Expanded facilities on Coney Island will allow more to take part

Participants on a water raft they constructed at OBS' Pulau Ubin campus. OBS is looking into different ideas to fully utilise the potential of its campus on Coney Island and its location.
Participants on a water raft they constructed at OBS' Pulau Ubin campus. OBS is looking into different ideas to fully utilise the potential of its campus on Coney Island and its location.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

The current Inverse Tower at Outward Bound Singapore's (OBS) Pulau Ubin campus is meant to test one beyond his or her perceived limits, and inculcate teamwork.

But it can accommodate only eight teams of two people working together. New rope courses at the upcoming OBS @ Coney campus could allow up to six teams of eight people to participate together.

"Usually when we design some of these facilities, you have an average of two groups or three groups at one time. Our new facilities will be expanded, so that they can take up to six groups in the same area to utilise the space better. Critically, it will also provide challenges that are more team-oriented," said Mr Nicholas Conceicao, the executive director of OBS.

Such new facilities are among the many ideas that OBS is looking into, to fully utilise the potential of OBS @ Coney and its location.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said: "Coney is linked to mainland Singapore, so it's in a great position to launch both sea and land expeditions across Ubin, Coney and the mainland."

  • Outward Bound: How it evolved

  • Outward Bound was the brainchild of German educator Kurt Hahn.

    He had been recruited by Mr Lawrence Holt, owner of the Liverpool-based Blue Funnel Shipping Company, to design a training programme for young sailors, many of whom he noticed were not equipped to handle harsh physical conditions.

    The first Outward Bound course, which lasted 28 days, began on Oct 14, 1941. There are now about 40 Outward Bound schools in 33 countries.

    Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) was first suggested by Dr Goh Keng Swee in 1967, when he was Minister for Defence. He believed that a newly independent Singapore would require education, leadership and character training for young people.

    While OBS aimed to prepare young men for national service in 1970, it has evolved over the years to cater to students from upper secondary onwards.

    Around 14,000 enrol in OBS programmes a year, although the number is expected to increase to 45,000 with the new campus on Coney Island.

    Ng Keng Gene

One possible expedition could involve cycling and coastal paddling, allowing young people to explore waterways and park connectors as far away from Coney Island as East Coast Park, on customised bicycles and kayaks. This would allow special needs youngsters to participate as well, which is part of OBS' push to become more inclusive in its programmes.

National Youth Council (NYC) chief executive David Chua said public consultations will be held to gather opinions on what people would like to see and experience in the new campus.

"I envisage that across the five years of building, we will consult many focus groups on a constant basis. We first started gathering feedback at the end of 2015," he said.

OBS will have to increase its staffing to prepare for the new campus. While it currently employs about 110 people, it will require triple the number to cope with the increased participant numbers.

Staff do not include only instructors, but also a vast range of support staff like field supervisors, medical staff and a logistics team.

"Our intention is to embrace diversity, forge a common experience and be inclusive. Youth today grow up in very varied backgrounds. Our programme aims to bring youth together and forge a shared experience for all," said Mr Ng Chun Pin, NYC's deputy chief executive.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2016, with the headline 'Expanded facilities on Coney Island will allow more to take part'. Print Edition | Subscribe