We have kept in touch with the former pupils, teachers, and the local popoulation in Pondichery (Southern India) ever since our first visit in 2012. The return visit by the pupils from the French school in Pondichery was cancelled after a change in manangement in Pondichery in 2013. Having no response from the new management, we have turned to Indian schools in Pondichery. Thanks to a local politician, Mr Predibane Siva, we have made contact with the Maruthi Higher Secondary School.
The exchange for 2014/2015 was for our Y13 'ES' students (Economics and social sciences), even if they had been working on it and thinking about it since Y12, particularly during tutorial time. This particular programme offers a different approach to the world and aims at awareness raising. The aim is not 'to fill the head but rather to fill the spirit'. You cannot make children learn, but you can 'teach them to love learning'.
The official bulletin of the French Department for Education provides a statement that is consistent with what we have undertaken in terms of Marist values:
'an understanding of the world and a civic education that enable pupils to become more responsible, to become more autonomous, and to develop their sense of initiative' (BO spécial n° 4 29/04/2010).
The exchange trip means learning in a different way, in a different place, and in a culture that is based on different codes. The student-teacher relationship is changed, and the work is on an interdisciplinary level. We move the locus of learning away from the classroom, and we enable the students to deal with the reality of globalisation. The links with several subjects are obvious:
For economics and social sciences, history, geography, earth and life sciences, philosophy: globalisation and its impact (in the geography syllabus: Mumbai, city of globalisation), sustainable development, the economic growth and dynamism of a country like India, the approach to religion and its diversity.
With regards languages: learning how to communicate in English, gaining confidence in a country where English is an official language but which is blessed with a great diversity of languages. The students soon realise that the Indians live with and speak a multitude of languages.
Beyond the trip itself they can bear witness to meetings and exchanges with a different culture and different religions.
'India is such a lively and active country. The people are so welcoming to foreigners, and for the most part they are open to discovering our culture. There were intense, emotional discussions. The landscapes are very pretty, so different from our very urban environment. The driving is impressive, sometimes incredible, and such fun. It's a trip that will remain forever in our memories.'