Why studying at Dundee makes the world your oyster
A group of trainee teachers will return next week from six-week placements in far-flung locations such as Hong Kong and Sydney, as part of a new approach to teacher education at the University of Dundee.
The students are in the second year of the university's new honours degree in education, developed as a response to Graham Donaldson's 2011 report Teaching Scotland's Future, which recommended widening the experiences of student teachers and developing transferable skills.
Students now choose modules outside education in both their first and second years. They also take up work placements with employers such as museums, orphanages and sports projects.
Susan Buckman, a lecturer in education at the university, said the placement aimed to develop transferable skills and professionalism. She added that education did "not just take place in school any more", and that "primary teachers might not spend the rest of their time in a classroom".
The 53 students chose their own destinations, which were then signed off by the university. Seven students spent their time in Sri Lanka working in schools, orphanages or institutions for students with additional support needs, while another student went to Hong Kong to be involved in local community projects and sport.
April Hunter, 19, from Arbroath, is about to return from Australia, where she has travelled the country and taught Highland dancing in a number of schools. "I have been excited about this placement since I knew it was going to happen," she said.
She explained that aside from improving skills directly related to her future work in the classroom, the placement had also helped her on a personal level. "I really feel I have changed since I have been here," she said.
"I have realised I am capable and able to do things like this, just because this has gone so well. The experience has also made me realise that there is more out there, that there is more to life, and what is really important."
Other students chose to stay in Scotland, with many working for charities including Women's Aid, Maggie's Centre, Barnardo's and Guide Dogs UK. "Some students are working with homeless people. They are not travelling anywhere exotic but the experience they are getting is just as valuable," Ms Buckman said.
One student who chose a placement closer to home was 19-year-old Claire Duthie, who is about to complete six weeks of work with the Scottish Charity Air Ambulance service in Perth. She said she had been hesitant about the idea of the new placement to start with, because it meant it would be another year until she was back in school. She has, however, been won over by her experience at the charity, where she has carried out fundraising, as well as getting an overview of how the organisation works.
"It has definitely developed some of the skills for the classroom," she said. "My communication skills and my team-working skills have improved, and also my confidence has increased."
She had enjoyed her placement so much that she was planning to return in the summer to work for the charity again, she said.