Sep 16, 2014

Visiting Schools while traveling

There are many places where students go to school six days a week
including the school I visited near Siem Reap, Cambodia. Interestingly they only have classes five of the days.  On Thursdays they clean the school and work in the garden where they grow food that is used for their lunch. When I entered the fourth grade classroom all the students stood up.  After greeting them I said that they could be seated. My guide said, “No, they must stay standing as a sign of respect to their guests.”  Oh, my, I can talk for a long time.  I noticed they had their math books open to a page of problems similar to what I saw when I visited a school near my house.  

I do school programs in the United States and in many of the countries we visit.  Visiting schools is a great way for me to meet the local people and learn about their customs.  What we learn in foreign countries we then share via presentations here in the United States.  Some schools are very modern such as International Schools but in most countries there is a wide diversity in the quality of education.  I was surprised when I visited an
International School in Yangon, Myanmar.  The students were dropped off by their parents in new cars just like here in the United States.  In most international schools all subjects are taught in English. There were familiar signs in the school such as “Don’t run in the halls” and the school was decorated for Valentine’s Day.  
We also visited schools in the remote part of Myanmar where the one classroom was made of bamboo with three walls.  Most of the students wore the traditional longyis, a waist-to-ankle wraparound “skirt.”  The girls’ longyis were more colorful than the boys. I noticed one boy had on blue jeans.  He must have thought he was stylish in his Western-like outfit but the truth is that the longyi is better suited to hot, humid Myanmar. 

In many Asian schools we have visited English is being taught.  In some the more remote schools the teachers had an extremely limited command of English but taught the words they knew so we would do an impromptu English lesson.  Tourism plays an important part in the economy of many countries and the language of tourism and business is English so those with a command of English have the opportunity to get a decent job. 

Some things that are the same world over: All students have to sit in
their seat, listen to the teacher, do their work, and afterschool they like to play with their friends.  Schools around the world are interesting in their differences. In a city school in Laos the students stood in line by grades in the yard for morning announcements made by the principal on a megaphone.  At the end she mentioned all the students who had not been doing their work. Many of the remote schools, especially those in Buddhist monasteries, know that visitors will leave a donation that is much needed. Buddhist schools are free and often offer the best education in some areas.

One school we visited in China was for students who went to Chinese schools during the day but in the evenings they attend English language schools. There were one thousand students just in this one location.