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16 July, 2015 - 16:16 By Tony Quested

Cambridge EdTech from the creche to the Kremlin

Skylark Learning education box

A Cambridge EdTech enterprise is exporting its child learning toolkit to Russia – where the original idea for the business was conceived.

In 1999, Andrei and Galina Manichenko started with a dream to transform the early-learning market in Russia. Today, Umnitsa sells its products in over 50 countries.

In 2013, Umnitsa set up offshoot company Skylark Learning in Cambridge, UK to develop a new range of innovative educational products in the English language.

The Cambridge enterprise, based at St John’s Innovation Centre, was started in the UK by Alexey and Svetlana Manichenko, who are also shareholders. Alexey is now the CEO of both the Russian and English businesses.

The recently launched ‘Skylark English for Babies: All About Me’ is now being exported to the Russian market. It is a new multi-sensory toolkit providing a fun, interaction-based method for meaningful learning. It has been specially designed to inspire little learners from birth upwards as they communicate in everyday situations and learn how to speak and understand English in a home environment.

The tailor-made toolkit is packed with original and fun educational resources and comes complete with full, interactive support so that parents with any level of English can teach with confidence.

Skylark Learning’s product development manager, Donna Powell, said: “We’re very proud that families across Russia are now able to use Skylark English to introduce English to their children in an engaging, meaningful way. The response to the product has been amazing.

“We are excited to announce that more than 1200 copies of Skylark English have already been sold globally since its launch in February 2015; a fantastic achievement for the whole team.”
Skylark Learning child learning toolkit

Developed in Cambridge in collaboration with academics and language teachers, Skylark English is informed by current research in the fields of child development and language acquisition.

At the heart of the product is a limited number of target words that are repeated again and again throughout the materials. Hundreds of opportunities are provided to use these words in real-life contexts. A Skylark puppet in the pack engages and motivates children through imaginative learning. Skylark is marketed abroad as “a great learning buddy and your child’s first English friend.”

A collection of 12 original storybooks helps children hear the target words set in real language. They include all the phonemes of the English language. The pack also includes a song book with lyrics, translations and actions that parents can sing with their child. 

Dr Soraya Jones, entrepreneur in residence at St John’s Innovation Centre, said: “It is wonderful to see a small business grow and achieve success internationally with a product that contributes to how we educate our children at the 0-3 age group. Skylark Learning is paving the way for new and innovative methods in learning and I look forward to seeing the continued growth of the venture.”

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