In today’s world, is there a mismatch between the institution of education and what society is demanding from graduates? Many businesses are seeking free-thinking entrepreneurs with new out-of-the-box ideas, yet if students all graduate with the same education and very little life experience, how can we expect them to be innovative?
The subject of travel as a form of experiential education is not new. For years parents have been taking children out of school to go traveling, arguing that actually seeing the Colosseum in Rome is much more educational than sitting in a classroom discussing it. Even Ken Robinson in his famous TED talk asks if education is killing creativity. This argument changes again when travel becomes long term or even indefinite.
“Education is what remains when one has forgotten what they have learned in school.” – Albert Einstein.
In the United Kingdom parents can be fined for removing their children from school for reasons of travel. Parents could be forced to pay up to £60 per day (approximately €75) while their children are not in school. While this is not the case in Austria, if global trends persist, it very well could be.
The argument for institutional learning vs. experimental learning has been going on for years. Montessori schools are a testament to this, and many Austrian schools are even experimenting with different class structures to better benefit students. So why then are schools fining people who wish to trial these methods themselves by allowing children to experience the world through travel?
Of course there are many reasons for implementing this policy, the main one being to combat truancy in schools. Monetary fines have been proven to be the main agent of change in many circumstances – look at smoking. Studies show that the most productive way to reduce the incidence of smoking is to increase the price of cigarettes.
It also must be tremendously difficult for teachers if children are not in attendance at school during critical teaching times. If parents do not enforce the children to do homework while they are out of school, the onus could be on the teacher to bring them back up to speed.
While these are exceptionally valid (and valuable) arguments it does not mean that other methods, such as education through travel, are wrong. They are just simply different and do not warrant such a fine.
One could argue that these fines limit the opportunities for families to travel and experience the world. By enforcing travel during school holidays, parents are forced to pay the exceptionally high travel prices charged during these peak periods. This is simply not feasible for some families.
Consideration must be given to expats as well due to the globalisation of love, discussed by Wendy Williams in her TEDx Vienna talk. What if the school holidays of their children in the country where they are living don’t match with the special events like weddings, births and family occasions in their home country? Should they be fined merely to maintain these ties and connections with home?
By fining people we are ensuring that all students turn out the same, with the same level of education and experience. How then should employers differentiate between graduates? Those who have had life experience through travel could either stand out or be excluded, depending on the point of view of the employer.
While society continues to perpetuate this US and THEM mentality, change will be slow to occur.
Photo credits: All images by Pixabay