News @ AsiaOne

Never too young for overseas school trips

Kinderland has been sending pupils abroad for several years, while EtonHouse will start soon. -ST

Fri, Nov 02, 2012
The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - Giving students overseas exposure is critical, and two pre-schools here have deemed it vital to start very young.

Kinderland has been sending pupils abroad for several years, while EtonHouse will start soon.

Next month, Kinderland will take a group of pupils between the age of two and six to Japan on a seven-day trip billed as an "autumn exchange camp".

Pupils, who have to be accompanied by an adult, will go to Mount Fuji, visit theme parks and spend a day at a Japanese preschool.

The e-mail to parents - backed up by posters - cites the "first-hand opportunity to understand Japanese culture in a kindergarten" and the opportunity to "enjoy child-centred learning activities while on holiday with the family" as benefits of the trip.

The chain, which runs annual year-end trips to Japan, charges $2,190 per pupil and $2,590 for each accompanying adult.

It did not reply to queries from The Straits Times.

Like Kinderland, another high-end chain here, EtonHouse, said it intends to take its preschool pupils to visit some of the 10 pre-schools it owns in China in "the near future".

A trip was initially planned in 2010 but did not take place as school holidays in both countries did not match.

An EtonHouse spokesman said that it wanted its pre-schoolers to "understand different cultural contexts" and learn to collaborate with children from other countries.

She added that such trips might include a social responsibility element, with pupils taking part in a charity drive to raise money for underprivileged children in the country they visit.

But is there value in sending children abroad at such a tender age?

The views of parents and experts were mixed.

Some, like Association for Early Childhood Educators founder Christine Chen, think such trips can be beneficial as pre-schoolers take well to experiential learning.

Physiotherapist Felicia Seet, 32, said she would send her six-year-old son on such a trip if his Little Skool House childcare centre offered it.

But others pointed out that overseas trips for pre-schoolers are a nice-to-have bonus, rather than a necessity.

Citing welfare homes and orphanages run by Singapore-based charities, pre-school education consultant Khoo Kim Choo said: "If you want children exposed to social causes, to realise how fortunate they are, Singapore offers a lot of opportunity to do so too."

One parent, whose daughter attends Kinderland's Kovan branch, said she will not be going as it is "too expensive".

Another mother, who sends her son to Kinderland's NurtureStars branch, said: "It will be more beneficial if kids go on such overseas trips when they are much older."

How much benefit children will derive depends on how carefully a programme is planned, said Dr Khoo.

She said: "It is not just about the trip alone, but what learning is done before, during and after that makes it meaningful."

mattchew@sph.com.sg


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