When I was a kid, we went to Canberra on a school excursion. We explored the Australian War Memorial, we ogled the Carillion, we slept in cheap hotel rooms at night … it was AWESOME. At least, I thought it was, until I heard that year 5 and 6 students at Lindfield Primary School in Sydney went to the US Space and Rocket Center in Alabama to allow them "to go beyond the school curriculum and develop scientific skills related to space, as well as a personal skill set associated with experiental learning".
Hello? Has the world gone mad?
The price tag for each student was $5000. Imagine adding that to your term account?
I can't. If anyone is going on a $5000 holiday with my hard-earned cash it will be me.
And it's not just because I'm selfish. I don't believe children need to leave the country to be enriched. There's plenty of time for that sort of malarkey later in life. It's called "gap year" and it's paid for by your child getting a part-time job while they're studying at high school.
OK confession time: I've been burned by personal experience. I made the mistake of paying a kings' ransom for my kids – aged five and 8 – to enjoy some "experiental learning" in Europe two years ago. A dear friend had moved to Spain and I missed her desperately, so I packed up our whole family for a 24-hour flight to visit her new home.
We explored ruined castles, we ate paella at dusk on stony beaches, we dodged sparks at fireworks-filled street fiestas. It sounds magical – and it was – but you know what? The bit the kids enjoyed most was swimming in the hotel pool. That's what they excitedly told everyone who asked them. They could have splashed in a friend's backyard pool for nothing and been just as satisfied.
I'd have also had a $10,000 lower mortgage.
I'm not sure how I'll handle it when the kids get to high school. I went on a ski trip to Jindabyne in year 11, but teenagers these days fly everywhere from Italy to France, Japan, Indonesia, Israel and China.
And it's not just the ones at private schools. My neighbour tells me the ancient history students at our local high school go to Greece to explore ancient ruins. WTF?
Where does all the money come from? Apparently parents are expected to cough it up or fundraisers are held.
Call me old-fashioned, but I'd really prefer those fundraising efforts to go towards equipment for the schools or those in need in the local community. OK, I'd probably come at the school band getting the chance to perform in an international competition. But a plain old school excursion? No, I'm not buying that raffle ticket.
What do you think about international school excursions?