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China: MoE issues guide for overseas study tours

China’s Ministry of Education has released new guidelines for primary and secondary school overseas study tours after Chinese parents have voiced concerns that the safety of students is being overlooked. The trips have also gained a reputation of providing too much sightseeing and not enough studying the ministry has said.

Educational activities should occupy at least half the itinerary for overseas trips for Chinese primary and secondary school students

"Some tours visit more shopping outlets than schools”

“Short-term overseas study trips during students’ holidays have become a booming business in recent years,” the guidelines state. However, they concede that “problems frequently plague these trips due to inadequate management and supervision.”

In the guidelines, the ministry specifies that overseas trips for primary and secondary school pupils should now be in line with their curriculum and have “clear and rewarding educational goals as well as a tight and proper study schedule.”

“Problems frequently plague these trips due to inadequate management and supervision”

Educational courses and activities should occupy at least 50% of the itinerary for study-themed overseas trips and each excursion should include a maximum of two countries, with visits to four cities within that country.

Primary school students should travel for a maximum of three weeks and secondary school students no more than six.

Venice Yun from IDP Education‘s China office told The PIE News that the reputation in China of some of the tours over the last few years had been negatively perceived.

“It has been reported in China that these trips are often more like a shopping tour than a study tour,” he said. “Some tours visit more shopping outlets than schools.”

While IDP Education in China won’t be affected by the guidelines, it is viewing the ministry’s effort to clean up the sector positively.

“The market players will be reshuffled and we look forward to seeing a more mature and healthy study tour industry in China,” Yun said adding that “it will be great to have such a guide to manage the market, to get the industry back on track, and to get it into a safety mode.”

The government has also recommended that there should be at least one teacher for every ten students on a trip, and back-up emergency plans should be mapped out prior to travelling. Organisers should also keep in contact with students’ parents on a regular basis.

The role of external providers and overseas schools is also addressed as study tours are often co-run by schools, travel agents, educational agents, training groups or other external providers making it difficult to determine which party is responsible when it comes to safety and legal issues.

“All these market players make the industry even more complicated, chaotic and full of risks,” commented Yun.

The guidelines note that background checks should be done on all parties and staff from the participating schools must not gain profit from organising any overseas activities.

“All these market players make the industry even more complicated, chaotic and full of risks”

China’s largest education consultancy group, New Oriental, which has a core market of primary and secondary school students, told The PIE News it is currently reviewing the announcement.

“We are always considering the safety and well-being of our students,” a spokesperson said.

Introduced on a trial basis, the guide is the first move by the ministry to improve the quality of the trips and reduce risks. At the moment schools  and international exchange institutes are urged to follow the recommendations but legal policy could follow in the future.

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