As well as the trips being fun, there are also lots of evident life and educational benefits to school trips abroad. Here are some of the reasons I’ll be encouraging my children, when they are older, to go on school trips abroad if they are offered one.
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Greater motivation to learn a new language
When children sit in the classroom learning say, French, it is a somewhat artificial and abstract activity. There are no French people in the room, well maybe the French teacher might be. There’s no real need to ask a waiter for the bill or a person on the street for directions to the nearest train station, and it’s very different learning to speak French with a classful of English accents.
That all changes if you put kids in a real-life situation. Suddenly, the need to speak French becomes authentic and children will recognise the necessity of getting to grips with the language. Those who can speak French fluently often talk about how important it is to live in French society. It’s not just about exposure; it’s about it being real too. A trip abroad to practice language skills is so beneficial for children to immerse themselves in the culture and to spark a real passion for learning a new language.
I learned German for five years at school, but I think a trip to Germany would have really given me a thirst to take language learning seriously.
A wider appreciation of culture
When you’re stuck in a culture all your life, it’s often hard to step outside of it and see the world from a different perspective. Cultural monogamy can lead children to develop insular thinking that could thwart their ability to succeed in the future. School trips help to give children a broader perspective on the world. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a liberal perspective: just one that allows them to see that people in different places do things differently and have varying assumptions about life. Seeing this usually provokes children to question their premises.
Building A CV
Universities and employers aren’t just interested in students’ grades: they also want to know what kind of life experiences they’ve had. Yes, they’re impressed by kids who get strings of A-grades. But they also want people who have seen more than the inside of a textbook: they want people with real-world interpersonal skills.
Foreign trips, especially language exchange trips, tend to be highly regarded. Not only do they show that a child has independence, but they also reveal that a person is not afraid of hurling themselves into an alien and unusual environment. Students who build their CVs in this way will stand out from the crowd, as well as when they eventually attend university and relish in the benefits of internships abroad too.
Builds collaboration between students and teachers
The traditional schooling system is based on the master-slave model of the 19th century. Teachers are in control, and students must submit. It’s the system we’ve inherited, and there’s not much that can be done about it immediately.
School trips, however, work against this model because they expose students and teachers to radically different environments. Outside of the classroom, the power dynamic changes. Teachers have to rely on students’ own capacity to look after themselves, helping to create a different kind of relationship. Often you find that students and teachers develop a partnership under these conditions, improving the learning process and building genuine collaboration.
Meeting new people
Most parents want their kids to have well-rounded lives and a broad circle of friends. School trips are an excellent way for kids to build a network. On trips, they’ll meet new people and make new friends. Relationships forged abroad are often much more intimate and durable than those on home soil because of the need for people to stick together in unfamiliar surroundings.
Finding out about the local culture
Foreign trips are great for developing language and communication skills. But they’re also crucial for seeing how people in different places live their daily lives. Reading textbooks about how people live will only ever get students so far: they need to immerse themselves in a culture to both understand and enjoy it.
And finally, a benefit to the school is that trips abroad help to develop the prestige of the school. Departments that run trips to exotic locations help to sell the school brand, enhancing the overall desirability of the school for parents in the local area. Tours of Africa, the Alps, and the Far East are unusual in today’s modern education environment.