Ended GCSEs exams, passed the 11+ test, a new round begins – preparation for next year. How to prepare, when to start, how to choose a tutor, how to help your child at home, how to select objects – this and much more in an interview with Tatiana Golub, founder and director of the educational company MariAl Associates.
GCSEs and 11+ tests complete, and now a new chapter begins – time to prepare for the next academic year. How to revise, when to start, how to choose a tutor, how to help your child at home, how to select subjects – this and much more in an interview with Tatiana Golub, the founder and director of the educational company MariAl Associates.
– Tatiana, how long have you been working in the field of education?
MariAl associates is about two years, but before that, I worked in the field of education in England for about five years. I also have a teaching experience of more than 16 years. In addition, I worked in an education company in Kiev, Ukraine, so the business experience, experience working with families and children in particular is quite a significant one.
Well, MariAl Associates is about two years old. Before that, I had worked in the British education system for about five years, but overall, I have teaching experience of more than 16 years. I worked in an educational company in Kiev, Ukraine, so when it comes to running a business and dealing with families and children in particular I have a great level of expertise.
– Having gained first-hand experience in both, post-Soviet and British education systems, could you please explain what the differences are?
Of course, the systems are very different. At certain stages children are taught different skills, the methods of teaching are different. Questions of discipline, moral values are very different also. The main point I would like to make – is a greater humanity and relaxation of the British system. There is no such a strong emphasis on competitiveness. Although it appears at some point in the private and special schools. But at the initial stage (reception, KS1) comfort of the children placed higher than academic performance.
Of course, the systems are not the same. At certain stages children are taught different skills and the methods of teaching are very different. Attitude toward discipline and moral values is also very different. The main point I would like to make is that the British system is much more relaxed. It is not based on competitiveness. Although some competitive aspects may appear at times, especially in private and specialised schools, at the initial stage, i.e. reception and KS1, children’s comfort takes a priority over academic performance.
– Doesn’t it affect the quality of education?
If we evaluate education as a set of knowledge and skills, it is certainly affected. No pressure on children, no pushing – respectively, they can read fewer words per minute, for example. But if you value education as a way to form the personality, than British system, I think is better.
The answer depends on how we define education. If the main purpose is to acquire knowledge and skills, then – yes. No pressure on children, no pushing, and as a result, they can read fewer words per minute, for example. However, from the point of view of forming personality, I think British system is better.
– How do you feel about parents’ involvement in the educational process?
Parents should definitely provide support, which is primarily a communication. It is necessary to ask what was the funniest thing, who is your friend, that are you reading etc. This involvement in school activities allows the child to feel more confident, gives a sense of a reliable family. Let’s face it, homework is often set not for children, but for adults. But distinct control can lead to loss of sense of responsibility for their education and faith in their own strength.
Parents should definitely provide support primarily through communication and interaction. It is very important to ask, for instance, ‘what was the funniest thing that happened at school?’, ‘who is your friend?’, ‘that are you reading?’ etc. Parents’ interest in school activities allows a child to feel more confident, gives a strong feeling of family support. Parents can also provide practical help. Let’s face it, homework often seems to be set not for children, but for parents. However, too much control can lead to low self-esteem and lack of self-responsibility in children.
What can you do in terms of academic performance is to show a personal example. Be interested and learn for yourself. Talk and discuss. Read along or listen to audiobooks. After all, the modern children are visuals and it can be difficult to perceive the printed text. But, of course, without fanaticism. Not more than an hour a day. No need to buy Bond textbooks and complete papers. Again, you need to look at the interests of the child. If you come and offer to read, but he or she plays with toys, come back later, when your child is ready.
In terms of providing academic support, you can do it through personal example. Just find something interesting and learn new things. Talk and discuss. Read together with your child or listen to audiobooks. After all, the modern children prefer video to printed text, so we need to understand possible limitations. If reading, maybe no more than an hour a day. There is no need to buy Bond textbooks and write papers. Again, you need to look at the interests of the child. If you approach him/her with a book to read, but they are playing with toys, then come back later, when your child is ready.
– Who are your clients?
It is both adults and children. Most often, adults want to improve their English or prepare for exams. Schoolchildren and students usually work on one / two subjects, or offer a full range of services in preparation for the exam, portfolio or adaptation to school.
Both adults and children. Adults often want to improve their English or prepare for exams. With schoolchildren and students, we either work on one-two subjects, or offer a full range of services if they need to get ready for an exam, to compose a portfolio or settle in a new school.
