At a student’s expense: Why educational trips should cost less

Image courtesy of thestatesman.com

Image courtesy of thestatesman.com

Sid Ram, Social Media Manager

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While on a trip, a popular question to ascertain the reason for travel used to be “business or pleasure?”. However, that question is no longer representative of why people travel. Educational tourism has been on a steady rise and has recently exploded in popularity. Educational trips are great opportunities and give students memorable experiences. The only criteria limiting their further expansion is the cost that is associated with going on one of these trips.

The price alone stands in the way of so many students being able to go on these life-changing adventures. The price of these trips has to be brought down for several reasons, but most notably because they reinforce socioeconomic problems that already plague the education system.

It is no secret that the American education system tends to favor those who are more privileged. Whether you look at college or the graduation rates of different areas based on socioeconomic status, it is clear that the above is true. Here again, is an example in which only those students who can pay the high trip cost can take the trip. This effectively limits these educational trip programs to the privileged students.

Another big aspect of this phenomenon is about the experiences themselves. Travel allows people to expand their horizons and learn more about the world around them. I know, it sounds cliche, but it’s true. On educational trips, students, through interactions, get to understand the culture and ways of the locals in foreign countries. Experiences like this go a long way to shape people. By understanding more about various cultures, students become global citizens which helps them thrive in an increasingly interconnected world. Missing out on these fundamental experiences can create a setback in students’ future professional careers.

So now the hard part. How can this problem be fixed? Well, directly, it isn’t very easy. First of all, these companies are for-profit, so regardless of how lo their prices go, they are still trying to make a profit… so the prices will never go too low. Secondly, traveling to a foreign country, and doing any kind of sightseeing is expensive enough, but add to that the extra measures these companies need to take to keep students safe, the bill keeps increasing. The fix for this issue is actually indirect. Instead of focussing on these trips, there should instead be a focus on increasing the travel opportunities sponsored by a school.

While it doesn’t offer the same benefits as touring with an educational tourism company, an exchange program done through school still allows students to travel, sightsee, and gain an understanding of other cultures. Not only do students get nearly the same out of both trips, but the costs are mainly associated with transportation, as students would stay with a host family as opposed to the pricier alternative, a hotel.

The other way to fix this problem is by giving students different perspectives without the need for them to travel at all. For example, a few months ago, FCPS tweeted about their “Global Classrooms initiative” which, by bringing ambassadors into the classroom and connecting students across the world, gave students a greater cultural awareness.

I in no way discredit the experience of educational tourism. Going on one such trip is a once in a lifetime experience. But, it doesn’t have to be the end all be all when it comes to offering students a greater understanding of the people and cultures around them. There are other options; options that disregard socioeconomic status and prioritize learning.

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