Do more to promote benefits of outdoor activities

Joseph Schooling's Olympic triumph seems to have touched everyone in Singapore, and I truly hope our country can ride this wave and support the benefits of outdoor physical education ("Historic moment for Schooling, historic moment for Singapore"; Sunday).

Our education system has recently enriched the physical education (PE) curriculum with a stronger emphasis on outdoor education ("OBS camp for all Sec 3 students from 2020; April 9).

Students here spend most of their time studying academic subjects, both during and after school.

Parents are far more interested in sending their children for tuition and enrichment classes than in encouraging them to spend time outdoors.

Similarly, educators place more emphasis on academic than non-academic learning.

Most adults believe that better academic results can be achieved with more time and effort.

Likewise, more can also be accomplished if we invest more time and effort in our physical and outdoor learning. Research has shown, for example, that prolonged hiking in natural surroundings helps to nurture creativity. Regular exposure to nature may also improve our attention span, as well as enhance our physical and mental health.

It is important that we, as educators and parents, continue to promote outdoor activities such as hiking, and that our young people become more engaged with nature.

A useful start would be to increase the amount of quality time our youth spend outdoors or in physical activity, and to cut back slightly on the number of hours currently given to academic study.

After all, Schooling would not have been able to achieve his dreams if he and his parents had adhered rigidly to the conventional wisdom of devoting significantly less time to sport.

Carmen Leong Lai Yin (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2016, with the headline 'Do more to promote benefits of outdoor activities'. Print Edition | Subscribe