Don't make school expedition camps compulsory

A Farrer Park Primary pupil taking part in adventure activities at the MOE Dairy Farm Outdoor Adventure Learning Centre. The new Sec 3 cohort camp, unlike the current two, will bring together students from various schools.
A Farrer Park Primary pupil taking part in adventure activities at the MOE Dairy Farm Outdoor Adventure Learning Centre. The new Sec 3 cohort camp, unlike the current two, will bring together students from various schools.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

News regarding the arrest of a teacher who had worked for the Ministry of Education for 18 years reflects the inherent difficulties in screening educators (Man held over alleged child sex worked for MOE for 18 years, Feb 10).

This is a concern as students nowadays are not merely required to attend school, but to also participate in compulsory overnight camps.

From next year, an expedition-based camp is intended to be rolled out for Secondary 3 students across all schools (Expedition camp for all Sec 3 students from 2020, Feb 24, 2017).

The safety of thousands of students will then lie in the hands of the educators and external facilitators involved in the camps.

Any lapse in the screening of these educators and facilitators may lead to adverse consequences.

In addition, any failure to adhere to safety protocols in expedition-based camps may result in injuries or could even be fatal.

Expedition-based camps should not be compulsory for students as the risks of safety lapses cannot be underestimated.

The risks and costs of these expedition-based camps seem to outweigh the benefits. Such camps are not the only way students can learn about teamwork and overcoming challenges.

It is important to draw a distinction between critical needs and beneficial experiences. If such camps are merely beneficial but not absolutely crucial, they should not be made compulsory.

Goh Chin Leng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2019, with the headline 'Don't make school expedition camps compulsory'. Print Edition | Subscribe