– Which courses are in the highest demand?
Since we offer individual lessons, the course program is always prepared individually for each student.
Among adults the most popular courses are: speaking English language, preparation for IELTS, and for British citizenship exams.
Among the children who came to Britain relatively recently – this adaptation course for school.
For children who already live the most demanded are preparation courses: 7+, 11+, 13+, GCSEs are very popular, which is the first and a very important step to a successful university entrance.
Since we offer individual lessons, the course program is always tailored to suit each student.
Among adults, the most popular courses are: Spoken English, preparation for IELTS and Life in the UK Test.
For the children who came to the UK relatively recently – it is our School Adaptation Program.
Children who already live in the UK tend to choose preparation courses for 7+, 11+, 13+ tests. GCSEs are also very popular as they are the first and very important step towards a successful university admission.
– What are the most common mistakes your students make?
The most common mistake among children tuition – is an emergency mode. This does not mean you have to start preparing for the exams early. It is necessary to create a strong base: read and write, discuss the books, thus laying the foundations for the text comprehension. Preparation for the exam questions should be the last step. Some families are beginning to prep the children for two years before the examination. This is a very difficult and stressful process. However, the very admission system gives this incentive to parents. As a result, by the exam time the children get so tired they don’t perform well, which was not expected. Again, it is much more important to create a strong foundation, the confidence and motivation so the child enjoys the process.
Among adults, the main mistake – is setting unrealistic goals. Often they come to us and say that we have the exam in a month. Unfortunately this is not possible. Even if you the tutor reads you the course, you won’t digest it. That is, it will be just the knowledge, but not the skills, which you need for the exam.
Another common mistake is unsuccessful self education. Students often adopt lots of errors, which are difficult to correct.
The most common mistake in children’s tuition – is revision overload. There is no need to start revising too early. Though, it is necessary to build a strong base: reading, writing, discussing books – are necessary foundations for developing a better understanding of any academic material. Revision is the last step before an exam. Some families start preparing children for an exam somewhat two years before the event. It is a rather complicated and stressful process. Parents likely draw the idea from the admission system itself. As a result, by the time an exam takes place children are so fed up with mock tests that they demonstrate an unexpectedly poor performance. Again, it is much more important to create a strong foundation, confidence and motivation, so a child enjoys the learning process.
The most common mistake among adults – is setting unrealistic goals. Often, they come to us and say that they have an exam in a month’s time. Unfortunately, in this case success is simply not possible. Even if you a tutor provides all the required material, a student wouldn’t be able to digest it. They might acquire knowledge, but not yet a skill – the latter is what you need to pass an exam.
Another common mistake is unsuccessful self- education. Students often adopt lots of errors, which are difficult to correct.
– Please tell us a bit more about the most important exams, such as GCSEs and A-levels. How to select subjects, when to start, what is the grading system?
For the GCSE it is important to choose a variety of subjects. Of course, there are mandatory ones. The start time depends on the child: what is his academic level and an attitude.
If a child is not holds up to the psychological pressure, you better start preparing well in advance. If a child stress resistant, assiduous, and has a strong academic foundation, it is possible to prepare in one year. There are subjects that, in principle, impossible to master in a short time, it is, above all, literature. It is not only an mass of information that must be read, but also in the perception of complexity. Studied literature is complex and far from modern child. Therefore, we often watch movies, read the summary, trying to adapt the material.
For GCSEs it is important to choose a variety of subjects. Of course, there are mandatory ones. The preparation start time depends on the child, their academic level and learning attitude.
If a child could not bear with the psychological pressure, it’d be better start preparation well in advance. If a child is stress resilient, assiduous, and has a strong academic foundation, they could be ready within a year. There are subjects that simply could not be mastered within a short period of time, and the first to come in mind is literature. It is not just about reading a huge amount of information, but also comprehending and understanding it. Some Curriculum Literature books are rather complicated, especially for a modern child. Therefore, we would often watch a relevant video and read a book summary in order to adapt the material.
– You’ve mentioned counselling as a part of preparation for GCSEs. Could you please explain in more detail what it is?
Yes, we have psychologists, coaches and mentors. Psychologists help identify the area of interest, coaches help teens decide on the scope of activities. Coach does not indicate the right path, they help with child’s own questions to see the solution. It usually takes 2 to 4 sessions.
After determining one or more fields of interest we offer the opportunity to talk to professionals in these areas. Adolescents have the opportunity to get to understand what the working in a particular area is, to sit on this job for a day.
