Travel Comment
Ponderings on all aspects of travel - both at home and abroad.

A different kind of education


It's been a narrow escape apparently... If my kids had been a bit younger I could well have been contemplating prosecution for being an irresponsible parent and taking them out of school to travel overseas.

According to a recent news story, the Ministry of Education is asking schools to considering prosecuting and fining such parents.

There's no mention of retrospective action so I will now confess I've travelled overseas with my kids during school times on three occasions. (So I can't claim a one-off rush of blood to the head - clearly I'm a hardened criminal.)

To be honest, if they were still at school, I'd do it again as long as it was me not them who would wear the consequences.

Before I explain why, I should point out I am not anti formal education in any way and have huge respect for most of our teachers.

But, I am also firmly convinced that overseas travel is an incredibly enriching experience for kids and their parents who are privileged enough to be able to do it.

One reason I was able to manage it was to travel outside peak season which meant taking flights outside the school holiday seasons. By restricting overseas travel to those holidays schools may be effectively making it even more out of reach than it already is to most families.

Then too there is an issue of parents getting leave, something teachers and government ministers do not have to take into account when they want to go overseas.

In most of today's lean and mean workforces, trying to get leave during school holidays can be more of a challenge than getting a pay rise.

I can sympathise with education authorities concerned that schooling is being disrupted because kids are being jetted to the Gold Coast to be hurtled down the Tower of Terror or to spend a week with the other snow bunnies on Coronet Peak.

But I will argue to the bitter end that travel to a foreign country and exposure to other cultures, languages and religions is invaluable and can only help produce a better education and more informed child.

We are so isolated and insulated here in New Zealand - almost all of us lead privileged lives relative to most of the world's populations. It is not until our children come face to face with this reality that they realise this.

Even the very process of overseas travel builds up self-esteem and confidence in children.

I watched impressed a few years ago as my two teenagers independently made their way through security and immigration ahead of me, then sailed off to do their foreign exchange transactions on arrival in Hong Kong.

A few hours later they were flying solo again, this time negotiating their way through their first bargaining session in the city's night markets.

When they hit Paris a few days later they were confident enough to shop for Le Picnic while I sat in a small park and watched them progressing from bakery to delicatessen to fruiter. All that and we were yet to hit the Louvre or Notre Dame.

So here's an idea if we're gong to start to fine parents - let's put the money in a fund so that every teenager without the financial means to do so themselves, can be sent overseas for even a week before they leave school. Do that and I might even retrospectively pay up for my past travelling sins.

- Jill Worrall

Pictured above: Hong Kong's Ladies Market. Photo / Supplied

* Jill Worrall is heading back overseas next week and will keep readers up-to-date on her travel adventures through her Escapism blog.

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