iconimg Saturday, September 05, 2015

Swati Goel Sharma, Hindustan Times
Ludhiana, May 14, 2013
Come summers, and several city schools gear up to take their students to foreign locales during vacations. Domestic tourist destinations such as Rajasthan or Kerela seem passé, as exotic spots in Europe and the UK are where students now head for educational and enriching experience.

The trend tiptoed in the city around a decade ago, schools say, and is only growing every year with more and more schools joining the list. As is obvious, these tours do not come cheap with the cost running up to a couple of lakhs, but the offers find willing takers nonetheless.

Take Guru Nanak Public School (GNPS), for instance, which is taking its students to London, France and Germany in May. Already 30 students have committed to the 10-day tour, with each student shelling out Rs2 lakh. Last year, the school took its students to Canada and the US.

BCM Arya Senior Secondary School, Shastri Nagar, has planned a week-long excursion to Dubai next month. More than 20 students have opted for it so far, paying Rs1.5 lakh each.

Students of Ryan International School, Jamalpur, will enjoy a coveted trip to the NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), the US, in May, clubbed with several other attractions, including Disneyland, museums and landmarks such as Statue of Liberty and Niagara Falls.

Generally, three-four teachers accompany the students to the tours, organised in association with companies specialising in planning school tours (most of them based outside Punjab) or simply by taking the help of a local tour operator.

The trend
Schools say the trend has been here for a decade now. While trips to the US, and the UK have been a hot favourite among schools, more recently they are venturing to other countries such as Singapore and Dubai. “Given the high fee, we plan the tour only during vacations so that the students not opting for the tours do not end up feeling bad,” says Dr Paramjit Kaur, principal of BCM Arya.

“I have been asked if this causes disparity among students. But I strongly disagree. Even after school, students go their own way depending on their family's financial situation,” says Mona Singh, principal of GNPS.

Underlining the need for such exotic tours, schools say travelling is the best learning. “There is a lot of exposure to be had in trips made to foreign lands that boosts knowledge,” says principal Parveena John of Ryan.

Singh adds: “In many cases, parents do not have the time to take their kids for such educational trips. So those who can afford such tours leave it on us to do all the paperwork, all the running around.”

A parent who resides in Rajguru Nagar agrees with the initiative. “Planning a family trip is difficult. And schools seems a safe option,” she says.

The flak
However, the trend has been slammed by many who call it a marketing exercise. “The cost is borne solely by the parents. There should be a concession or subsidy, whether by the host nations or schools,” says Shivani Mehra, a parent who lives in Civil Lines.

Schools, on the other hand, defend themselves, saying that they cannot pay from their pocket for the luxury of a better exposure. “People want subsides in everything. Who will bear the cost in that case? Tour companies? No. The schools? They cannot. It's not possible,” says Singh.