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Going global

| October 14, 2011 | 0 Comments

Taking the headache out of tours

By Don Duffield

Anyone who has ever led a large international school tour will know that it is a mammoth undertaking. So one might ask, ‘Why do it in the first place?’

Schools should strive to provide learners with an internationally relevant education, that’s why – and one way of doing so is take them to other countries.

Organising a co-educational tour to China

Recently, I had the privilege of organising and leading a coeducational tour to China. Not only is this country’s history and culture impressive, but the rapid modern development of this ‘sleeping giant’ is undoubtedly of relevance to the young people whom I teach. We set the following goals:

  • All learners must complete literary research on specified aspects of China before the tour.
  • All learners must attend lectures at various stages of the tour.
  • All learners must attend daily reflection sessions while on tour.
  • All learners must complete a personal diary of their experience in China.

Setting up a well-balanced itinerary It is wise to work together with an experienced and efficient travel agency. I have had the privilege of working with Marjolein Lewis from the House of Travel on several tours, and her wisdom, insight, patience, attention to detail and broad base of experience have been invaluable in turning the tour concept into reality.

You could also speak to people who have toured the country you are visiting. I was given excellent advice by Ann Kriel from Hilton College, and our itinerary thus included six days in Beijing, a visit to an ancient Ming Dynasty village, three days in Xi’an (home of the Terracotta Warriors) and four days in Shanghai. This itinerary provided a good balance; exposing learners to aspects of both ancient and modern China. I also found it effective to build in a rest day in each major city, as the learners need ‘unstructured time’.

Choose a good staff team

I’ve learned that learners and parents often base their decision on whether to go on a tour on which staff members will be going on tour. Hence, ensure that your tour staff team will be able to maintain discipline and structure, but will also engage meaningfully with learners on the tour.

Marketing the tour

You need to sell the concept to the children first and then their parents. I presented a speech to the boys at one of our assemblies. They liked the analogy of China as a tidal wave that you either ‘surf ’ or choose to ignore and get flattened! I approached the parents, on the other hand, as a board of investors, selling the concept of an educational investment into a ‘real-life classroom’ where they will get returns on their investment through their child’s portfolio and presentation at a formal ‘post-tour’ evening.

Ensuring structure and discipline on the tour

Lay down the ‘riot act’ upfront. I get every child and their parents to sign a commitment to a code of behaviour while on tour. At a tour information evening that is held a few weeks before the tour party departs, the expectations and concerns pertaining to behaviour between the learners, the importance of mutual respect, good communication and potentially dangerous activities relating to sexual behaviour and alcohol consumption are clearly spelt out. Having said the above, this is not ‘boot camp’. Children learn best when they are having fun!

While on tour…

While on tour, spend time with each child to that you can ‘read’ where they are emotionally and physically. We found that splitting our tour party into four groups, each led by a staff member, not only helped with logistics, but also ensured that each learner was effectively monitored and cared for.

Ending off the tour on a good note We held a China Tour Presentation Evening about a month after we arrived back at which we were reminded that if you have a passion and a desire to take your learners on an international tour, don’t be paralysed by the fear of what might possibly go wrong. Rather be reassured by the fact that there are fellow educators out there that have taken the ‘big leap’ and are willing to give you advice and support, so that you can take the next step in providing a globally relevant education for your learners.

Don Duffield teaches at St Alban’s College.

Category: Spring 2011

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