Today our guest is Irina Leontyeva, the head of the KIDSDEV school, the author of its idea and concept, and the mother of a beautiful baby. We talked with Irina about why it is more important for a child today to acquire skills than a profession, why it is better for parents not to attend children’s lessons, and we also asked what Irina would do if she had a magic wand. Read it, it turned out very interesting!
Irina, tell us how the school was born — “Academy of the Future”?
The idea to create a school was born to me three years ago, but I thought about it much earlier — even during my studies in France. We mainly gained knowledge in practical classes: for example, in marketing we made a marketing strategy for well-known brands, positioned a brand for a new target audience — schoolchildren. Business representatives came to us, marketing directors who taught us simple things: what is the market, what is competition, and so on. And in the process of this format of education, I had an idea: why not give the same knowledge already at school age, so that in 10 years they will be remembered as well as, for example, the alphabet. For modern children, the basics of marketing, economics, business, entrepreneurial thinking, the concepts of project work are the necessary knowledge today. Already after several years of work in different companies, during the decree, I read an article in Forbes that the niche of entrepreneurial education in Russia is free. And it was at that moment that it dawned on me where to go! However, I was eight months pregnant and after the birth of my daughter, when she was three months old, I worked on my project at night: I made a website, looked for partners, and then started launching open lessons.
In 2018, I took another person to the team and together we launched the first business camp, in which the guys visited the CTC Kids TV channel, Fruittella, Coca-Cola, Avito and Tikkurila and others. We immersed children in the business environment, on these excursions the children came up with their own projects related to companies, and we saw how the children’s eyes light up, they really liked it.
In October 2018, we launched the first business school, and I realized that we need to continue to acquaint children with the work of large corporations and organize visits to production. This has become our hallmark.
Tell us about the main directions of the KIDSDEV Academy?
We have two formats of work: offline and online. By the way, we launched online camps on March 27, even before the official start of the self-isolation regime. Our children took a break in an online camp and we were the first to have such an experience.
The first direction is leisure city programs: for children 10+ it is digital — children create a website and blogging — they create blogs, now we often combine these two formats. For younger children, we have the Dreams Come True program, where kids also make their own websites and Lego specialists come to them.
The second direction — business schools — is offline weekend courses, to choose from on Saturday or Sunday, where the guys choose one of the 5 proposed locations, visit corporations, communicate with experts and create their own business project. The business school lasts 4 months.
We also have online schools: in them, children work in international groups, communicate with people from Cannes, Switzerland, Germany, the Canary Islands, and the USA. There, the guys make their startups, studying the experience of people from all over the world.
The IT sphere is now very popular with children, and you just have special business holidays for children. The description for the program says that in 5 or 10 days of shift, the child will not only learn what 3D modeling, graphic design, AR / VR are, but also create three-dimensional images for computer games and multimedia applications. This is a fairly comprehensive program. How successful is she? Does it happen that children in the process are afraid of difficulties and quit halfway through?
I want to tell you that we greatly underestimate our children. Many parents, when they see the school program, say that it will be difficult, but there are no boundaries for children. After studying at our business school, they speak such a professional language and use such terms that even an adult can envy.
We convey information in a playful way, children in the learning process constantly encounter new words and terms and remember all the material perfectly well. In addition, we have a special manual compiled by psychologists, which describes in detail how to work with children.
Sometimes we try to dissuade a child from a particular project, we say that he will not have time to implement it within the framework of a business course, but children never back down.
Your programs are designed for children of all ages. Have you noticed that children, after going through one program, return again to another?
Yes, almost 50–60 percent of children return and begin to study at the next levels. But we do not have so many programs to be able to constantly switch from one to another. The maximum term of study in our projects is 3 years. Therefore, everything in our school is more designed for the fact that new and new children will constantly come.
What skills do you think modern children need?
If you take a look at the Atlas of New Jobs, you will see that there are only a few skills that today’s children need. Among them are critical thinking, teamwork, work in uncertain conditions, the ability to adapt, communicate with people. But the most important skill, I think, is the ability to be flexible. Our children need to learn not professions, but just skills. And we teach this in our school!
To what extent do you think competition between children is necessary? Or is it better to achieve goals together?
Children are comfortable with competition. They understand that in life there is nowhere without competition: you must achieve something, constantly improving yourself. At school, we do not give points or grades for completed assignments, and we give everyone the opportunity to do an internship in different companies. Gradually, of course, we will introduce some kind of encouragement for training. However, it will be different for every student.
Now the guys work either in a team or on their own. Projects are always different and do not intersect with each other. We do not create special competition for them, but I am for healthy competition in everything.
That is, work with motivation is being carried out?
When parents send their children to our courses, we ask whose desire it was: the child, the parents, or a joint one. Most often we get the answer that the desire to go to business school comes from the child.
As practice shows, if the child has no interest, then no matter what the parent says, the child will not learn. We do not have children who do not like our classes: they either leave immediately after the first lesson, if they understand that this is not their story, or they plunge into classes and do not go anywhere.
How is the interaction between the school and teachers, children and parents built?
When a parent purchases a course, we immediately create a chat, in which, after each lesson, we throw off the main theses, as well as a photo and video report. Not only the coach is present at the lessons, but also the school administrator, who records everything that happens in the lesson: what were the games, what was the homework, how did someone advance in their project activities. We do not even forbid parents to be present at the lessons. We only ask that parents do not interfere with children, as sometimes children are embarrassed by their parents. We warn that it may be that the child does not open up during the lesson and we ask parents to take this into account before they decide to attend the lesson.
Are there any misunderstandings between children and teachers?
They don’t exist at all! There are some nuances in the learning process that relate to the process itself, for example, a child wants to try to learn from different coaches, or someone is closer to going to another coach for classes, but this is all solvable. And there were never any conflicts!
What do you think modern children should be afraid of?
The only thing that today’s children need to be afraid of is not taking advantage of opportunities! Also, it may not work out the way you would like.
Do you have any plans to open a course for parents?
When we created a Project Lab for those who make projects and are about to monetize them, parents perked up. Most likely, we will launch some kind of trial group. Maybe even in September.
If you could magically change something in the world, what would you do?
I would make sure that children are never offended. And if I were a billionaire, I would create a course for children from orphanages to give them a start in life. So that these children receive knowledge and can become entrepreneurs, top managers and acquire the skills necessary for life. I hope that in 5–7 years we will meet and you will ask me a question about how the children from the orphanage where we taught are doing. Hope it happens!