School trips only when needed, says CBSE

October 30, 2014

School students can say goodbye to fun trips to the beach, hill stations or even Nasa and Disneyland that have for long masqueraded as study trips. The Central Board of Secondary Education has asked principals to ensure that tours are organised on a need-only basis and only if it is relevant to the course curriculum. A circular from the board to the principals of all affiliated schools across the country also listed safety guidelines for study tours. "The head of the institution should ensure that the tour undertaken is required for the benefit of students and is related to the curriculum of the course in which such students are enrolled," said the first of 11 instructions on the circular. Sources said tragedies, like the Beas river one in June in which 24 engineering students from Hyderabad were washed away after authorities released water from a reservoir without knowing that students were visiting the place, made CBSE officials feel the need to issue instructions to educational institutions. One of the other important instructions to schools is to ensure that the district magistrate or other authorities concerned are informed in advance about tours taken to public places like dam sites, power plants and beaches. Sources said board officials are also worried about the subtle discrimination that arises from the selective nature of foreign trips, which only few students' families can afford. Other safety measures include keeping parents or guardians in the loop about the visa procedures and travel itinerary, getting a no objection letter signed by them, having a senior teacher accompany the group and a lady teacher if there are girls in the group, apart from taking travel and health insurance. The circular also instructs schools to hire a local tour operator aware of the conditions, ensure that teachers stay abreast of news such as the safety situation and infectious disease alerts and swear in an undertaking to help students in case of an emergency. Academics said the threat of parents taking schools to court made them unwilling to take students on trips. Many schools have stopped taking schoolchildren on field trips or picnics so as to not be held accountable for any eventuality. Educational consultant K R Maalathi said this trend was worrying. "Schools don't want to take any risk these days. Tours give children an opportunity to understand the world better. If they are not given such exposure they will continue to remain tied to their mother's apron strings," she said. "There is no need to stop trips. One only needs to take precautions." P Vishnucharan, correspondent of Shree Niketan Patasala School, said it was unfortunate that while the board encourages schools to go beyond the textbook it is now clamping down on field trips. "There is no doubt that safety is of utmost importance. But we should not have to restrict tours based on their relevance to the curriculum," he said.

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