MOE moves to pave way for overseas school trips to resume

Teachers from a secondary school have booked flights to Cambodia to test the waters ahead of taking their students there. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Schools are poised to resume overseas trips for students, with Covid-19 travel restrictions eased.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) is looking to engage a company to provide travel-related information and advisory services after holding off for the past two years due to the pandemic.

The vendor will provide health, medical, emergency and security consultancy services for both local and overseas excursions, MOE said in response to queries from The Straits Times.

Meanwhile, teachers from a secondary school here have booked flights to Cambodia this year to test the waters ahead of taking their students there in the near future.

Other secondary schools are also planning recce trips around the region, Golden Travel Services director Cindy Chng said, paving the way for the resumption of overseas school excursions.

Demand is high for overseas learning journeys to Asean countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam after a two-year pause, added Ms Chng.

According to tender documents seen by ST, the vendor engaged by MOE will provide round-the-clock consultancy services on health-related issues, such as routine and emergency advisories, and alerts and reports on health, medical and travel for both local and overseas journeys.

It will also handle risk assessments, analyses and reports before schools go on trips.

During trips, it will provide assistance on site for incidents and coordinate with MOE's appointed insurance company on extrications, evacuation and medical transfers.

It will also provide a Web interface and a mobile app for users to register and monitor trips.

MOE had been engaging such a service provider since 2010, but held off in 2020 and 2021 due to travel restrictions, the ministry said.

It added: "This provision is for our school leaders to be well informed of global situations to enable them to make timely and informed decisions on their schools' local and overseas trips.

"The service will cover all MOE students and staff who are on local and overseas trips organised by their schools and/or MOE."

Ms Chng, whose company ran hundreds of overseas excursions yearly for schools before the pandemic, said many students are already going overseas for sports events, and some from the polytechnics and other institutes of higher learning (IHLs) could be travelling as early as this year.

She added: "But for the younger children, concerns from parents about them catching Covid-19 or other issues are still there, which is why we are seeing teachers planning recce trips to see what the situation is like on the ground before committing to fuller excursions."

In Parliament in March, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said the Government would work towards resuming overseas experiences for students in Singapore's IHLs.

However, parents like housewife Shue Chua expressed continued concern about the Covid-19 situation in the region.

Mrs Chua, a 48-year-old mother of two secondary schoolchildren, said the decision to let them go on an overseas school trip comes down to weighing the safety of the child against the importance of the trip.

She said: "I'm personally not in favour of general exposure trips. But for trips which are focused and clear in their objective, like subject-specific field trips or competitions, I may be more inclined to take some risks, including Covid-19 risks."

Covid-19 restrictions in schools have eased in tandem with the nation at large since April 26.

Group size restrictions ended then, which allowed sports and other large group activities to resume, including allowances for student supporters in the stands at some legs of national competitions.

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