In a recent opinion article in Education Week, Shuhan Wang and Joy Peyton of the Chinese Early Language and Immersion Network discuss the benefits and challenges of study abroad for students at the primary and secondary level. Study abroad opportunities for these students have been increasing, with schools across the country setting up programs, including in DC, Denver, Minnesota, and the West Coast. The article describes many benefits of these programs, including enhanced language learning, development of student confidence and independence, cultural enrichment, and the introduction of a global perspective. They also mention the benefit of developing “a number of skills needed by global citizens…” I think that this might be one of the greatest benefits for students at this young age. As Nel Noddings writes in her intro to Educating Citizens for Global Awareness, the term “citizen” is often “used synonymously with inhabitant, as in ‘the deer is a citizen of the forest.’” Perhaps sending students to study abroad at a young age, before they have the chance to develop this inhabitant-centric definition of citizen or a strong sense of nationalism, they will be able to better embody global citizenship than others who don’t study abroad until later in life. I think assessment on how the age of study abroad participants affects their sense of global citizenship would be a crucial advance in the field of international education.
Wang and Peyton also lay out several challenges for study abroad programs for younger students. Among these is the universal barrier of cost, however there are several that are more specific to younger students. With this demographic, as there will likely be parent chaperones in addition to teachers/staff, it is important to carefully manage the involvement and participation of these two groups so that their roles and responsibilities are clear. Additionally, with children of this age group, health and safety can be more of a concern, so teachers must have fully developed guidelines and contingency plans to prevent any incidents. Their last concern is that younger students will need more preparation and orientation for a trip like this. They are less likely to have left the country before this, which may result in more acute culture shock, in addition with less prior knowledge of how to properly behave while abroad. It is here where I could see potential pushback against study abroad programs for young students. In her publication “Grappling with internationalisation of the curriculum at the secondary school level: Issues and tensions for educators”, Libby Tudball shows that while teachers agree that it is important to incorporate internationalization into the curriculum, tensions can arise when the curriculum becomes too crowded. I worry that with these study abroad programs, the intense preparation could create an over-crowded curriculum that would result in teachers and administrators either deciding to cut the study abroad programs, or send students on them without the proper amount of preparation, which could be just as harmful as not sending them at all. If study abroad is to be properly incorporated to the curriculum of young students, these issues must be addressed.
Noddings, Nel. 2005. Global Citizenship: Promises and Problems. In N. Noddings (Ed.), Educating Citizens for Global Awareness (pp. 1-21). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Tudball, Libby. (2005). Grappling with internationalisation of the curriculum at the secondary school level: Issues and tensions for educators. Australian Journal of Education. 49 (1). 10-27.
Wang, Shuhan & Joy Peyton. (2015, June 4). Study Abroad for Younger Students: Benefits, Challenges, and Solutions. Education Week. Retrieved from: http://blogs.edweek.org/
edweek/global_learning/2015/ 06/study_abroad_for_younger_ students_benefits_challenges_ and_solutions.html