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Interview with the Lucullus UK Academic Director, Mr Robin Preston

11.11.2012

From October 27th till November 2nd 2012, the Lucullus UK Director of Studies, Mr Robin Preston, met with students who wish to continue their education in the UK, and also with those who are already students in UK schools.

Students and parents found this meeting very useful. We are pleased to share Mr Preston’s opinion of the British educational system, as well as preparation programmes, with you in our interview.

Lucullus: Robin, what do you think, why the education in England is better than in the British school in Moscow?

Robin: Independent schools in the UK offer an unrivalled history of academic excellence as students follow in the footsteps of royalty, Prime Ministers, Nobel prize-winners and leaders in every field of science, sport, education and the arts.

Teaching standards are extremely high with state of the art facilities, small class sizes and highly qualified and experienced teachers. Academic standards are of paramount importance and the superior exam results from independent schools reflect this.

Great emphasis is also placed on personal development. To be a successful leader in their chosen field students must be given the opportunity to develop themselves as an individual. Self-confidence and creativity are encouraged as critical thinking skills which allow students to confidently make important decisions based on sound judgement.

Learning is not only limited to the classroom as in other countries. A wealth of extra-curricular activities help students develop cooperation and social skills as well as a providing them with a thorough grounding in ethical behaviour.

Lucullus: Could a student sit entrance exam tests to the UK schools in Moscow?

Robin: Yes it is possible. Some of the top UK schools have examination sessions and interviews in Moscow. They are keen to recruit international students to enrich the cultural tapestry of the school. It is an excellent opportunity to meet senior representatives from the school including sometimes the headmaster.

Some schools also offer the opportunity to sit tests under invigilation by an academic consultant in Moscow. The tests are then sent to the relevant school in the UK for assessment.

It is therefore important to prepare for these tests and receive guidance not only on levels of English and maths required but also on exam techniques and interview skills.

Lucullus: Is it necessary to learn the English language in the UK for the successful entrance into the UK schools?

Robin: It is not always necessary to learn English in the UK but it certainly helps!

Students who have studied previously in the UK are more likely to succeed during the entry tests and interviews as it increases not only their academic ability but also their level of social and cultural knowledge of the UK.

To be surrounded by native speakers and fully immersed in British culture is an enriching experience that can only help with the entry interview.

‘Why do you want to study in the UK?’ is a common starting question from schools and experience of living and studying in the UK gives students a crucial advantage.

If students do not have the opportunity to study in the UK then they should try the next best thing, a native tutor at home. There are plenty of experienced and enthusiastic tutors available in Moscow and many in the UK who teach via Skype.

Lucullus: Please advise what the best age is to apply to the UK school.

Robin: There is no ‘perfect’ age for a student to apply although younger students will find it easier in the long term to complete a successful integration both academically and culturally. Schools are looking not only for academic ability but also the potential that is locked inside each student. Enthusiasm, creativity and personality are just as important as academic ability at this young age.

Some students are ready to experience new cultures, schools and embrace the adventure at a very young age, especially if they have family support in the UK. Other students find it more comfortable to wait for the natural entry points of the Common Entrance exam at 11+ and 13+.

However it is never too late, some students have made the transition at IGCSE/GCSE or later, here the transition is often more difficult so plan ahead!

Lucullus: What subjects seem to be the most difficult for the international students to cope with?

Robin: There is no common subject that students find difficult as each international student has their own particular strengths and weaknesses. Clearly if English is a second language then this can mean subjects such as English and History can be more difficult. Subjects which are not taught from an early age in Russia such as science can also require extra effort.

Schools are very supportive of international students and are quick to identify any areas for improvement. This is always done in a constructive and helpful manner with workable solutions and a strong support system. Students are encouraged to work on any weaknesses and it is surprising how often these can turn into a strength with such positive encouragement!

Lucullus: Robin, what would you suggest to the parents who send their children to the UK schools?

Robin: Come to visit!

Be proud of your child’s achievements and development, maintain an interest in your their activities and the activities of the school.

Trust and respect the views of your child and set realistic targets and rules that are agreed upon. This can help with any misunderstandings and also give your child a realistic goal to aim for.

If you have any concerns regarding the progress of your child then you will find the school is happy to help with a great support network of teachers, form tutors, housemasters and guardians. An educational consultancy of reputable standard would be happy to contact the school on your behalf.

Lucullus: In Moscow you met with many students and interviewed them. How would you characterize their anxiety and potential to study in the UK?

Robin: If a student is thinking of studying abroad for the first time it is only natural that they have concerns regarding their step into the unknown. That is why preparation and having someone available to answer questions is so important.

When speaking to Russian students who are thinking of studying in England I am continually impressed by their openness and enthusiasm. Russian students always show great potential because they combine academic ability with curiosity and raw enthusiasm.

Lucullus: What are the most popular subjects among the Russian students for the A-level/IB course?

Robin: Russian students display a wide range of abilities and interests and this is reflected in the variety of A levels they choose.

Subjects such as Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, History and Economics all remain popular.

At this stage students are encouraged to think about their future plans and university choices, their A level choices can therefore reflect this. Students who are thinking of a career in finance might choose Maths, Further Maths and Economics and Chemistry.

The International Baccalaureate allows students to choose 6 academic subjects and also includes a compulsory core of an extended essay, a ‘Theory of Knowledge’ course and creative/social activities.

The final choice of subjects reflects the students’ strengths as well as future plans. Popular combinations are as follows:

Potential Lawyer
English, French, History, Philosophy, Maths, Biology

Potential Economist
Maths, English, Economics, Chemistry, Russian, Business Management

Lucullus: What preparation should the students have or take to study in the UK school?

Robin: Immerse themselves in the English language at every opportunity. There are many different ways to learn a language but the traditional advice of gaining as much experience in reading, writing, listening and speaking English is still incredibly relevant. Try and tie in learning the language with their own interests and hobbies. Practise with native speakers, books, magazines, internet articles and activities and with songs and movies.

Ensure that they are taking part in extra-curricular activities, if not they should take up a new hobby. Playing computer games and watching TV do not count as an active hobby!

Find out about the schools and take an interest in what is happening in the UK and indeed in Russia. The world is changing outside, don’t fall into the trap of thinking the world takes place within the four walls of your home.

Lucullus: What challenges do students usually face when they are prepared for studying in the UK school?

Robin: Students generally face three main challenges:

1 – Academic ability
2 – Interview techniques
3 – Entry test techniques

We help students succeed in all three of these areas. Russian students are successful at gaining entry to UK schools because they are quick to learn, enthusiastic and show a great desire to come to England to study.

We work on the academic weaknesses of the students through an engaging way of learning. Students often comment on how much more interesting and interactive the classes are in the UK and this helps to increase the speed of the learning process.

Students are often unfamiliar with the techniques required for a successful interview. We look at all aspects of an interview including how to answer questions, eye contact, posture, positivity, and politeness.

Many students have never written an entry test before so we help to prepare them with sample papers and advice on how to attain the maximum number of marks from each question. We also give advice on how to cope with exam pressure and nerves. Many successful students report they performed in a calm and confident manner in the entry test and interview due to the thorough preparation beforehand.

Lucullus: Thank you, Robin! Your opinion is important. What are your ‘Words of Wisdom’ to the potential students?

Robin: Believe in yourself!

You are capable of more than you can imagine. You have a wonderful future ahead of you and with hard work, enthusiasm and a curious mind you are sure to be a success.

Try your best each and every day and you will get the rewards.



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