If you are considering broadening your child's secondary school experience, what better way than through a student exchange? Student exchange programs allow your child to experience part of their education in another country, whether this is over a single term, a semester or even a full year.
Some schools have formal arrangements in place for their students to complete an exchange, but another option is to organise your child's exchange through an independent exchange organisation. Some independent exchange companies include World Exchange Program Australia, AFS Australia, Rotary Youth Exchange and Student Exchange Australia New Zealand.
You should discuss the costs of exchange programs and the countries from which your child can choose with individual schools and organisations, as they can vary greatly. You may also find that some programs stipulate a minimum age for exchange students, so it's important to look into this at the start of your research process.
What are the benefits?
Your child has the chance to experience a new way of life and, depending on their choice of country, learn a new language or improve their skills in the foreign language they are already studying at school. This is a great option for students who want to use their language skills before commencing their senior secondary certificate and can give them an advantage over their peers. They will also have the opportunity to make new connections with their host family, friends at school and teachers with whom they are likely to remain in contact for years to come.
New education style
They will experience learning in a different education system, which will expose them to a different style of teaching and learning to what they are used to in Australia, and perhaps a different assessment style. They may also be able to undertake classes that are not available at their school or those that teach a subject in a different context, such as American history if they are studying in the United States.
Although the basis of student exchange is to provide an educational experience, your child will have the opportunity to see the sights of their exchange country with their host family during their stay. Although independent travel is generally not allowed during exchange programs, it's worth investigating whether your child will be able to join any tours or trips to neighbouring countries over semester breaks if they are studying for a longer period.
Your child will become more independent and will learn a variety of life skills while they are away from home. Although they will be staying with a host family or boarding at a host school and won't lose too many of the creature comforts they're used to, they will learn to think more independently and develop their problem-solving skills.
What are the alternatives?
If student exchange is not an option, it's worth looking into other programs and international experiences on offer at your child's school. Popular options include language tours (which usually involve a short period of intensive language study in the relevant country) and short cultural experiences at an overseas campus or partner school. There are also a range of co-curricular program organised by schools that aim to broaden the secondary school experience. See Secondary school experiences beyond the classroom for more informaiton.
Another option is for your child to complete a gap year overseas at the conclusion of their Year 12 studies. See The benefits of a gap year for your child for more information.
Your state or territory's education department website will provide a list of organisations approved to provide student exchange programs and will also offer tips for finding the right program.