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Why does Singapore make its students go rock climbing?

Climb past your fears, young one. Source: Shutterstock

It’s all part of a government plan to make its youth more rugged and resilient, apparently.

Outdoor education has been a compulsory component of schools’ physical education curriculum since its Education Ministry announced stronger focus on it.

And in schools like Northbrook Secondary, its students have gone rock climbing, abseiling, orienteering and kayaking since its Outdoor Education Programme launched in 2014, the Straits Times reported.

Describing his first wall climb, 15-year-old Nadim Juromi said: “I was afraid and nervous. When I was nearing the top, my mind suddenly blanked out”

“But upon hearing the encouragement from my teachers and friends who were cheering for me, I pushed on and felt immensely satisfied to reach the top. It is very much applicable to our daily lives, we have to be able to overcome our fears and never give up.”

Students must write about the experience in a reflection journal before and after the activity as well, though this will not be graded.

Kayaking teach these kids a new skill and environmental consciousness. Source: Shutterstock

Kayaking is used to teach these students about the environment as well, by making them pick up litter while performing the sport.

“It really helped raise my awareness about cleanliness in Singapore – that we are a cleaned city, rather than a clean city. It was the first time I had picked up sea snails trapped in broken cans,” says 15-year-old Tan Ching.

The physical education syllabus introduced in 2014 comprise at least 10-20 percent of curriculum time in primary and secondary schools. It was hailed as a welcome move in a country where far too many parents prize academic achievements over physical activities outdoors.

According to Dr Paul A. O’Keefe, assistant professor of social sciences (psychology) at Yale-NUS College, these activities make student adopt a mindset that can overcome fears, saying:

“Parents and teachers are the main influences of children and the kind of mindset which they adopt. When students go through such activities, such as overcoming a fear of heights, they know that such fears can be conquered and are not something innate.”

Risk-taking, in particular, is necessary “within the limits of each child’s capabilities”, Professor Marjory Ebbeck, who leads the Centre for Research and Best Practices at the National Trades Union Congress’ (NTUC) Seed Institute said.

However, one expedition proved fatal when seven Primary 6 students Tanjong Katong Primary School died when an earthquake occurred while they were scaling up Mount Kinabalu in 2015.

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