Yes, we have psychologists, coaches and mentors in the team. Psychologists help identify area of interests; coaches help teens decide on the scope of activities, so they could choose a right path and make decisions for themselves, rather than been shown the way. We usually recommend 2 to 4 coaching sessions.
Once we have identified one or more industries a student might be interested in, we offer them an opportunity to feel what the real job is like by scheduling meetings with professionals and arranging a day or so of work experience.
– And what is a mentor?
Usually mentors accompany the students as part of the relocation program. When a young person comes to another country to study at a British university, they certainly need support. Questions arise with their studies, daily care, leisure activities, and so on.. All these moments are sometimes difficult to solve in a different country, so the mentoring program works. Mentor – is a qualified psychologist, to which the student can always contact.
This works not only for young people but also for their families.
Usually mentors accompany students as a part of the relocation program. When a young person comes to study at a British university, they almost certainly need support. They might have questions about their studies, day-to-day life, leisure activities, and so on. Seemingly simple tasks can prove to be difficult in a foreign country, so our mentoring program comes to aid. Our mentors are qualified psychologists, to whom the students can always talk to. The help is available not just for students, but also for their families.
– What are the most popular aspects of English courses?
Among adults – a colloquial English speech. But in order to achieve a good conversation we definitely need grammar. As a rule, all students begin to study grammar. Once the grid is built, we proceed to the next step – filling vocabulary. While often these two steps are parallel.
With regard to children, it is, of course, writing, structuring essays, paragraphs, sentences, which is very different from the ones in Russian. Of course, the we work on vocabulary as well.
How to achieve the correct speech in schoolchildren? Of course, you need to read, you need to learn words, use them.
Among adults – it is spoken English. On the other hand, you cannot perfect speech without grammar. As a rule, all students begin with studying grammar. Once the concept of English Tenses has been mastered, we start working on vocabulary. However, those two processes are often parallel.
If we have students coming to us with already a good command of English, we focus on live conversation with native speakers, usually in small groups – so called mingling.
With children, it is, of course, writing – composing essays, paragraphs and sentences, which heavily differ from Russian. Of course, we work on vocabulary as well.
How to form the correct speech in schoolchildren? Of course, you need to read, you need to learn words and use them.
– How to learn vocabulary?
For sustainable memorisation you need to learn words in context. Often we use this exercise: the child writes the most simple text, such as “cat sits on the carpet.” And now we ask the children to enrich the text with adjectives. It turns into “White cat sits on a fluffy carpet.” Then ask children to enrich it with pronouns and so on.
Very helpful method is building “strings of words”, aka synonymous rows. It is important to use unfamiliar words when reading books, as they move into the active vocabulary. It is necessary to learn the spelling, unfortunately, it is very difficult in English.
To memorise words easily you need to learn them in context. Often, we use the following exercise: the child writes the simplest text, such as “cat sits on the carpet.” And now we ask them to enrich the text with adjectives. It turns into “A white cat sits on a fluffy carpet.” Then ask children to enrich it with pronouns and so on.
Another helpful method is building “strings of words”, aka synonymous rows. Having read a book, it is important to use newly-found words, so they become a part of the child’s active vocabulary, of course not disregarding the spelling, which is not always straight forward in English.
– When a child comes from a non-English speaking country, the main problem is vocabulary. State schools have limited funds, and one-to-one tuition is not always available. In this the case, do they need to call you, or can they simply practise at home using the system described?
In this case, there are two ways: first – you come to us for consultation, and we provide you the strategy for your child with all materials. This of course only works if the parent himself has a proper English language level and is ready to engage with the child.
In this situation, there are two possible options: you can come to us for a consultation, and we provide a strategy that suits your child, and necessary study materials. This of course would only work if the parents themselves have a good command of English, and are sufficiently motivated to engage with the child.
Another way – is to hire a tutor. We recommend to not exceed two hours a day on one extra lessons. Regularity – is the key to success.
Tutoring can be both English-speaking and Russian-speaking, depending on the child’s level and needs. This may be a combination of tutors who speak both languages.
The other option – is to hire a tutor. We would not recommend exceeding two hours of extra-curricular tuition per subject. Regularity – is the key to success.
Sessions can be run in either English or Russian by native speakers or bilingual tutors, depending on the child’s level and needs.
– Let’s talk about universities. What is the tendency: British or International Universities in America, Asia or Europe? Are there cases when students go back to their home country?
