The following article comes from secondary teacher Matthew Jones, who reflects on his trip to China with his school last year.
I am a big believer in immersive styles of education. As a Religious Education Teacher in a Secondary school I really value any opportunity I get to immerse my students into a particular aspect of a religion whether it be the food, cultural practices or celebrations, I really believe children learn from their experience of something and my own pedagogy often mirrors this.
This is why I was absolutely thrilled to be asked by my school to accompany a group of students to a visit to China last year as part of the True Education Partnerships sister school scheme.
Our trip consisted of three cities in China; Shanghai, Beijing and Taicang. As well as visiting the major attractions of these cities and eating more food than I ever thought possible we also visited our sister schools. The schools were both incredibly welcoming both to us as staff and the pupils and the children we took really did get stuck into everything the schools had to offer. I was blown away with how mature and amazing our pupils were whilst acting as ambassadors for our school and equally blown away with how talented, welcoming and dedicated the Chinese pupils were.
The highlight of the trip for me had to be the Great Wall of China, and not only the opportunity to see this great wonder, but also the opportunity to see my students faces whilst they were witnessed this wonder was something that I will remember for the rest of my life.
The students learnt so much from this experience. They learnt about a completed different culture, they were immersed in so much History, Geography and of course Religious Education (especially with me dragging them excitedly around a Buddhist Temple) but I think the most important lesson I think my pupils learnt was that the world is truly their oyster. When stood on the top of a mountain, on a wall constructed 2300 years ago, 4300 miles from home there truly is nothing but a complete sense of awe and wonder and I hope that they will remember that for the rest of their lives.
I cannot explain how much I value educational visits. I have been really lucky in my career to accompany young people to some really life-changing places from Concentration Camps in Poland to The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona I have taken pupils to places that they perhaps would never see if it wasn’t for the organisation of school trips- and this is why I value them so much.
Seeing the world is always a life-changing experience but it is an experience that for some is only made possible through their education and that’s why I want to encourage, all teachers to try and bring the world to life either in the classroom or, by taking the classroom abroad. I understand this can be a challenge, especially with the way the world Is at the moment but I genuinely believe in the value of educational visits. They really are a chance to change young people’s lives, to show them there is more out there than just the town they are from and hopefully an opportunity to ensure they see a value in our world and the people we share it with.