Schools

Learning to value differences

Australian students and teachers at the Adhyapana School   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Just a week’s interaction with a group of Australian students and teachers on their campus and the Adhyapana School students are excited about making their experiences last life long.

“While we exchanged notes on what and how their teachers teach and students learn at primary, middle and high school levels, at the end it was more about connecting and building relationships,” says Aruna M Visvessvar, the School founder and senior Principal.

Having international students on campus lends a unique perspective to teaching and learning as the group of 20 students and eight teachers from three schools in Melbourne and the batch of Adhyapana students reaffirmed.

Class XI student and the Interact Club president of his school Shanmugam is now dreaming of pursuing a course in commerce in University of Melbourne. Likewise his counterpart, Braydon, an eleventh grader at Monterey Secondary College who too is an Interact Club member, is not only inspired to return to India but also go trekking in the Himalayas. “It is the people-to-people connection here that impressed me the most,” he says. Back home, we are so clued on to our gadgets that we become loners, he adds.

His school mate Tazmin from class IX quips, “we take our mobiles, ipads, laptops to our classrooms and keep doing our own things based on our aptitudes.” “Here I was amazed at the discipline of the students, how they greet their teachers and how well everybody works together,” she observes. The classrooms are much smaller here but the hearts of the people very big, adds Braydon. On the last day of their visit the students were all excited signing autographs for each other. “We felt like celebrities and are overwhelmed by the reception and treatment we got,” says Alle.

Even for the accompanying Aussie teachers the experience was more about cultural awareness and investment than focussing only on academics. “We live in an increasingly cross-cultural world and such exchange programmes bring a unique perspective,” says Richard Kornfizd from Mahogany Rise Primary School. The confidence and wonderful aspirations of the students here left the teacher’s team impressed. “I found the students very friendly, respectful and inquisitive,” remarks Rob Sale from the Monterey.

The team packed in as much they could during their short stay. From attending the daily school assembly to sitting in classrooms, they also went sight-seeing, visited a special school, shopped and attended Rotary meeting, wore traditional Indian dresses and ate Indian food.

“On day one, we prepared bland food and they kept asking for spices because they had heard so much about hot and spicy Indian food. By the end of the trip everybody had mastered the art of eating with hands and fell in love with crispy dosas,” says Aruna, who hosted four of them in her house. All the members were put up with local families to learn more about Indian culture. “Each time a student interacted and raised a question to clear his/her doubt, it improved the critical thinking ability of that child,” points out Pam Thuan, a speech therapist. Both sides felt communication hurdles were overcome with ease and the children mingled freely for knowledge exchange.

“They are much more aware of each other’s country now and understand the cultural differences that differentiate us and the values and humanity that unite us,” says Kathie Arnold, Principal Aldercourt Primary School. Having international students on campus benefits both the domestic students and those who travel. Eventually, says Anne Linton, the Monterey Coordinator, these students make our universities and societies places of richness and scholarship.

It was Aruna’s idea to set the ball rolling for this exchange programme through a common friend. She and a group of teachers accompanied 30 Adhyapana students for a 10-day trip to Melbourne last September. “The pay-off extends far beyond than what we think,” she says and believes every student needs to have a meaningful cross-cultural exchange during their education. To be able to interact, learn and live with someone different is the goal and meaning of real education. It is a norm and the future. And the young students of the two countries lived up to it on their respective visits.

There were surprises too which were easy to laugh off. “Where we stayed in Melbourne, there were no latches in the bathroom doors and we were also shocked to learn that we are not supposed to wet the bathroom,” recalls Shanmugam. Little Tegan and Ellenois, both class IV students, were bemused with everybody staring at them wherever they went and whatever they did here but they showed they were capable of conducting themselves. “International exchange programme helps you in every aspect of life. It makes us responsible,” says their senior Stephanie from class XI.

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Printable version | Apr 14, 2021 4:12:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/schools/international-exchange-programmes-work-out-in-the-best-interest-of-students/article19415475.ece

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