National Outdoor Adventure Education Council Formed in Singapore
Council to Advance Safety and Quality of Outdoor Programs
Credit: Gery Lovász
A National Outdoor Adventure Education Council was formed today in Singapore, to help ensure a high level of safety and quality in outdoor adventure activities across the island nation.
The Council’s formation is part of Singapore’s National Outdoor Adventure Education (NOAE) Master Plan. It follows a fatal incident on a high ropes course in February 2021, which led to a halt of all high elements in outdoor activities for all schools in the country.
The vision of the Council involves an outdoor adventure education sector with well-designed programs led by well-trained facilitators. Adventure activities will help build an “active and rugged” generation of young people in Singapore.
The Council will develop national safety standards for activities, and for the operation and management of facilities and equipment. Core competencies and professional certifications required by instructors to provide a consistent and high level of safety and quality across the sector are also envisioned.
Development of national standards is anticipated to take some 18 to 24 months to accomplish, and will involve widespread consultation with stakeholders.
The Council will also establish a professional development roadmap that supports viable careers and businesses in the outdoor sector.
Making outdoor adventure education a viable career path is a priority, and the Council recognizes that retaining staff is a challenge.
Council member Delane Lim, Honorary Secretary of the Outdoor Learning and Adventure Education Association, and alumnus of Viristar’s Risk Management for Outdoor Programs course, noted the need to identify, develop and train talent, especially after many freelance staff left the sector during the pandemic.
The announcement of the Council was made September 22 by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong, at Singapore’s inaugural Outdoor Education Conference, held at Republic Polytechnic.
Outdoor Adventure Education in Singapore
Outdoor adventure education (OAE) is greatly prized in Singapore for its ability to develop a population with resilience and strength of character—important qualities in a small nation surrounded by much larger neighbors.
Each year, some 218,000 students participate in OAE programs across the country of some 6 million persons. The Education Ministry, Outward Bound Singapore and about 40 commercial operators provide OAE experiences including climbing, bicycling, sea kayaking and ropes courses for students and others.
The National Outdoor Adventure Education Master Plan calls for all public school students to have three multi-day OAE experiences as part of their grade school education, paid for by the Education Ministry.
Demand for outdoor experiences is currently growing, as Singapore rebounds from significant restrictions on outdoor activities during earlier years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Outdoor Adventure Education Council
The OAE Council is composed of 18 members from government agencies, private sector providers, outdoor practitioners, and relevant experts from academia, industrial safety and professional development.
Members come from the Ministry of Education, Outward Bound Singapore, Outdoor Learning and Adventure Education Association, Republic Polytechnic, and Sport Singapore. Several members are graduates of Viristar’s 40-hour online outdoor safety training.
The Council is an advisory body reporting to the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, under which Outward Bound Singapore also falls.
In its first three-year term, in addition to developing national standards for operations, training and certification of OAE activities, and a Skills Framework for the professional development of OAE practitioners, the Council will also monitor incident rates, the rate of national standards adoption by providers, currency of standards, and the number of certified OAE providers.
Photo credit: MCCY/OBS
Outdoor Safety In Singapore
Singapore is already a global leader in safety management for organized outdoor activities.
The Ministry of Education has a 101-page Outdoor Adventure Learning Activity Guide for MOE Schools providing detailed safety requirements; activity-specific bodies such as the Singapore Canoe Federation set standards, and the Outdoor Learning and Adventure Education Association also publishes safety standards for the sector.
Singapore is a role model for countries such as South Africa, which is working to develop its own outdoor safety standards after a child drowned on a school trip in 2020.
The formation of the National Outdoor Adventure Education Council demonstrates Singapore’s continued investment in a high-quality outdoor adventure education sector, which—in the words of Council Co-Chair Adjunct Associate Professor Tan Lai Yong—equips youth “with skills to meet challenges, enjoy teamwork and to embark on life with confidence.”