With the constant evolution of the education sector, the idea of students studying outside their own institutions for a phase has been in the moulds for quite some time. Brainfeed explored this trend of global exchange programmes to understand its value for the next generation. We interacted with different individuals who have a first-hand experience of the boons and challenges of Student Exchange Programme.
Window To Global Citizenship
Dr. Ashok K Pandey
Principal, Ahlcon International School, Delhi
Integrating International dimension in school curriculum and exchanges are increasingly understood to be essential elements in school education in India. Many factors contribute to its relevance: the opportunities presented by global communication, new media, international trade and its associated social and economic issues, and increased awareness of other cultures, languages and beliefs. Global challenges such as tackling climate change and sharing natural resources are also closely related to the delivery of education for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and global citizenship.
Focus on Integrating International Exchange
There has been a significant focus on how the integration of international dimensions is beneficial to schools, in contributing to educational effectiveness, social cohesiveness and in shaping the attitudes and values of both learners and teachers. President Barak Obama (2009) at a Student Roundtable in Turkey said, “Simple exchanges can break down walls between us, for when people come together and speak to one another and share a common experience, then their common humanity is revealed.” Ahlcon International School with its motto “Global perspective, Indian Values” recognised early in its inception that an outstanding development of international dimension in our curriculum will help students achieve global goals.
We first commenced out international exchange with Europa Schule in Cologne, Germany in 2009, which opened the gateway to a series of visits by the students/teachers from both sides. In the last one decade, more than 150 students and 10 teachers have visited Germany and participated in cultural exchange programmes, leadership camps, seminars, collaborative projects and youth parliament. Six of our students are pursuing their higher education in Germany, and one is already working.
“International exchange creates links between teachers from different countries, facilitating the sharing of best practices and development of new skills, fosters an interdisciplinary approach towards education”, said Ms. Shivali Chaudhary, a teacher who participated in these exchanges.
Similar exchanges to Denmark, Australia, UK, Singapore, Japan, and NASA trips have brought immense benefits to the students/teachers; enhancing their communication, critical thinking, presentation skills and collaboration. Swastik Kashyap, an exchange participant, says, “It has helped me learn a research-based approach and has improved my presentation skills”.
Such opportunities encourage students to develop respect and understanding for each other’s faith, thereby promoting harmony.
An educational system that prepares students with the knowledge and skills to work and live in an increasingly diverse and interdependent world is essential to our future. As educators, it is our responsibility to give youth the tools and opportunities to develop their skills for building a peaceful and harmonious society. Promotion of networking, learning and collaborating with the students through leadership programmes and the concept of sharing platforms to meet common challenges are the core skills students learn in multicultural groups.
By engaging in joint projects, students become the peace ambassadors for their community. These activities pave the ground for making our students ready for the higher goal of global citizenship. Students and teachers improve their ICT skills, work as a team and learn how to explore the international dimension in each activity. The schools, in turn, develop an international ethos and culture. The oft-spoken axiom, “Think global, act local”, is crucial to international education.
Student Exchange Programme: A rising boon
Executive Educational Development, Utpal Shanghvi Global School, Mumbai
“Global Exchange Programmes are an excellent opportunity for high school students because it exposes them to a myriad of different cultures, dialects, traditions, expectations and more. Teenagers become more and more accepting of change by being immersed in environments, different from one they are comfortable in, and I can definitely attest to that because I had initiated this programme in our school and hope to continue this with many more students. Student Exchange Programme benefits you in a unique way, regardless of the part in which you are involved. Whether you are going on an exchange or you are welcoming incoming students, SEP is always a good choice.”
Advantages of SEP
Meeting new people, exploring different cultures and travelling to amazing places are all part of SEP, but there is always more that you can do to make your experience even better. From the moment you decide to do your SEP practice, you have an opportunity to develop your communication skills. You get a chance to be directly in contact with your home and host and improve the writing of your emails and communication through social media. Additionally, you will have the opportunity to use both formal and informal writing styles. It is much easier to form a connection with other colleagues who are in the same scenario and circumstances. While collaborating with your peers and colleagues, you get an opportunity to exchange ideas, develop your critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills and many more. It fosters students to work towards a common goal and act as a leader in any role assumed regardless of whether it meets the classical definition of a leader. SEP encourages students to practice their knowledge, gain new insights and learn something new.
