First off, it’s important to note that just like in the US, Ukraine has both public and private high schools, though private schools exist only in the big cities (most are actually in the capital, Kiev) and are very few in number altogether. That’s mainly because the general high school education system remained public after the break-up of the Soviet Union, and furthermore, few families can afford the steep price of a private education. In fact, while the country has a GDP per capita of around $3000, the average tuition for high school is approximately $20,000 annually.
Currently, high school lasts 3 years in Ukraine. (The government actually went back and forth between 3 and 4 years, but they eventually agreed on 3 years in 2010, probably to be more aligned with their Russian counterparts). Students graduate in the 11th grade, though the grade system is a bit different: children start school in 1st grade at age 6/7, so they graduate from high school when they are 17/18 years old.
In my opinion, one key difference is that in Ukrainian high schools, a “class” is formed with about 25-30 students, and each of the students in this “class” will have the same exact schedule. There can be several of these “classes” per grade, depending on the size of the school. In other words, throughout the day, the same particular group of students will go to all of their class periods together. And this group is the same for the 3 years of high school, so to put in simpler terms: one is essentially stuck to having the same classmates in all of his/her subjects for 3 years. This is similar to how the AmStud and AP Seminar classes work, though the system is different in Ukraine because it is spread onto one’s entire schedule and for the whole duration of high school.
As for the schedule, the main difference is that periods are shorter and school begins later.
Typical school day schedule:
– School begins at 9:00 AM, and ends at 2:40 PM (sometimes 3:30 PM)
– Each period is typically 45 minutes – 6 periods per day; about two times a week there are 7-period days (end at 3:30 PM)
– Breaks between classes are 10 minutes each
– Lunch is normally 30 minutes
I think for the most part, studying is unique to each student. However, if someone has ambitions to ultimately work outside of Ukraine in highly industrialized nations (e.g. in Germany or US), then he/she will definitely have to work and study a great amount more than his/her peers. Attending international colleges is also particularly difficult; generally, a student without connections and/or money will not be able to attend a university outside of the Ukraine.
Stress levels among students are generally very similar to those of US students. Students often worry about school, college, and their futures as well. Similarly to how competition/stress varies from state to state in the US, stress also varies from region to region in Ukraine. (More population in a region = more competition = higher stress). Some people would also argue that compared to schools in the US, there is more homework assigned in Ukrainian schools, however this once again varies between private/public and region wise as well.
Regarding student life in both school and outside of school, here are some main (not aforementioned) differences from US high schools:
— there is no choice of courses: school has one curriculum and students have to follow it
— no system where there are regular/honors/AP classes
— no sports/extracurriculars within high schools; high school only provides basic curriculum education
— languages: students learn 2 languages in private schools (usually Ukrainian and English); generally only one (Ukrainian) in public, although there are exceptions; people also self-study languages
Some other aspects/differences :
— usually (most of the time) middle school and high school are combined into the same building
— students apply to universities (colleges) only after getting a high school diploma and taking numerous required exams
— similarly to a prom, many students organize and go to a large post-graduation party; most don’t go as couples but rather go as one big group
From everything mentioned above, I personally believe that the biggest difference between US and Ukrainian schools lies in the system of choosing classes: the one we have at RHS and in many other high schools in the US is more similar to a college-like experience, one where students can get ahead in their studies if they have the required work ethic and ambitions. Unfortunately, (in my opinion) Ukraine lacks the implementation of such a system, and all students are forced to take pre-selected courses as well as not have the ability to choose the rigor of their classes. I guess it might be interesting to note that yes, the US does not rank that well in comparison to other nations in the world when it comes to skills in math and science; however, Ukraine and some other eastern-European countries are generally far below in the rankings.