A Founder of P'titCREF Interviewed by Courrier de Russie.

P’titCREF is more than a private language school for toddlers. It is also and above all a real pre-school, where educational activities take place in three different languages: French, English and Russian.


Virginie Durand : I arrived in Moscow in 1998, to teach French for adults in a French-Russian language centre. Soon enough, I came to realise, together with the owner of the centre Mr Bertrand Coue,  that there was a need for a similar place for children. This is when we decided to launch P’titCREF in September 2003. At the beginning, I was thinking about a bilingual centre, but English rapidly became the universal communication language, since we accommodate children of many nationalities: Turks, Italians, Germans, Scandinavians… and even Japanese!

LCDR : More specifically, how is education implemented in all three languages?


V.D. : At P’titCREF, each day take place in one language: French, English or Russian. Some groups are further oriented into English or French, with three extra hours taught in those languages. Our educational program was designed to enable toddlers to learn while having fun!

We have P’titCREF textbooks for every age group with stickers and funny characters, as well as the collection P’tits Plus for the extra curricular activities in the evening, such as “La petite Matriochka” (Little Matriochka) – an activity book on Russian culture, that helps children become familiar with the characters of traditional folk tales, and learn some recipes such as the Easter kulich… This book is a great tool, as well as “Les P’tits cuistots” (The Little Cooks), an activity book on the French art of cooking and table decoration.


LCDR : How long does it take for a child who does not have full command of a foreign language to start communicating freely ?


V.D. : We have groups of toddlers starting from two years old, or even one and a half, where children can come with their mums. At that age, a child who has absolutely no command of a foreign language starts understanding without any problem after the third month of schooling. Our textbooks are very explicit, and the teaching is based on image and body language. For example, we have image cards that help children to memorise words. Little by little, pupils understand what is to be done in class, and they start talking. But the excellent results – when children start making sentences spontaneously – come after three years of schooling. The pupils of our higher section, around 5-6 years old, all have full command of the three languages, French, English and Russian.


LCDR : Which of the three languages is privileged throughout the daily activities?


V.D. : Russian remains the dominant language, since most of our pupils speak it. Foreigners start having command of it very quickly since they are immersed in an environment that is mostly Russian. It is our daily language: the one used during the breaks, meals...


V.D. : We exclusively recruit highly qualified professionals specialised in toddlers’ education who have worked in pre-schools and with foreign children. Every year, we prospect for new talents throughout France, Belgium, England and Canada.


LCDR : How is progress in school assessed ?


V.D. : Just like in the French schools, we have assessment notebooks by means of which parents can monitor the daily activities of their child.


LCDR : What other activities are available at P’titCREF ?


V.D. : In the evenings, between 17h and 19h as well as at the week-ends, we offer the program “Les P’tits Plus”, which is a selection of extra-curricular activities such as yoga, karate, dancing, plastic arts and scientific workshops that take place in either English, French or Russian, … Parents can enjoy the kindergarten service that offers flexible hours.


LCDR : How has the centre evolved throughout the past ten years?


V.D. : During the first year, we only had 20 children in our centre – currently, there are about 200 pupils in all the groups. We launched a French, Russian and English program, based on the Canadian program. We are presently following the British, French and Russian national educational programs, sticking closely to their evolution. Nevertheless, we find different ways of presenting the educational contents in a way to enable the teaching in many languages. Since two years, the children started using our own textbooks, edited in-house, which include exercises, activities, colouring, stickers... Basically, we have evolved in terms of methods, but the core concept hasn't changed much.

At the same time, we are developing the teaching materials for our three main activities : pre- school, language courses (languages4kids) and the evening workshops (les P’tits Plus) 


LCDR : What are your goals for the future?


V.D. : Firstly, the development of educational material. This year, we have developed interactive language courses for children, which enable a fast and fun learning. In the future, all our methods will be available in three languages.


There is also the development of franchises. This year we have opened two new centres in Moscow, one in Oulitsa 1905 goda and the other in Roubliovka . These centres are totally in line with our spirit and quality of service. P’titCREF in Nijni Novgorod opened in 2006, and the one in Kiev in 2011. Today, everybody can open his or her own P’titCREF !