What child wouldn’t like to meet a robot, or a professor of astronautics?

These were two of the recent visitors to the Skolkovo International Gymnasium, a private school attached to the Skolkovo innovation hub. But the purpose of such visits to the gymnasium, which celebrated its first birthday on Tuesday, is not just to entertain the kids.

Some of the gymnasium's younger children blow out the candle on a birthday cake on Tuesday. Photo: Sk.ru.

The gymnasium, which accepts children aged 18 months to 18 years old, has set itself the ambitious mission of “creating an innovative place of learning for future innovators,” and one of the ways it aims to achieve this is with a series of visits to the school by key figures from the Skolkovo Foundation.

As soon as the first pupils were enrolled in September last year, they met a real functioning robot brought to the gymnasium by Albert Yefimov, head of the innovation hub’s Robotics Centre. Then a talk by Professor Edward Crawley, then-president of the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology and a professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at America’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology, left some of the children dreaming of going into space, the pupils said, recalling the highlights of their first term during a day of birthday festivities on Tuesday.  

The school, which offers an International Baccalaureate programme that will allow students to study abroad if they wish, as well as the Russian state curriculum, also offers children the chance to choose subjects that are not taught at most schools, such as Chinese.

“It was the children themselves who opted to have Chinese lessons,” says Yury Shamilov, the gymnasium’s director, when asked whether the children struggle with the language. “They were given the choice of French, German, Spanish and Chinese [as a second foreign language], and they chose Spanish and Chinese.”

All the pupils also study English, helped by two American teachers. The school has its sights firmly set on a foreign audience: while the main curriculum is currently taught in Russian, next year the gymnasium plans to offer pupils the option of a school program taught in English. 

All the gymnasium's students took part in birthday festivities at the school. Photo: Sk.ru

The gymnasium, which also includes a kindergarten, is due to move into purpose-built premises at the Skolkovo Foundation by 2020, but while the site is under construction it shares the facilities of the Moscow Economic School (MES), another private school of which Shamilov was the director for more than 20 years. The branch of the school shared with the Skolkovo Gymnasium is located in the village of Zaitsevo in the Odintsovo district of the Moscow region.

While the gymnasium waits for its future home to be built, a new building has been constructed at MES to accommodate its growing student body, and is due to open on February 1. The Skolkovo Gymnasium currently has about 60 students, who share some classes with MES students, while for others they are taught separately.

For now, the pupils of the gymnasium are primarily the children of employees of the Skolkovo Foundation, though it is open to any parents hoping to instill a spirit of innovation in their children.