Are exchange programmes beneficial to learning?

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2007, 12:00am

Benjamin Siu, 16

St Joseph's College

Yes, definitely. After being stuck in a small secondary school for several years, students need a new experience somewhere else.

Some simply change schools, but this is impractical for most students.

So what can they possibly do? Is there a way to make new friends in a different environment?

The answer lies in exchange programmes, in which schools host overseas students for up to a year.

Such programmes benefit teenagers in many ways.

Each school has its own history and traditions, which can be an eye-opening experience for students from another country.

Exchange students can make new friends and learn to be independent.

They also learn to appreciate other cultures and live in harmony with others.

These skills cannot be acquired from textbooks.

Exchange programmes also help students from single-sex schools interact with members of the opposite sex.

Exchange programmes are becoming increasingly common in universities as well as secondary schools around the world.

School administrators have recognised the need for students to broaden their horizons by reaching out to their counterparts in other countries.

Exchange programmes are the best way to do this.

Jocelyn Heng, 15

Maryknoll Convent School

No. Exchange programmes may be a fun and enriching experience, but they are not necessarily beneficial to learning.

Since they usually last for a short time, students cannot truly learn from the experience.

With new classmates, new subjects and a new school campus, it would be unrealistic to expect students not to have problems.

Exchange programmes might give students a better understanding of foreign cultures, but a mere few weeks abroad are unlikely to bring about a dramatic change in the participants.

Many exchange students try to show that they have quickly adjusted to their new surroundings when they haven't.

They are aware of people's expectations so they might quickly adopt their hosts' ideals, which could create a barrier to effective learning.

On the other hand, host institutions might try to present a conventional picture of school life instead of offering overseas students a taste of their unique curriculum.

Exchange programmes may be a great way to make new friends, but they don't contribute much to students' learning experience.