Students learn to become flexible and independent making them self-sufficient. Self- development and awareness increases, leading to enhanced self-confidence and self-esteem. SEP has the ability to gather different cultures and people in one place. It feels like you have travelled to several different countries just by hanging around in your own city. Also, this helps you make new contacts around the world and find friends who will also warmly welcome you on your travels. It assists to promote cultural understanding and friendship. In a SEP, students are faced with lots of challenges that they need to adjust to. At the end of the program, the student will have a better understanding of people from other culture, and have better problem-solving skills.
They become knowledgeable about other culture and learn a new language. They learn to adapt to a new environment. They also develop leadership and decision making skills. Apart from the cultural exposure, a student exchange programme also instills a sense of responsibility as you are representing your school in another country. One is responsible for the image that would be portrayed. Lastly, I think that global exchanges enable students of the same school to bond and work as a team. All animosity is dissolved since they consider each other as part of their own tribe.
Pros and Cons
A tremendous sense of accomplishment upon completion encourages students to develop independent opinions, make informed decisions and strive to attain fresh goals. This experience will make them stand out from the rest during a job selection process. It also prepares the student broadly for the working world instead of only concentrating on one’s country alone. It is not an amazing way to escape from school life and do some sightseeing. But behind the entire glittery and magical label, the Student Exchange Program is one of the toughest tasks anyone can face. You need to be ready to put in all you have, to be at your best at all times and be open to all circumstances that are placed in front of you. So, educational institutions must have this student exchange program as part of their curriculum to strengthen the students’ knowledge and experience.
Experiencing the Global Exchange
Undergraduate, Business and Social Sciences Minerva Schools at KGI, San Francisco
The fabric of society today is not woven from the thread of a single overarching culture but from the colourful fibres of various coexisting cultures and communities. With advancements in technology and the subsequent advent of globalization has come tremendous socio-cultural exchange. People are now communicating and collaborating across the globe on scales hitherto unheard of. A direct result of these developments is that everything from the corporate workspace to education centres is now rapidly becoming a multicultural environment. The world has become interdependent, and people sharing different ideas and beliefs are now also sharing the same space. Preparing to succeed in an era of global uncertainty requires developing your intellect, building your character, and learning practical capabilities. Exposure to global cultures and interactions with individuals hailing from different socio-cultural backgrounds insures one against complacency and narrow-framed worldviews. It allows for one to develop and understand different perspectives, and encourages one to learn to accept individuals regardless of their national, religious, racial, or socio-cultural identities.
Details of the Programme
I joined Minerva Schools at KGI to gain an eclectic cultural understanding of the world while pursuing my undergraduate studies. Under the college’s global rotation program, students move across seven major countries in the world throughout the 4 years of graduation. The first year the students live in San Francisco and from there on every semester the entire class shifts to Seoul (South Korea), Hyderabad (India), Berlin (Germany), Buenos Aires (Argentina), London (England) and Taipei (Taiwan) respectively.
The international student body and the global rotation program not only allow us to develop an understanding of most major cultures across the world but also help us interact with the major metropolitan cities and gain a practical understanding of how everything from work ethics to business dynamics and public policy-making changes across these cultures.
The societies today are growing increasingly intolerant because orthodox mindsets aren’t changing with the speed of globalization. For harmony to be preserved, it is imperative for the world’s youth to recognize how to handle differences and mitigate conflicts arising from cultural dissimilarities. Reason follows that the young generations themselves need to be exposed to multicultural environments in order to develop their ability to accept differences and to learn to communicate past them. Student exchange and study abroad programs provide a platform for young students to interact with individuals from different parts of the world and to experience life in different cultures and communities. The interactions and experiences introduce students to new perspectives and help develop their intellect. A growing number of such programs are being developed today, and provide an experience that compels students to face adverse environments – thus building their character and helping them learn practical capabilities.
The global trend is now shifting from demarcating boundaries to overcoming them for goals and beliefs shared across humanity. We are striving together for common objectives, and, regardless of our identities, are as willing to protest injustice in any part of the world as we are to build organizations that operate in and supply to multiple countries. We now need our youth to look across the horizons of their socio-cultural identities, and learn to strive for, as well as strive with, the rest of the world.