The general recommendation – is to have in your your list the university that you really want to do, the second choice, and the so-called safe choice.
We usually help students with choosing the industry, not a particular university.
The general recommendation would be to have a choice of three universities: the one that you really want to go to, the so-so choice, and the so-called safe option.
Choosing an international university depends on the budget: American are more expensive, plus you need an International Baccalaureate for admission. A-levels are often not accepted in Asian universities where tuition is cheaper than in England, and a the workload is heavier. Some go to Asia to get master’s degree and an internship.
When choosing a university it is more important to look at the Faculty rather than the country, not all universities provide the same quality of education in the different areas.
We help to prepare for the exam, not taken at schools: interviews, International Baccalaureate, additional tests, portfolio.
Choosing an international university depends on the budget: studying in US is more expensive, plus you need an International Baccalaureate for admission. A-levels are often not accepted in Asian universities where tuition is cheaper to compare to the UK, and the workload is higher. Some students go to Asia to get a Master’s degree or for an internship.
When choosing a university, it is more important to look at the Faculty rating and level of tuition rather than the country – not all universities provide the same quality of education in the different areas.
We also help to prepare for exams not taken at schools, such as interviews, International Baccalaureate and additional tests.
– Who are your tutors?
At the moment, we have about 20 people. All our tutors have a higher profile education, relevant work experience and tested by the police. The desire to teach and learn is very important for us.
All tutors are trained in accordance with the requirements of the British Tuition Association, sign ethics and privacy policies.
Our tutors teach mathematics, languages (French, English, Spanish, Russian), chemistry, physics, biology, economics, business, drawing, drama, singing and acting skills. Mentors, psychologists and guardians accompany and support our students.
Not all of our employees full time tutors. There are professionals in certain fields who teach in their spare time. For example, acting tutor – is the actress. Some of our tutors are examiners, they have the latest information about the changes in the evaluation criteria, the intricacies of the examination process.
Currently, we have about 20 people in the team. All our tutors have Higher Education qualifications, relevant work experience and CRB checks. The desire to teach and learn is very important for us.
All our tutors are trained in accordance with the requirements of the British Tutors Association, and are required to sign Professional Ethics Agreement and Confidentiality Agreement.
Our tutors teach Mathematics, languages (French, English, Spanish, Russian), Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Economics, Business, Drawing, Drama, Singing and Acting Skills. Mentors, psychologists and guardians accompany and support our students.
Not all our employees are full time tutors. There are professionals in certain fields who teach in their spare time. For example, Acting Skills tutor – is an actress. Some of our tutors also work for exam centres, so they have the latest information about any changes in the evaluation criteria, the intricacies of the examination process.
– What is the most important thing to consider when choosing a tutor?
Criteria that should be considered in the first place – is the teacher have qualification or experience in the field. The second point – does the tutor have experience in the relevant age group. It is not only the difference in approaches to education of children, adolescents and adults, but also in the knowledge of age requirements and specifications on the subject.
Next thing – this is an emotional connection. We are all different, so the psychological comfort is important both for the student and for the tutor.
If you plan to online classes, in addition to all the above it is necessary to check the quality of the Internet.
The main criteria that should be considered – is the teacher’s qualification or experience in the field. The second point – if the tutor has experience in working with the relevant age group. It is not only about differences in approach to education of children, adolescents and adults, but also knowledge of age requirements and subject specifications.
The next most important aspect is emotional connection. We are all different, so the psychological comfort is important for both, the student and the tutor. If you are planning to have lessons online, in addition to all the above it is necessary to check the quality of the Internet.
– What do you think about online tuition?
I treat them very positively, particularly well they fit the students, ranging from 9-10 years.
We recommend lessons on Skype in the event that a student is geographically far away; if due to work schedule, for example, need to have lessons early in the morning or late at night, or during the baby’s nap time (which is important for young parents).
But most importantly – do not stop! Continue to develop, learn and have fun! We all have goals that we want to achieve, the knowledge that we want to have and the challenges that we are trying to resolve. We live in an age of great opportunities and I believe that many things are feasible.
I think of it very positively, it works particularly well for students aged 9-10 onwards.
We recommend Skype lessons in the event when a student is geographically far away; if due to work schedule, for example, they need to have lessons early in the morning or late at night, or during baby’s nap in the case of young parents.
First and foremost – do not stop! Continue to develop, learn and have fun! We all have goals that we want to achieve, the knowledge that we want to have and the challenges that we are trying to resolve. We live in the age of great opportunities and I believe that many things are possible.