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!


By Yara