Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Students' foreign travel should be for study

By Li Jianzhong (China Daily) Updated: 2014-07-17 07:40

Nowadays, in order to realize a meaningful summer vacation, many Chinese parents choose to send their children to attend various kinds of summer camps overseas. On July 14, the Ministry of Education released an official guide to regulate such overseas activities among primary and secondary school students. It is expected that those students can improve their English and international communication skills, and prepare for studying abroad in the future.

Overseas trips are one kind of after-school education applied by many schools worldwide. They aim to cultivate the comprehensive quality of students, and they can also play a positive role in expanding students' horizons. However, whether such activities in China can fully play their part is worth considering.

As these summer trips require visas and other preparations, many Chinese schools start the recruitment in spring.

It is reported that one foreign language school in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province, planned five trips in four countries for students this summer, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia. Such summer camps usually last for two weeks and the total fee is around 30,000 yuan ($4,833) to 40,000 yuan for each student.

But if you check the schedules, most summer camps are just organizing students to travel to several cities and visit some famous universities in foreign countries, such as Harvard University in the US, and Cambridge University in the UK. In addition, any lessons given to the students are usually language classes to simply improve students' English level. However, it is obviously too expensive to spend 40,000 yuan just for sightseeing and taking English classes.

The reason why most current summer camps are designed like sightseeing tours is because such trips are usually planned by travel agencies and other intermediary organizations, and they are simply interested in making the most profit. The trips lack the guidance and supervision of education departments. Therefore, if we would like the students to benefit from these activities, the experience of the students needs to be considered.

In Japan, similar overseas trips for students are all supervised by education departments, to be more specific, the duration and fees are set by the educational authorities so the trips are affordable and accessible to most families. Usually, the trips last for just three or four days and the cost is between 5,900 yuan to 9,300 yuan for each student. In the US, students' summer activities pay more attention to public welfare, and provide social practice for the children. Many non-profit organizations take part in these events, some of which are free to students. The aim of these summer camps is to promote children's teamwork and increase their awareness of nature or society, which is quite different from the goal of summer camps in China.

The guide recently released by the Ministry of Education is just the beginning of making these activities more appropriate and beneficial for the development of students. Local governments should also strengthen their supervision and manage such camps as educational products for the public good.

Specifically, rules should be established for the content, time and cost of such activities. In addition, more non-profit organizations should be encouraged to cooperate with local educational departments and schools to arrange overseas activities for students.

Schools should also control the costs of overseas trips and ensure they provide students with opportunities to learn from the experience.

Meanwhile, parents should demand summer activities based on children's interests and pay more attention to the educational function of overseas trips and summer camps.

The author is an associate researcher at the Research Center for International Comparative Education, affiliated to the National Institute of Education Sciences.

Most Viewed Today's Top News