Kottayam: You will be surprised when we you come to know where school kids from Kerala are headed to for their picnics. It's not Ooty or Bangalore anymore! Disneyland Park and NASA are just a few to name in their list.
With schools putting more focus on experimental learning, extracurricular activities and overall development of their children apart from academics, the stress on cultural exchange programes are more than that in the past.
A reputed Kottayam-based school is conducting a one-of-its-kind picnic the coming summer vacation. About 50 students from Classes 6 to 11 are gearing up to visit the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States. The approximate cost of the tour per head would be Rs 3.20 lakh, along with the US visa fee of Rs 30,000.
“The 14-day trip comprises of a three-day project camp at the Kennedy Space Centre, a one-day trip to Walt Disney World Resort in Orleando, Universal Studios, Niagara Falls and also places like Washington DC, New York and New Jersey," said the school principal.
An added advantage of the trip is that the students who are applying for the programme is getting a 10-year valid US visit visa, which they can easily upgrade to a study or job visa, once out of school, he said. So the money they are spending for the trip is worth it. Also, this is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity for students to get hands-on experience on projects, and also see up-close places they have only been familiar through internet or books.
“The school also assists the students in visa processing and also give relevant training for the project they will be doing at the Kennedy Space Station. More than 25 students from classes 7 to 12 have registered as of now and we are gearing up for the visit this summer vacation," he added.
The Trivandrum International School has been conducting foreign exchange programmes to Germany, Denmark and the Maldives. Rensy Oommen, the head of its Junior School, said that such trips are vital in giving students the right exposure. “Our trips happen in association with counterpart schools abroad. Most often the schools abroad host our children who are on exchange programmes, else students are offered accommodation by families abroad. Similarly, families here also host students from abroad when they are on a trip to India," Rensy explained.
The students, who wish to participate in the exchange programme, are selected after a written test and an interview. The number of students who go abroad also depend upon the residential facilities that are offered by the host country, she added.
The operators of Delhi-based Pack 'n' Go Holidays, which conduct tour programmes across India, said that most-preferred destinations for schools include Singapore and Dubai. But of late destinations like France, Germany, Maldives, the US and the UK are getting popular. The trips are mostly compilation of visits to science centres, laboratories, natural wonders and heritage sites. Most popular destinations, however, continue to be Malaysia, Singapore and Sri Lanka as they are comparatively affordable.
Overseas students are also eager to visit India and their numbers are also rising. An interesting, yet challenging part is that all these trips can be customised according to a school’s interests and budget.
Parents too value such programmes. “These foreign trips and cultural exchange programmes are contributing to the grooming and right development of children. Also the exposure one gains from these trips would definitely help them once they are out of the school," said Parvathy Ajayshankar, a parent from Kottayam.