Better Education for a Better Future
Today, Urait is one of the largest educational platforms for teachers in Russia. It hosts forums, online conferences, and refresher courses, conducts research, and publishes a large number of specialized articles, textbooks, and manuals. However, the main feature of the project lies in not only its scale but also its humanity and sincerity, its focus on eternal values: the quality of education of the younger generation.
Director General of the Urait educational platform
Nadezhda Rybkina is the soul and heart of her project. She is an amazing woman who has not only serious professional experience but also a sensitive and in-depth understanding of the situation. Today, together with her team, Ms. Rybkina has an ambitious goal: to improve the level of education in the country by strengthening the role of a teacher in the development of society and the world in general.
– How did the Urait project originate? How did the idea to create an educational platform appear?
– It all started when I was a student of the Faculty of Physics at Lomonosov Moscow State University. To be honest, at that time, my main motive in creating Urait was to earn money to live and ‘establish myself’ in Moscow. I grew up in Kamchatka in a family with many children. When I went to study in the capital city, my mother told me that I could not go back. At that time, it was very painful for me to hear such words. Now I understand that I managed to achieve a lot thanks to them.
Keeping in mind my mother’s phrase, I understood that it was not enough for me to be a good student and get excellent grades. I needed to learn how to earn and fulfil myself, to find some interesting and promising area. Many students were part-time workers at bookstores near the subway. I decided to try that as well. However, I was not interested in just selling. I was always eager to find an opportunity to do more and bring more benefit. My ideology was appreciated by the management. They invited me to work in more comfortable conditions very soon. That was the main building of the university. Later I was sent to Olympiyskiy, which is a large platform for the wholesale of legal literature.
I communicated a lot with buyers who came from different regions. Many of them were interested in narrowly focused books not available in our bookstore. Being a student of the Faculty of Physics, I started to immerse myself into the topic of law. I began to go to publishers and use my own salary to buy the required literature for resale. Over time, I got a personal landline phone. That was considered an incredible luxury for living in the dormitory. Buyers called me directly. I processed orders at night, collected books in the morning, and went to classes at university in the evening.
It became obvious that state publishers could not fully meet the demand for educational literature on law, economics, and management. I found it very important and interesting to develop that niche.
My friend and I rented an office a year later and officially registered the company under the name Urite. That company name has remained to this day despite the serious transformation of the project. Interestingly, it was born very quickly and easily, but I like it more and more every day, even after so many years. We were on our way to submitting documents for the registration of the organisation without having an idea of the name. We decided to think of several options of the company’s name while going up from the metro on the escalator. In the end, we would choose the best of them. That's how the name Urait was born.
Many people associate our name exclusively with the publishing house of legal literature. However, that was only the starting point of the project. We were beginning to work on increasing the level of education already at that time but only in terms of filling the gaps in the narrowly-focused literary niche. At that time of our youth, we had not yet set ourselves great plans filled with deep meanings.
I can’t say that I consciously decided to devote my life to education at the age of 20. I think I was just lucky to be in the right environment.
– What values did you put in the basis of your business?
– My friend and companion, with whom I started this business, often asked me questions, for which I am very grateful. He made me think about why I put so much effort and time into what I was doing.
Already at that time, I understood that I was not just making money but developing myself and helping others by increasing the level of accessibility of knowledge in the regions of Russia.
I liked the people with whom we worked and enjoyed the freedom of entrepreneurship. Another advantage was that I could offer work to my student friends and fulfil interesting ideas together with them. The business was growing, but, of course, there were tipping points. I didn’t want to limit myself only to ‘buy-sell’ activities.
I had many doubts until I realized that it was the business of my life. I just needed to deepen and transform the project into an educational platform.
Today, teachers are at the core of the Urait concept. These people, I believe, are undeservedly neglected by society, students, and officials. This is probably one of the most unprotected segments of the educational process. However, it is the teachers that shape the future of our country.
Through our educational platform, we strive to support those who put all their efforts and energy into quality education and upbringing of young people. Forums have become one of the most relevant and large-scale formats of interaction for us. Those are the so-called Schools for Teachers, which we hold twice a year: in summer and winter.
– You hosted the eighth School for Teachers this winter. What was the uniqueness of the meeting?
– When thinking through the concept of the event, I realized the necessity to do something that would distinguish the eighth School for Teachers from all the previous ones. After analyzing a large amount of online events taking place in summer, I noticed a mention of one common disadvantage: a lack of live communication. Then I decided to prove the possibility to implement live communication even in an online format.
Although scientists admit that, despite the incredible power of our brains, it is much more difficult for us to perceive the interlocutor through a screen, digitalization provides us with enormous opportunities.
The online format makes it possible to bring large numbers of people together to exchange thoughts and emotions. That process can be made alive by putting sincerity and openness into it.
