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Tallinn school restricts trips abroad for primary school pupils

The Eiffel Tower in Paris.
The Eiffel Tower in Paris. Source: GERARD JULIEN / AFP/Scanpix

The Tallinn Gustav Adolf High School (GAG) has resolved to organize all future class trips for primary school pupils in Estonia only in order to maximize the time of class teachers and ensure that all students have the opportunity to participate.

This week, the Director of the GAG, Henrik Salum, sent a letter to the parents of primary school students informing them that it has been decided, in collaboration with the school administration and the class teachers, to coordinate class trips only within Estonia. The traditional eighth-grade French study excursion to France and other Erasmus+ exchange initiatives are the only exceptions.

Salum explained to ERR that the decision was based on two factors. First, the workload of classroom instructors.

"The workload of classroom teachers is increasing, but their pay does not appear to increase. This has been a concern for classroom teachers, who in primary schools might not always want to assume responsibility for students on abroad field trips," he said.

The second reason is parental concern; some parents have contacted the school because they believe the excursions are too costly.

"A trip abroad is expensive, but how do you explain to a child that he or she cannot go? We are attempting to ensure that all pupils can participate in a class event," he said.

Salum said that upper secondary classes travel abroad quite often, but "in primary school, trips abroad have been rather the exception."

The fact that slightly more than half of the class has previously participated in class excursions raises the question of whether or not this is a class trip. Parents who are not experiencing financial hardship frequently take the initiative to propose a trip abroad. According to Salum, their desire to diversify their children's educational opportunities is understandable.

"But there will always be parents, particularly in these more difficult economic times, for whom it is a tremendous effort for their child to be able to participate or who are forced to forego participation for entirely financial reasons," he said.

A Swedish cruise may not cost more than a journey to Saaremaa in Estonia

Ene Tannberg, the principal of Tartu Miina Härma High School (MHG), said that their primary school students typically go on field trips in the spring, and that they also travel abroad, but only to neighboring countries; there are no large, costly trips to further away countries. Nor has there been a need to restrict travel.

"Cruises to Sweden have been very popular, as have trips to the Jurmala water park in Latvia, but not on a large scale, rather individual visits," she said.

Furthermore, in the spring, a German teacher took her pupils to Austria, and now a physics teacher is organizing a field trip to CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva, for students with a specific interest.

"These are excursions in which students must pay a participation fee. At the same time, these boat journeys to Sweden or Finland have not been overly costly when compared to, say, a few days on the Estonian islands, which would be in the same price range," Tannberg said, adding that Swedish cruises can be even cheaper for students.

The headmaster of the Tallinn French Lyceum, Peeter Pedak, said that his institution has also discussed foreign trips, but more from the perspective of who should organize them. It is something that teachers do in their spare time. "It is not the teacher's responsibility, so we also need the parents' assistance to organize it," he said.

Pedak said that travel is an integral part of education and socialization, but travel arrangements are not part of the curriculum and therefore cannot be regulated by schools.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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