools, universities that often do not know about each other at all. She supported the school teachers, the teachers and students of the chair of multicultural communication of the philological faculty of RSPU of A.I. Gerzen, the volunteers of Moscow centre of adaptation and teaching under the “Civil Support” committee in their sincere interest in tackling the problem of teaching Russian as a foreign language, despite the big amount of work and total lack of support from the part of government in this issue. The representative of the European Commission in Russia Mrs. T. Romon took the following welcome word. She pointed out that, the migration — is our present and future, that in Russian schools the amount of children from migrant families grows annually. Without integration we will face a catastrophe and the situation that is now in France is a warning for all. Of course, there should be additional measures and investments; there is a need for government support. For the participants of the seminar it was very important to listen to the speech of Mrs. I. P. Lysakova, the professor, doctor of philological sciences, the dean of the chair of multicultural communication of the philological faculty of A.I Gerzen and the head of the “Centre for language adaptation of migrants“, the member of the board of directors RAPRAL. Irina Pavlovna pointed out, the first initiative to work with the problem of teaching Russian as a foreign language within the chair of the university has been started by the teachers from Saint-Petersburg that began to request for assistance and sharing the principal developments from the teachers of the university. The members of the chair for their part understood that they were unable to provide support, because there was a need for the main principles of teaching the language, with concerns on the one hand that Russian is not a native language for the student and on the other hand that the student will have to live and be education in Russia, in Russian. It means that a student has to learn Russian as well as his native language in the same degree that is needed for starting the studies in a higher education. Thus, already several years ago the teachers have noticed the problems of teaching Russian language as a foreign language.
Soon after the beginning of 2001 a chair within an educational program for students called „Russain language as a foreign and Russian literature» was established. Since then the teachers and the students have significantly moved forward in working over the development of the concept and principles of teaching Russian as a foreign language. Since 2006 within the university works “A centre for language adaptation of migrants“. People teach here Russian as a foreign language for children from migrant families and ethnic minorities. The courses that are carried out take place in several schools of the city by the teachers and volunteer-students from RSPU of A.I. Gerzen. Besides that, consultations and courses for raising the level of skills for teachers have been organised (in Admiralteysky district). The work over preparing the textbooks on correcting courses in Russian language for polyethnic schools is continuing. According to Irina Pavlovna, nowadays a lot of teachers from Saint-Petersburg and from different districts (Kirov, Frunze) are requesting assistance from the part of teachers of the chair of the university. This shows that the problem of teaching Russian as a foreign language is becoming more acute. However, the most serious barrier in fulfilling further work happens to be the fact that city authorities were found to be unready to solve this problem, moreover they deny its existence. There is no data about which schools within the city have the multinational structure, how many classes are there with a polyethnic structure. Meanwhile, according to the data, which is being collected by school teachers themselves, the percentage of the migrants in the classes is steadily growing annually. There is no regulation regarding the schools with multinational structure, hence there is no basic curriculum. For the dissemination of the already existing experience and carrying out further growing work, undoubtedly there is a need for governmental support. In such a situation, according to one of the speakers, the director of the school No. 552 of Pushkin district of Saint-Petersburg A. A. Kuznetsova, the main principle of integration and teaching Russian as a foreign language is the immersion into a language environment. For example, through organising school holidays and festivals with the participation of Russian kids and kids from the migrant families and national minorities, through the participation of kids in trips and excursions and in school interest clubs.
The second half of the seminar was dedicated to the introduction and discussion of the work experience of the teachers from multinational schools. Besides that, there was a methodical course held by Е. А. Zheleznyakova, the teacher of the chair of the intercultural communication of the philological faculty of RSPU of Gerzen. Quite interesting was the experience of the school of Novodevyatkino settlement, where in 1999 a lot of kids from Azerbaijan families, speaking poor Russian, started to go. The teachers started to work in two directions: with parents (about the necessity of their kids’ participation in additional Russian language courses) and with children (additional courses in Russian language have been organised for kids from migrant families and for Russian kids being behind). A speech therapist, defectologist and psychologist were working simultaneously. This approach brought its results — parents started trusting teachers and the current first grade students are speaking Russian far better. However the problem is not yet solved completely. Children are able to study untill the ninth grade, because the still insufficient knowledge of Russian language hinders the learning of other subjects. Apart from that, children still do not know Russian language to the extent to be able to pass USE. A. V. Petrochenko, the deputy director NIR of the school No. 462 of the Alexandrovka settlement, told about the experience of carrying out multicultural festivals. The main idea of such events is the acquaintance of Russian children with other cultures, acquaintance of children from migrant families and national minorities with Russian culture their immersion into language environment, as well as integration into a group. The positive influence of such events, is obvious according to the teachers. They become important not only children but for parents as well.
The work of the Moscow Centre for adaptation and teaching of kids of refugees and forced migrants under the “Civil Support” Committee is completely different. The main objective of the Centre is to adapt the children into new conditions though training and communication: restoration of communication and learning skills, psychological assistance for children in post-stress situations. The necessity for the creation of the Centre has been determined by two reasons. First is that a lot of kids and teenagers who have undergone heavy psychological traumas, needed to go through the course of social and psychological adaptation and pedagogical support in order to be able to proceed with their education. The second reason has relation to the fact that in 1996–2001 Moscow authorities banned the acceptance of children, whose parents lacked registration, therefore a lot of children of refugees were deprived of the possibility to get education. A professional psychologist is working with children that need psychological rehabilitation. He is doing the strict selection of teachers according to their individual qualities suitable for working with children that have undergone difficult experiences and thoroughly chooses optimally compatible pairs “teacher-students” — in case there is a need for that. There are more than 40 children.
Since 1999 there is always a line of those waiting to be accepted to school. Around 40 teachers are working with children, all of them are volunteers. These are the students and graduates of Moscow universities, teachers, post-graduates. Besides that, several foreign students that came for internship or alternative civil service work along annually. The courses are carried out three times a week in the building of the Committee. All students learn the three main subjects: math, Russian and English language. Children also learn chemistry, physics and literature. At the end of the seminar along with the common discussion topics a special emphasis has been put into the problem of pre-school training of kids from migrant families and national minorities. According to V. P. Pivovarova, there is a need for an additional school preparatory program for such children. In „Roma“school in the Oselki settlement, where she works, the first grade children do not speak Russian. Besides that, there is no doubt, in every multinational school there is an acute tolerance problem, the problem of readiness of children and parents to work and study in polyethnic group. I. S. Berdyshev, the psychologist, member of „Memorial“, during the discussion fairly pointed out that an important part in every teacher — is a patience and tolerance.