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Sushi lessons in time-tables
Mukund Moradia, 17, is waiting for his dream chance to visit Italy. He can rattle of the names of heritage sites in Italy. "There are 47, the largest number in the world;India has just 29", he says. He has taken online tours of its famous piazzas and palaces and is in awe of Italian cinema. "Their films have won the maximum number of Oscars in the foreign film category. Italians started a new trend in world cinema, " he says. His interest in Italy wasn't spiked by Bollywood song sequences but a school quiz competition.
When Moradia was studying in Bal Bharti Public School in suburban Noida, he participated in QuizItalia - a yearly quiz organised in schools and colleges by the cultural section of Italian embassy along with other partners. The winner gets a free trip to Italy. Moradia has been participating in this quiz every year since 2010.
Understanding foreign cultures is now a big part of the broader syllabus in schools these days. Such events are, in fact, is part of curriculum at Cambridge Primary School in south Delhi. The school chooses a country from each continent and then organises a day named after that country. For example, last year the school celebrated Japan Day. Whenstudents were asked what comes to their mind when they think 'Japan', most replied 'Suzuki'. In order to improve their understanding of the country, teachers prepared audio-visual presentation on typical Japanese values - self discipline, for example.
Using audio-visual cues, teachers narrated admirable stories of resilience that emerged from Japan after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami there. Later, they were asked to research on specifics, like the history of samurais. To make the learning more authentic, a Japanese expat couple was invited to talk about their country. The duo even gave an impromptu sushi-making demo.
"Such events make children more tolerant. They should learn not to laugh at or ridicule people they are not familiar with. Also, I feel that as a people Indians are arrogant about their culture, to the point that they don't respect others. These events should give them another perspective, " says Anu Behl Roy, headmistress of Cambridge Primary School.
Eloquenza, an events firm based in Delhi, organises and hosts events, like QuizItalia, that promote a deeper understanding of Italian culture and language. In 2011 it organised QuizItalia in over 2, 300 schools with sponsorship from well-known Italian brands. This year it is being organised in schools and colleges across eight cities in India with a live demo from well-known chefs. "I am glad schools are focussing on such activities. Today, travelling abroad is so common and students have easy access to a gamut of information. Such activities have become a medium for motivating the students to learn about other countries in a fun way, " says Nina Saxena who along with Seema Chari founded Eloquenza. The cultural wings of various diplomatic missions in India are only too happy to push the cause. In April and May this year students from Delhi Public School, Rohini and Amity International School were invited to take tours of the library at the Japan Foundation. The idea was to familiarise students with library resources and its Manga Cafe. In July the embassy celebrated Tanabata festival in different schools. During its celebration people write their wishes on pieces of paper and tie them branches on bamboo trees in the hope that they come true.
The Italian Cultural Centre in Delhi regularly organises 'Italy Weeks' in different schools. Dr Angela Trezza, director feels the collaborations with schools boost tourism to Italy. "Earlier, most Indians would travel to the UK but now many are headed to Italy too. Talking about our fashion, cars, cinema and food to students helps us create more awareness. "
The French embassy organises annual French Olympiads, a competitive exam on general knowledge of French culture and civilisation. For this year's edition, so far 95 schools have registered with more than 10, 000 students who will compete for various prizes that include trips to France.
S Bolar, principal of Innisfree House School in Bangalore, says, "We try to give our students as much international exposure as possible. " For the past two years the school has been inviting speakers - international visitors to the city as well as expats - to talk about their land and way of life. The school has hosted talks on China, the US, the UK, Saudi Arabia and even Finland. If it helps them get around easily next summer around south of France or the Bavarian countryside, the effort pays off. Study local, learn global seems to be the new mantra.
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