We set ourselves the task of making the winter event a ‘school of live communication’. We touched upon the most exciting and challenging topics for teachers by giving participants the opportunity to talk about their concerns not only during the online sessions but also in the online lobbies where communication was not recorded. Emotional burnout became one of the most popular topics.
International cooperation became another innovation of the winter online meeting. We invited foreign experts to participate. In my opinion, such an intercultural exchange is very important. We can learn a lot from one another and, most importantly, expand our own boundaries of perception.
The broadcast of the winter School for Teachers was watched by 2,000 people, quite a serious number.
We are happy that each time we get closer to our goal of becoming a platform for open and honest communication among all participants in the educational environment.
– Do you work only with teachers and administrators of educational institutions?
– At our forums, we try to bring together not only teachers but also administrators, education officials, experts, and representatives of all structures related to higher and secondary vocational education. A few years ago, we focused on universities. Today, the line between higher education institutions and colleges is being blurred. A set of secondary vocational institutions make people admire their quality of education and the level of their teaching staff.
People sometimes ask me why we don’t work with students. We partially do. However, we mainly do that through their teachers.
If we talk about direct interaction, we conducted an experiment during this year’s School for Teachers. We invited not only teachers but also young people to participate in the discussion. Throughout the week, we allocated an hour for a special student forum daily.
The educational process must be based on dialogue. That’s why it’s so important to listen and hear the voices of both parties.
At the same time, I have my own opinion about the impact of certain role models on young people. The experience of people like me or my colleagues cannot be fully applied to the life of the younger generation. I actively followed the activities of various leaders and absorbed their knowledge and advice. However, I knew that their path was not for me personally. I would probably never find myself in the situations they experienced.
Such communication is useful if we are genuinely interested in these personalities, if we are curious, if we can get a charge of inspiration and energy to solve our own individual problems.
– What is the role of women and girls in science and education today?
– This topic is very interesting to me although I haven’t really delved too deeply into it within my professional activities. I can definitely say that I am a supporter of female influence and its development. However, I am against struggling and competing with men.
My son’s point of view on this issue seems very interesting to me. He is a student at an American university. We often meet with him in different countries during vacations. On International Women’s Day, we saw demonstrations in European cities. My son was interested in understanding their essence. He communicated a lot with the female participants of the event and asked them about the purpose of their demonstrations, their problems, and limitations that women face today.
My son’s girlfriend created her own project in the USA. It is focused on strengthening the role of women in education and science. That shows that the topic is really relevant not only in Russia.
Unfortunately, there are still stereotypes in society that certain professions and sciences, in particular those related to precise calculations and technology, are more men-focused. That often creates obstacles in the minds of girls. I think that we need to talk more about that honestly and openly to break those fundamentally wrong stereotypes. It’s also important to understand how the choice of profession takes place.
Probably, many girls do not even think about the fact that they can work on software codes or become engineers. In fact, it’s very interesting. If they wanted to enter those areas, they could achieve great success.
– You activity causes admiration! What inspires you?
– I am a person of action. I am not interested in just dreaming. It’s important for me to do something. I’m also a person of concept: if I find an interesting idea, the energy comes to me on its own.
Once I found an eternal idea for myself and now I can definitely say that I have life-lasting motivation and purpose.
Helping those who want to create and implement ideas but have difficulties in that is an important part of my activity. For this, I have not only personal experience in building a business but also a special qualification. I have implemented two successful projects, within which I provided free consulting. Some of the participants not only achieved significant professional results but also became partners of my company.
I am happy to be able to help people in their development. Most of the employees of Urait are my friends and associates.
I recently had an informal meeting with my colleagues. Girls participating in it confessed that I literally made them grow professionally. They used to perceive themselves as ordinary employees capable only of minor assignments. I set them the task of interacting with the rectors and deputy rectors of educational institutions. At first, they discussed among themselves how to tell me that the task was beyond their abilities. A month later, they not only coped with my task but also started believing in themselves and understood that they did not want to go back to routine work.
– You have incredible energy and extensive professional experience. What rules do you follow in life? What would you wish all those who will read our interview?
– The first rule is to do what you are sincerely passionate about. The second one is to know your strengths and develop them. Thirdly, constantly ‘keep your hand on the pulse’ and ask yourself what is important to you today and what will most likely be important to you tomorrow.
If your activity is valuable for you and all those around you, you need to move forward under any circumstances. Support always comes in the process of doing something. You get new knowledge when you ask questions. The best and the right people are with you when you really need them.
You will cope with everything if you do it sincerely. That is a very simple but very important secret to any success.
The mind must always be combined with the heart. There must be a passion in the heart, a fire that must be set and maintained constantly. If you add willpower, it becomes a powerful charge making it possible to achieve the greatest results in any business.
Photos by Vladimir Borzilov
Viktoria Yezhova, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov