Meera Srinivasan

Student, teacher exchange programmes catching up

CHENNAI: At a time when the industry is emphasising the need for college students to acquire a global perspective, students are increasingly getting opportunities to cultivate one while in school itself. The trend of students and teachers participating in international events and exchange programmes is catching up in many city schools.

The Padma Seshadri group of schools, for instance, has been part of several exchange programmes over the years. Each trip has been very enriching and has offered interesting lessons, said correspondent Sheela Rajendra, who recently led a team of students of the school’s Nungambakkam branch to Italy.

Class XI students Yatin Agarwal, Namratha Venkatesh and Varsha Ramdevan, along with Ms.Rajendra, participated in the World Schools Forum held there. “Such programmes offer scope not just for educational exchange, but also for cultural and social exchange,” Ms. Rajendra said.

Differences and similarities

Students from over 20 countries took part in the event and made presentations on the theme ‘food safety and health’. Preserving the environment was central to most of the presentations made. “You may read extensively about a place or, maybe, see the place in films, but nothing like being there and experiencing it yourself. In that way, it was a very unique experience,” she added.

Students are able to see the differences as well as the similarities between them and their counterparts from other countries. “Each of us was put in a different team. We had team mates from other countries. It was a really interesting and challenging experience to work with them for 12 days,” said Yatin, one of the team members. The teams also put up cultural shows depicting the flavour of their country.

Suja George, managing director, Alpha Group of Institutions, also thinks the programmes are immensely enriching.

The school, which is part of an exchange programme facilitated by the Singapore Government has had students from schools in Singapore visit them and their students going there.

“The children in high school have also had opportunities to collaborate in project work. This helps them see a common issue from different perspectives,” she said. This is what companies look for in candidates later.

CEO of the group S. Alfred Devaprasad, who recently visited the United States in a tour organised by the federal government visited several institutions there. “This trip has certainly broadened my perspective,” he said.

He observed that while most Indian schools were good at developing cognitive skills in children, they had more to learn from schools abroad in terms of developing lateral and creative thinking. “Another key difference is that they see vocational education as an integral part of mainstream education. Here, there is a distinction,” he noted.

From the ideas he picked up there, Mr. Devaprasad plans to implement the ‘Principal for a day’ concept practised there. “An industry expert spends a day at the school, say once in a month. He observes the day’s proceedings and at the end of the day, shares his opinion. The practice also aids better institution-industry networking,” he said.

Earlier this year, a team from Sri Sankara Senior Secondary School, Adyar, Asia Pacific Young Leaders Summit in Singapore and came back with a lot of learning.

Similarly, a team of students from the United Kingdom were in Chennai in August as part of the UK Prime Minister’s Global Fellowship programme. Facilitated by the British Council here, it had the visiting students attending classes at Lady Andal, Chettinad Vidyashram, Sindhi Model School, Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan (Nungambakkam and K.K .Nagar.)