School trip to China - learn directly from an experienced Chinese teacher
By Paul Tyskerud, Confucius Classroom Manager, Dartford Grammar School
· Are you considering planning a school trip to China?
· Have you a programme in mind or are you looking for inspiration?
· Are you interested to know what the challenges are and how to overcome them?
For me as a teacher of Chinese in the UK, little can match the satisfaction that is felt when seeing a pupil’s face the first time they see the Great Wall, view the Bund at night or experience the beauty of a Suzhou garden. The time required to organise such a trip however can be enough to put any teacher off due to the difficulties of balancing a full teaching timetable with all of the planning that must be done. I thought therefore that for teachers considering taking up the challenge, it may be useful to share the experience of two Dartford Grammar School trips to China.
The itinerary at a glance…
19th October: 14:25 Depart London Gatwick North terminal.
20th October: 15:30 Arrive at Shanghai Pu Dong airport.
16:00 Transfer from airport to Shi Xi on Maglev and Shanghai subway system.
Welcome ceremony at Shi Xi High School and meet host partners.
Go home with host families.
21st October: Day trip to Suzhou, a beautiful water town near Shanghai.
Meet at Shi Xi High School at approximately
07:30, catch train at 08:30 from Shanghai train station.
Return to Shi Xi High School for 5pm.
Evening: pupils spend with host family.
22nd October: Pupils spend weekend with host family.
23rd October: Pupils spend weekend with host family.
24th October: Spend day in Shi Xi High School interacting with teachers and students – culture, geography and Mandarin based lessons and exchange.
Evening: Take overnight train to Beijing.
25th October: 08:00 Arrive Beijing train station. Transfer to hotel with ‘Dragon Trip’ guide.
Afternoon: Visit Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City.
Evening: Acrobatics show.
26th October: Morning (06:00): Flag raising Tiananmen Square, Chairman Mao’s mausoleum followed by dumplings in authentic hutong restaurant.
Morning (10:30): Travel to Great Wall for four hour hike along private part of the wall. Watch sunset over Great Wall.
Return to Beijing.
27th October: Morning & Afternoon: Birds Nest Stadium, Water Cube, local antique and electronics market.
Evening: spend around Beijing city lake.
28th October: Breakfast at hotel and coach transfer to Beijing airport.
07:25 Depart Beijing airport.
20:15 Arrive at London Heathrow terminal 3.
21:00 Transfer London Heathrow to DGS.
22:30 Arrive DGS.
History: The first Dartford Grammar School trip to China was in October 2010 when 16 pupils were accompanied by 3 teachers for ten days, split equally between Shanghai and Beijing. The second trip was in October 2011 with 26 pupils, again with 3 teachers.
Both trips departed during the Wednesday of the last week of October half-term, lasting 9-10 days, arriving back in the UK on the last Friday of half-term.
Partner School: Our school was partnered with Shanghai Shi Xi High School in 2008 after a British Council organised trip that our Head teacher attended. The focus of the relationship is a cross-curricular Mandarin and Geography exchange. Pupils of Mandarin focus mainly on language and cultural exchange and for Geographers with no Mandarin background, the focus is on joint projects designed to discuss and resolve global issues facing the future of young Chinese and British people.
Cost: £1,250/pupil (five equal payments of 250 over a five month period)
Shanghai: Our main focus in Shanghai is a pupil exchange. Our pupils spend four nights with their host families and two days on the weekend doing activities that are organised by the host family. At least one day (and sometimes two) is spent in the partner school doing joint projects focused on language exchange and Geography related discussions.
Suzhou: This location was a new addition to the 2011 trip. It was decided that Suzhou offers an interesting cultural contrast to bigger cities like Shanghai and Beijing. Additionally, from a geographical perspective, the town planning restrictions in the centre and development of the East and West business districts outside the historic city centre offer lots to discuss.
Beijing: Despite planning the Shanghai leg of the trip with the assistance of out partner school, we always require the assistance of a travel company to ensure that the time is most productively used in Beijing. This year, due to problems encountered using a Chinese tour company, we used a British-based travel company, ‘The Dragon Trip’, who now focus mainly on tailor-made school trips to China. Because the owner of the company is a British graduate of Mandarin and Economics, he planned an extremely authentic Beijing experience with careful thought about what British pupils should see in China and how they should experience the place and culture.
Challenges of organising a school trip to China:
Finding a reputable tour company – many China based tour companies will struggle to offer the financial and insurance assurances that are required by local education authorities in the UK.
Satisfying local authority requirements – aside from the above assurances, local education authorities further require health and safety checks for all activities and accommodation. This can be very difficult to obtain unless the tour company you use has done sufficient checks and had them authorised prior to departure.
Time to plan – the trip planning process begins around one year prior to departure. The most important first stage is advertising to prospective pupils early enough so that interested families have enough time to save the money. The next key stage, once sufficient funds have been collected, is to book flights as early as possible. Flight costs are by far the biggest expenditure for the trip and therefore booking them early is essential in keeping costs as low as possible.
Providing an authentic cultural experience – it is important that the tour company or partner school understand what you hope to achieve from the trip. Some tour companies may try to take you to buffet restaurants and tourist traps for commission. Neither of which enable pupils to have an authentic China experience. Such experiences should be minimised, or preferably completely avoided where possible.
The Dragon Trip's website is www.thedragontrip.com
Paul Tyskerud is happy to provide further information to teachers planning their first China trip and please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.