Most Singaporeans are familiar with the proverb 读万卷书不如行万里路. Perhaps that is why it’s not difficult to convince the parents of school children to pay thousands of dollars for their school excursions to places like Japan and Hongkong. What do they learn on such trips? Go figure. But schools and other youth organisations are also capable of organising the more “meaningful” trips.
My friend Mr Lim once spotted a group of secondary school students at the airport. After speaking to their teachers, he learned that they were on their way to Cambodia to build houses in impoverished villages. Impressive? Well, Mr Lim remarked on Facebook that the total cost of the Singaporean group’s airfares and accommodation in Cambodia was probably sufficient to finance the construction of houses that the Cambodians could have built with far greater skill and efficiency. In a land of KPIs and ROIs, it’s curious that nobody pays much attention to the benefits that students can derive from such school trips.
Given the way our schools are run, it’s not surprising that they are not being able to organise trips that can truly help students learn from their travels. Our school system rewards the truly gifted and the less-gifted, tuition-crazy workaholics. It mercilessly destroys the self-esteem of those who are creative, easily bored or afflicted by some learning disability (but who are otherwise brilliant). I have elaborated on all that in a post in Dewdrop Notes. Like I’ve mentioned in that blog, travel is an important part of detoxing a student from the process of schooling. While schools do try to teach by bringing kids into foreign lands, they do not engage in the process of unschooling.
At the age of 14, Blake Boles, author of Better Than College: How to Build a Successful Life Without a Four-Year Degree travelled to Chile with a high school group for a month-long summer homestay. That was his first major trip out of America and he was quickly plunged into the deep end, struggling to understand and to make himself understood in Spanish. Boles survived through trial and error and learned some very important life lessons. Today, he runs Unschool Adventures, the travel company for self-directed young adults and is the founder of Zero Tuition College.
From March 2014, I’ll be embarking on old journeys with a new quest – to formulate a revolutionary method to teach my kids and restore their self-esteem even though they will never thrive in a conventional Singaporean school system. Fortunately or unfortunately, nobody can claim to be an expert in this field yet. Come learn with me.
© Chan Joon Yee