2.02 PM Sunday, 10 December 2023
  • City Fajr Shuruq Duhr Asr Magrib Isha
  • Dubai 05:31 06:49 12:14 15:11 17:33 18:52
10 December 2023

Forget the zoo, it's Timbuktu: Dubai school trips go global, parents debate 'extravagance'

Pupils of Lycée Français International Georges Pompidou Dubai on their Latin school trip to Italy (SUPPLIED)

By Majorie van Leijen
“In my son’s old school in Europe they used to have a 3 day camping trip that was included in the fees. Now he comes home with letters of trips to Africa, US, SE Asia that cost an arm and a leg. When he brings a letter home that states ‘your child has expressed an interest in going to Timbuktu’ I gasp at the price, then ask my son if he has saved up enough pocket money to be able to afford it,” jokes a mother on an online forum for expats in Dubai.

On the forum, parents express their astonishment over the extravagance of present-day school trips. “We have spent Dh19,000 for our 2 kids on their school trips this term alone,” writes another mother on the forum, and elsewhere a school trip to the Carribean is mentioned, priced Dh12,000 per pupil.

Aren’t these school trips a little too much, wonder parents of the teenage generation. Reminiscing their own high school days, they remember one-day excursions to a nearby city to be much of an event:

“Our trips were to local museums, parks, monuments etc - one long bus trip, 5 days across a country to see more monuments and museums. My folks really skimped to send me on that one. What is amazing is the fond memories I have of the down to earth simple times, there was more than enough time as I got older to enjoy and appreciate broader horizons,” recalls a forum member.

But times have changed and borders disappeared. School trips abroad are a usual part of the curriculum of most schools in the UAE. They are a contribution to the development of a child, find the organisers.

“Outdoor activities form a powerful learning tool. Students are put together in a different context, where they develop different learning skills. There is much more of a personal understanding of things,” explains Felicity Cross, Director of Marketing at Repton Dubai.

“At Repton, we organise a number of age appropriate trips each year in order to offer our pupils broader experiences. These are not mandatory and each year there are a range of trips to suit different parental budgets. Costs of fieldwork/subject related trips are kept to the minimum to enable as many pupils as possible to access them.”

For the year 2012-2013, some of the trips on the agenda are an American history trip to New York/Washington for 9 days: Dh14,000; an art trip to Paris for 6 days: Dh10,000 and a ski trip to Switzerland for 7 days: Dh10,000.

“Costs are directly related to the destinations and nature of the activities. I think it is good value for money, and we are always getting very good response from parents to our outdoor programs. We also have a huge take up for these activities,” says Felicity.

“The nature of school trips has certainly changed over the years. But the world has changed too. The world has become a much smaller place; we have become more mobile. I think these trips are reflecting our world and what is happening in our society.”

Pupils of Lycée Français International Georges Pompidou Dubai are spread across the globe this week in six different school trips, reaching out to Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland, Morocco and Jordan. “We had a 7th trip planned to Tunesia, but this trip was cancelled due to security reasons,” says Marie-Noëlle de Santerre, communication manager at a school. Not all grades are going every year, it depends on their school curricula and the proposition of the teachers. A child might go once or twice in his secondary studies.

“Our trips have an educational goal and are prepared by the teachers and the students a long time in advance. They always serve the subject that is taught by the teacher who prepares the trip. For example, pupils taking Latin classes are in Italy right now. My daughter is one of these pupils,” says Marie-Noëlle.

The trip to Italy is priced Dh6,000 for one week, and is all-inclusive. “I think this is a reasonable price. We always try to negotiate with travel agents to be able to offer the lowest price possible. Each trip needs to be approved, so I do not think any teacher would attempt to admit a much more expensive trip. If he would, this trip would probably be denied by the school board.

“In case a pupil is not able to go due to financial reasons we have a fund, supported by a board of parents, to help out financing the trip for this pupil. But I estimate 98 per cent of the pupils are able to go each year, and the trips are really appreciated,” adds Marie-Noëlle.

“My teen's trip this year cost us Dh10,000 and last year’s trip was around Dh1,300. Both the times he had fab times and we were pleased that he got such an amazing opportunity,” says a satisfied parent on the online forum where the topic was discussed.

“We live in a great location with access to all sorts of fantastic places... yes it's a lot of money to pay but worth every penny in our view - make the most of every opportunity, in our case we're only here for a few short years and our children are experiencing so much they wouldn't have had at their old schools back home.”