Let private firms have a slice of outdoor education pie

Plans have been made to provide outdoor adventure education to more students ("OBS camp for all Sec 3 students from 2020"; last Saturday).

The Outdoor Learning and Adventure Education Association represents the interests of the private outdoor adventure education (OAE) industry in Singapore.

This industry is about 20 years old, employs about 3,000 people and sees some 400,000 students a year.

The value of the industry is estimated at $50 million a year.

We are concerned that the new developments will significantly impact the industry in the areas of reduced participant numbers, staff being laid off, and accessibility to potential activity locations.

The industry faces a highly uneven playing field because of the enormous resources available to the Education Ministry and Outward Bound Singapore.

In his Budget 2016 speech, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said: "We will deepen partnerships between Government and the industry, and among industry players to identify challenges, and develop solutions to support transformation."

We have difficulty seeing how Mr Heng's statement jibes with the developments announced.

Nevertheless, we realise that, like others, the OAE industry must innovate and be flexible as the industry transforms.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam has previously said that home-grown small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will be at the heart of the economy as Singapore restructures, and that there should be a vibrant SME sector.

We will seek to engage with the relevant government agencies so as to derive a clearer picture for the future of the OAE industry as well as support for SMEs to be at the heart of the economy in the area of OAE.

Lye Yen Kai

President

Outdoor Learning and Adventure Education Association

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2016, with the headline 'Let private firms have a slice of outdoor education pie'. Print Edition | Subscribe