All Secondary 3 students will have to undergo a new, five-day Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) expedition-based camp from 2020 onwards.
This is being introduced as part of a new National Outdoor Adventure Education Masterplan, which provides students here with more opportunities to benefit from outdoor education. Under the masterplan, students will get to participate in three cohort camps during their school years.
"School camps are a way of immersing our students in authentic and often challenging situations, where they need to work in teams and learn to take responsibility for decisions they make," Acting Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng said in Parliament yesterday.
Currently, students participate in at least two such camps - one in upper primary and another in secondary school - where they learn to prepare simple meals, set up shelters and assess risks in the outdoors.
To be held at the OBS campuses in Pualu Ubin and Coney Island, the new Secondary 3 cohort camp, unlike the other two, will bring together students from various schools.
This camp, which will be piloted with some schools next year, will be rolled out across all schools from 2020, when the Coney Island campus is expected to be ready.
The Ministry of Education (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, 10 to 20 per cent of curriculum time in primary and secondary schools is set aside for outdoor education.
Last year, the facilities at the four MOE Outdoor Adventure Learning Centres, such as the ones at Labrador and Jalan Bahtera, were rejuvenated to cut down waiting time for students to try various 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 rope course at any one time. Previously, only eight students could do so.
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 all upper primary and lower secondary school cohort camps.
Mr Ng stressed that the safety of students "remains paramount even as we enhance and expand outdoor education". A panel has been set up to advise the ministry on the quality and safety of outdoor programmes, both locally and overseas.
Currently, some of the vendors who run such camps for schools rely on freelancers and temporary staff, who may not have the right skills.
The ministry has also put together a group of full-time outdoor adventure educators to conduct cohort camps for schools at the learning centres. These educators would have undergone three months of training and will design and facilitate activities for students.
Former allied educator Melvin Lee, 28, one of the 16 adventure educators selected under this pilot programme, said: "Through camping, students will not only have fun, but will also learn about themselves and their strengths."