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Every student to experience OBS camp by 2020

SINGAPORE — Come 2020, every Singaporean youth will have the opportunity to attend an Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) camp at least once in their schooling years, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said on Wednesday (March 30), as she revealed details about the upcoming second OBS campus on Coney Island.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, who is also the Chairperson for the National Youth Council, climbing the Inverse Tower at Outward Bound Singapore on  March 30, 2016. Photo: Wee Teck Hian

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, who is also the Chairperson for the National Youth Council, climbing the Inverse Tower at Outward Bound Singapore on March 30, 2016. Photo: Wee Teck Hian

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SINGAPORE — Come 2020, every Singaporean youth will have the opportunity to attend an Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) camp at least once in their schooling years, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said on Wednesday (March 30), as she revealed details about the upcoming second OBS campus on Coney Island.

Announced as part of the new National Outdoor Adventure Education Masterplan, the 12ha OBS@Coney is part of the Government’s push to develop the “steel, resolve and teamwork” that the nation’s youth will need to take Singapore forward in the next 50 years, said Ms Fu.

“It is no secret that Singapore’s next 50 years may not be easy. To see a happier, stronger Singapore at SG100, we will need citizens who can band together, and stand together for Singapore.”

This vision of building up rugged youths — which OBS plays an important role in — is pertinent amid the threat of terrorism and an increasingly diverse society, added Ms Fu.

“What happened in Brussels or Jakarta or Pakistan recently could well happen here. We need to continue to build up our youths ... to work as a team, to have the ruggedness in our minds and in our bodies, so that when the going gets tough, we will be resilient and hardy enough to overcome it together, to bounce back,” she said.

OBS’ new S$250 million campus — to be sited on the south-eastern end of Coney Island — will triple its total capacity to 45,000 each year. Currently, OBS hosts about 14,000 youths at its outdoor adventure training programmes annually at its 9ha Ubin campus.

A different programme, with new activities and facilities, is in the works, said National Youth Council (NYC) chief executive David Chua.

Ms Fu said participants would be immersed in “rich natural heritage”, getting a taste of land activities such as trekking or cycling through park connectors and nature reserves, and water expeditions including sailing at sea. “That means you could be cycling or hiking around the Central Catchment one day, and kayaking around East Coast, Ubin or the Tekong islands the next day,” she said.

Students from different schools will also be mixed, as part of efforts to make the new campus “inclusive”, said NYC deputy chief executive Ng Chun Pin. The OBS programme would also be made more accessible to special-needs students, who currently participate only in specially catered courses on an ad-hoc basis.

In terms of facilities, OBS has been studying overseas examples. Outdoor activities that are not available here yet, including cave and tunnel experiences, could be offered.

Facilities that fuse different elements such as a Challenge Tower, a ropes course and a Flying Fox rolled into one are being explored, as are rustic camping facilities.

Students who are undergoing OBS said they felt more prepared to meet challenges head-on.

Reiko Tang, 15, from Edgefield Secondary, felt she was more willing to try new things and persevere. “I used to give up easily, but when I saw that my teammates were trying really hard, I (didn’t want to) pull them down.”

Tan Joy Lily, 15, from Kranji Secondary, said the programme, particularly the trekking activities, burnished her mental willpower. “We had to walk long distances with a very heavy backpack ... The encouragement we got from our groupmates really helped us to push our limits.”

The parents interviewed also welcomed the move to expose all youths to an OBS experience. Ms Leraine Leow, 35, said she would encourage her primary school-going children to attend OBS, as she feels the programme can build up the resilience and teamwork that is lacking among Singaporean youths. “(It’s) about working together; the teamwork. I think children nowadays don’t have that ... They are very self-centred.”

Madam Cindy Liau, a general manager in her 50s, said the safety of their children is every parent’s concern, but welcomed the opportunity to train more youths to deal with hardship and build up their perseverance.

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