Thursday, November 27, 2008

Making money on field trips

Above: The Rube Goldberg-like Digestive System Exhibit at the PSC

The problem with “educational” field trips is that they’ve become excuses for the students and teachers (mostly teachers) to go sightseeing. What is supposed to be an enhancement of the educational process becomes an excursion, a break from the monotony of the classroom. And while that, indeed, is a perk, a lot of them forget that they need to teach the kids first before they hie off to watch “Eat Bulaga.”

With this “pasyal” mentality what suffers is the time allotted per leg of the tour. The school focuses on the number of places they can hit in a single day more than the quality of the visits to those places. Instead of visiting, say, a zoo in the morning and the Science Centrum after lunch, the tours end up passing through two museums, a zoo, a park, and a TV show. The kids barely experience, much less learn, anything.

This checklist mentality has a lot to do with how these tours are organized. Unlike the good old days when the teachers themselves would plan the outings, field trips today are organized by tour operators who handle everything, from reservations to transportation.

This means the more they cram into the tour, the more they can charge. The teachers, in turn, get larger commissions from the tour organizer while the parents are under the impression that they are getting their money’s worth because the buses are air-conditioned and their kids get to see so many places in one day.

Everyone ends up kidding themselves and compromising the kids’ education.

During our Science Centrum tour, Executive Director May Pagsinohin lamented that their facility’s PhP90 entrance fee, instead of encouraging visits, becomes a turn-off for tour operators, who receive only a PhP20 rebate. Odd but true.

But even for those who do get to visit the Science Centrum, rushing them through the exhibits misses the point. The science museum was designed to be interactive, meaning the kids have to fool around with the exhibits to get something out of them. Being told what the paired parabolic dishes do won’t stick in their heads as much as actually conversing with someone on the other side while the Rube Goldberg digestive system demo won’t be worth much if there are no teachers around to explain the process*.

Ideally an educational field trip should allow enough time for teachers to process the information for the kids. A tour guide (if one is present) imparts only the information that the facility’s planners intend. The teacher should be around to relate what the guide is saying to their actual lesson.

This means visiting only two, at most three, places, with enough time at each stop for the classes to sit down and discuss what they saw.

The problem is not with the tour operators; they’re only doing their jobs. The problem is with the teachers and school administrators who authorize these trips without evaluating their worth.

* Kids (like my 29 year old brother) might conclude “eating metal balls = not good,” which is valid, but misses the point of the contraption.


Anonymous said...

So I guess nothing changed much in the new Science Centrum?

missingpoints said...

It's a bigger space with more exhibits.