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MOE to enhance safe delivery of Outdoor Adventure Learning activities

SINGAPORE - The safe delivery of Outdoor Adventure Learning (OAL) activities will be enhanced via measures such as additional requirements on the providers and enhancing the capacity of schools to work with them, said the Ministry of Education (MOE).

These activities include zip line, high rope courses, mountaineering and kayaking.

The ministry has completed its internal review of height-based OAL activities and will provide more details after finalising them with stakeholders, said the MOE in response to queries from The Straits Times.

It will also take into account the outcome of a police investigation, which is still pending, into a high-element incident at Safra Yishun in February 2021 involving a 15-year-old student before assessing if further measures should be taken.

Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) student Jethro Puah died after losing his footing while participating in a challenge ropes course. All height-based OAL activities remain suspended following the incident.

MOE will also work with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth to study ways to raise the quality and safety standards of programmes offered by providers of OAL activities. More details will be announced when ready, added MOE.

The incident at Safra Yishun occurred a year after a Primary 4 pupil from Concord Primary School fell while doing a zip line activity in the school as part of her co-curricular activity.

Following the 2020 incident, all height-based activities in schools were suspended. The suspension was extended until January 2021 owing to the Covid-19 situation.

MOE also put in place additional protocols to make zip line activities safer at all schools, like having an additional instructor check that everything is in accordance with the safety checklist before a participant is allowed to get on the zip line.

Schools must ensure that vendors' instructors have the relevant certifications before they are hired for such activities. At least one certified person with the required qualifications must be on site to handle rescue situations.

Multiple advancements in the sector have also been made in the last month, such as a national training syllabus for instructors of rope confidence courses launched by the Singapore Sport Climbing and Mountaineering Federation on Jan 18.

The move will provide a common syllabus for training and certification for practitioners and train instructors to assist rescue from a height, as well as safely dispatch participants.

Courses to train participants for the roles of supervisors, instructors and specialists range in duration from one to three days. The certification will remain optional for practitioners, depending on the facilities they operate in.

The Outdoor Learning and Adventure Education Association (OLAE) also announced on Jan 18 that it is reviewing its standard of practices and accreditation frameworks. It is the largest provider of outdoor education activities in Singapore and represents 24 organisation members.

The association is in discussions with public and private stakeholders such as the National Youth Council-Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) and local and international experts.

This comes three years after it launched its first industry-standard set of protocols in 2018 to provide operational and competency guidelines as well as technical references for OAE activities.

OLAE honorary secretary Delane Lim said it was an opportune time for a review of industry standards and protocols as the sector is expected to see a rebound from its current lull in the next two years.

OBS executive director Nicholas Conceicao added: "Together with the wider outdoor adventure education community, stakeholders and partners, we can nurture a community of practitioners to ensure quality consistency for programmes, improved operating procedures as well as robust infrastructure and governance systems."

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