27 Sept 2023.
I recently accompanied my college students on an educational trip abroad. This trip made me contemplate on these so called “educational trips” that Institutions offer as part of their curriculum.
The college has an 8-day Immersion Camp for the students in a rapidly developing South Asian country. This includes a series of lectures at a prestigious partner Institute in the said country. These lectures are on various business and management topics. The aim is to allow students to have an experience of the teaching-learning methods followed in a foreign Institute. Some of the faculty were good, some were not so good, like always. But the students were not interested!!
While conducting interviews for prospective students many of them said that the one thing that attracted them to join the college, was this trip abroad which would give them exposure to International teaching methodology. Which at that time I didn’t realize was just a euphemism for a shopping and sightseeing trip sponsored by their parents in the name of education.
Students I realized were not interested in learning anything new. They were just interested in dressing up for Insatgarmable pictures, partying and shopping. They did not want any value added to their resume or student experience. They just wanted a foreign trip added to their student life and another tick on a bucket list maybe.
In today’s competitive educational market, it is important to have an edge over the competition. But to what end? When students show a lack of interest and respect for the efforts made by the professors of a foreign university much in the same way they do back home? I feel, it reflects badly on the Institute, whose image becomes tarnished to some extent. This is the experience with undergraduate students. Maybe post graduate students will be more receptive to such sessions. This is still to be seen.
I would suggest that the entire trip be proposed as an excursion for the students. Where they can enjoy a new country and learn from their experiences finally. A few Institutes in the foreign country maybe contacted to give a presentation on the courses available in case students are interested in pursuing their higher studies from here. A few industry visits maybe added so that the students have an idea of the local industry. Lecture sessions should be kept to the minimum so that students are in fact interested in attending them.
I noticed that as the students were in a country without parental control, they partied till late in the night and were unable to attend the early morning lecture at 9:30am. A number of those who attended the morning session often fell asleep in class. They just put their heads down and slept and I had to go and shake them awake. This is embarrassing for both the teachers involved and extremely disrespectful towards the foreign faculty who is has made efforts to especially prepare for the session.
I do not know if I am expecting too much from my students or setting standards that are too high for them to live up to. Or are they too young to understand the fall out of their behaviour for the Institute. Another thought that bothers me most is that have we as parents made a mistake in the way we have raised our children?
Maybe some will say that I am reading too much or becoming overtly emotional about the whole situation. But as a teacher of college going students, over the years I have realized that the younger generation does not follow the basic tenets of respect and decency. While on the same trip we visited the Logistic center of a reputed company. After a presentation about the functioning of the company in that specific country, and a talk by the Managing Director of the facility we were given high tea. The students were explicitly instructed that mugs used for coffee had to be washed as stacked by them. There was a coffee dispensing machine which had a variety of coffee flavours. Most students didn’t know how to use it. One student who had lived abroad volunteered to help. Once they had had their snacks and coffee, I found that a number of students hadn’t cleaned up after themselves. Paper plates were lying on the tables and so were used coffee mugs. Nobody was willing to take responsibility for these. Finally, one student and I had to do the cleaning up because it would reflect badly on our institute. Nobody else even offered to help or was bothered that just the two of us were doing the cleaning.
The same scenario repeated itself when we visited the oldest and largest Brewery in the country. After a tour of the facility and an explanation on how beer was brewed, the students were taken to the Tavern. Here they were given free samples of the different varieties of beer brewed in the Brewery. The only request they had was to return the empty glasses to the bar counter. Here again I noticed that most students were not interested in following the instructions and it fell upon two students to act as good Samaritans and pick up glasses that were lying around and return it to the bar counter.
A human being as a child learns most things when explicitly instructed to do so. But as they grow older they resort to “observational learning”; learning things by observing others and picking up behaviour that they think is good and will be beneficial to them in the long run. One of the easiest ways to adapt to a foreign country to observe how their citizens behave in various situations especially in public places and them follow suit. This ability also I found our students lacking in. The country has this food center at different places, which is essentially a dining area in the middle surrounded by a large number of food kiosks. One can buy food from any kiosk, sit in any part of the dining area and eat, the only requirement is that the dishes used to eat in, have to be staked in a specific area once you are done. I noticed that a number of our students left their dirty dishes on the table that they had eaten and walked away, expecting someone else to clear them. The inability to learn from their surroundings by observing only shows that they are callous and do not respect the culture of the foreign country that they are visiting.
No matter how many times you instruct students about the basic courtesies to follow in a foreign country or the basics of decent behaviour when abroad, all of this is of use only when they are willing to learn and have an open attitude to change and adapt their behaviour as required. One can take the horse to the water but cannot make the horse drink.
My submission is that the students of this generation do not seem to want to make the necessary adjustments required to stay in a foreign country. When they are taken on trips like this, from the college the reputation and prestige of the college is at stake and any misbehavior on their part will result in the tarnishing of the image of the college especially with the foreign institutes. So it is better to take students on a holiday to understand and explore a foreign county on their own rather than having a tie-up with Institutions which can be an embarrassment for our college.
Having said this, there a number of questions that remain unanswered. Have we as parents failed to teach our children what to value and what not to? Have we failed to instill in them the right goals and values that they should aspire to achieve? Most of all have we failed to teach them basic tenets of respect and decency? So much so that they do not acknowledge the efforts put in by another human do something for them?