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School excursions to Canberra as popular as ever, educational tourism leader says

Students walking into Parliament House
Many students get the opportunity to meet their local members when visiting Parliament House.

Supplied: NCETP

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A school excursion to Canberra is a rite of passage for many young Australians.

On average 160,000 students from around the country visit the capital each year, according to National Capital Educational Tourism Project (NCETP) leader Garry Watson.

"Most of the schools that visit this month will have booked well over 12 months ahead; sometimes we have bookings for three years ahead already," Mr Watson told ABC Radio Canberra's Adam Shirley.

Students visit many attractions including the Museum of Australian Democracy, Parliament House, the High Court and, of course, a highlight for many — Questacon.

Students laugh as they take part in a science experiment that explodes inside Questacon.
A highlight for many students includes visiting the National Science and Technology Centre, Questacon.

Supplied: Questacon

Students travel from as far as north as Darwin and from remote parts of Western Australia and will stay on average for three days and visit between 12 and 14 different attractions.

It is also not uncommon for students to return to the capital long after their school camps.

One ABC Radio Canberra listener Tim said he fell in love with the place after visiting on a school camp more than a decade ago.

"I made up my mind then that I would go to university in Canberra," he said.

Well-known politicians, too, have had similar experiences.

"John Howard also came down on a school excursion to Canberra and the War Memorial had a profound effect on him."

Students wearing white gloves and raising their hands in Old Parliament House.
The Museum of Australian Democracy is often on the itinerary for students visiting Canberra.

Supplied: Museum of Australian Democracy

Quality of excursions rank better than in the US

Mr Watson said he took pride knowing the quality of school excursions to Canberra was superior to those offered to students in the United States.

"They admit that the quality of the offering that we offer here in Canberra is a far higher order than theirs," he said.

Mr Watson said he was told this by the head of education for the Smithsonian Institution — the world's largest museum — when visiting Washington DC.

"If it's in America, that group of kids will be led by their classroom teacher.

"If it's in Australia, in Canberra, that group of kids will be led by a highly trained, really engaging presenter, educator or facilitator who knows the subject matter intimately."

Mr Watson added that school excursions were worth around $140 million to the ACT each year.

Young students taking photos of memorials at Anzac Parade
Buses full of students can often be seen around the War Memorial and Anzac Parade.

Supplied: NCETP