Parliament: More outdoor education opportunities, including new OBS camp for Sec 3 from 2020

Participants at OBS in Pulau Ubin on March 30. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Students here will have more opportunities to benefit from outdoor education, under a new masterplan to help them develop attributes such as ruggedness and resilience.

As part of the National Outdoor Adventure Education Masterplan, all students will get to participate in three cohort camps during their school years, Acting Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng said in Parliament on Friday (April 8).

Currently, students participate in at least two such camps - one in upper primary and another in secondary school - where they learn to prepare meals, set up makeshift shelters and assess risks in the outdoors.

Soon, another camp programme - a five-day expedition-based camp at the Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) campuses on Pulau Ubin and Coney Island, will be introduced for all Secondary 3 students.

This new camp, unlike the other two, will bring together students from various schools, allowing them to interact and work together to overcome various challenges.

The five-day multi-school Secondary 3 cohort camp, which will be piloted with some schools next year, will be rolled out across all schools from 2020, by when the new OBS campus on Coney Island is expected to be ready.

The Education Ministry (MOE) will work with OBS to design the camp programme to ensure it supports the school curriculum.

Under a physical education syllabus introduced in 2014,outdoor education has become a compulsory component of curriculum time in primary and secondary schools.

Besides the cohort camps, MOE has in place other programmes for students to learn from the outdoors, including activities that make use of the parks, park connectors and waterways.

To help the ministry review the quality and safety of these programmes, both locally and abroad, an advisory panel - which includes parent representatives and experts in areas such as natural hazards - has been formed to provide advice.

Last year, the facilities at the four MOE Outdoor Adventure Learning Centres, such as the ones at Labrador and Jalan Bahtera, were upgraded to cut down waiting time for students to try various activity stations.

For instance, at the centre in Dairy Farm, a continuous belay system has been put in place to allow up to 30 students to attempt the ropes course at any one time. Previously, only eight students could try out the course concurrently.

Other new facilities at the centres include artificial caving systems, which allow students to solve problems within confined spaces.

These centres, which have been used to conduct cohort camps for 60 per cent of primary and secondary schools here, will be further upgraded over the next few years to provide enough places for cohort camps for all schools.

Currently, some of the vendors who run such camps for schools rely on freelancers and temporary staff, who may not have the right skills.

To set the standard in delivering better outdoor learning experiences for its students, the ministry has recently put together a group of full-time outdoor adventure educators to conduct cohort camps for schools at the learning centres.

These educators, who had undergone three months of training, will design and facilitate activities to help students attain learning outcomes in line with the curriculum.

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