Away with school

September 13, 2015

For students, schools trips are ‘the best days of their lives’ and give them a new perspective of the world

Away with school

International trips have a long history in many Pakistani schools. For years now, students typically in their first year of A Levels, have been eagerly meeting at airports ready to jet off to whatever exotic location usually chosen for them by the school.

Many of the country’s schools uphold this tradition and it seems as if there are considerable advantages of doing so.

International trips have been highly praised due to the fact that they are seemingly able to combine education with entertainment. There have been numerous studies carried out by universities and institutions on the educational value of such trips and almost all agree that they do in fact enhance learning in students. The Oregon State University conducted a research on such trips and concluded that "group activities like these help in building confidence and social skills", and that these trips are especially important in helping the students develop practical and vocational skills.

As the environment is not a competitive, pressurising, classroom environment, students are generally far more relaxed during these trips and it is thus easier for them to learn and retain information. This is especially important with students who are generally unengaged, less attentive or have short attention spans; a school trip might be able to engage and motivate them in a positive and healthy way.

If students are studying language, having the opportunity to visit the country where that language is spoken acts as an excellent method of immersing them in the language itself.

Interestingly enough, when asked about their school trips abroad students had nothing but enthusiastic and positive responses. Ali Ahsan, a Lahore Grammar School (Johar Town) alumni speaking to TNS, recalls his school trip to Morocco only two years back as, "Travelling to another country with your friends is a luxury. That’s the biggest motivation for us, but it’s definitely also a learning experience".

He continues to explain how they were able to identify similarities in Morocco and Pakistan and how throughout the trip they were immersed in Moroccan culture, visiting historical and scenic locations including a Medina bazaar, mountain tops, gardens and the ruins of an old Roman city.

Another student, Minahil Zehra, a Lahore Grammar School alumnus, recalls her A Level trip to Egypt in 2008 as, "It was the best seven days of my life. Each day was a new discovery of the country. The history was so rich and vibrant and our tour guides were friendly and insightful. It was definitely the best trip I’ve ever been on and it taught us much about Egyptian history and culture".

Indeed, extensive research on such trips has proven that they seem to have a positive effect on the students. There are improvements in students’ wellbeing as they become more confident and their emotional health is enhanced.

Naturally, a school trip abroad with friends acts as an incredible experience for the students in terms of creating memories and enjoyment and for many students, this is the first time they are given the chance to go abroad at all.

Even the teachers and faculty attending these trips receive the same benefits. Perhaps the most significant benefit for teachers is their improved relations with their students. Spending time together in a new environment and location allows everyone to connect and bond on a personal level. Even the students recalling their school trips talked about spending time with their teachers, the stories they would exchange and how they got to know one another better.

Unfortunately, it is only a handful of elite schools that provide this privilege. Many schools are unable to organise trips abroad due to the numerous barriers that exist while planning such trips. The planning and organising of these trips is incredibly burdensome; there are usually massive financial constraints on both teachers and students, a great deal of paperwork and meetings with travel agents that takes up a lot of much needed time and resources.

When choosing a location for the trip, schools generally want a financially feasible and historically rich location but this is difficult to acquire especially for those schools that already send their students on such trips because they don’t want to repeat locations.

However, schools and faculty are now failing to understand the educational value of these trips; with a greater emphasis being places on O and A Level exams and standardised tests, teachers are increasingly beginning to view these trips as unnecessarily leisurely and thus feel as though it is a waste of time and finances that could instead be spent in exam preparations. Unfortunately, such reasons are also slowly convincing those schools that already partake in such trips to end them as well.

When we send our children to school, we don’t just want them to gain academic standing, good grades and work skills. More than anything, we want our students to become civilised, aware and active members of the community who are able to appreciate the diversity of the world.

International trips are an excellent tool for helping to meet this goal in students.

Away with school