OBS to triple capacity with Coney Island campus

The MCCY minister also said youths can expect facilities and programmes at the upcoming S$250 million Coney Island campus to be ramped up - both in terms of capacity and level of complexity.
Faris Mokhtar Channel NewsAsia 30 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE: Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) will be able to serve up to 45,000 youths every year - triple its current capacity - once the new campus on Coney Island is completed in 2020, said Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu on Wednesday (Mar 30).

The S$250 million new campus will occupy 12 hectares, or about 10 per cent of Coney Island, making it larger than the premises at Pulau Ubin which measures around 9 hectares.

"There will be enough space for everyone. We want OBS to be a common experience for all young Singaporeans," she added.

Ms Fu, who was on a visit to the Pulau Ubin OBS campus, highlighted that youths can expect facilities and programmes at the upcoming Coney Island campus to be ramped up - both in terms of capacity and level of complexity.

For instance, the traditional challenge ropes course at the Pulau Ubin premises can currently accommodate a maximum of two people. The improved version of it at the Coney Island campus can accommodate up to eight people at a time.

Said Ms Fu: "So, if you think that OBS already challenges your mental and physical endurance now, the new OBS campus will ramp that up another notch."

SCOUTING IDEAS FROM OTHER COUNTRIES

The Government, Ms Fu added, is also scouting ideas from other countries to set up the most advanced facilities and programmes at the new campus. For example, introducing outdoor activities not commonly found in Singapore, such as mountaineering.

"The challenge for OBS is, as we expand, how do we create new exciting activities that will also challenge our students," said Mr Nicholas Conceicao, executive director of OBS. "So, we are looking at simulating outdoor experiences which are found overseas. In some cases, students don't have the chance to go for these activities."

With Coney Island linked to mainland Singapore, Ms Fu noted that youths will be able to experience sea and land expeditions across Pulau Ubin, Coney Island and the mainland.

The campus is located at the south-eastern end of the island and is linked to mainland Singapore via a bridge that connects to Pasir Ris. This provides the opportunity to create programmes that take students to various places.

"For a youth that goes through an expedition, he may not just necessarily stay at Coney Island. He can also be at Pulau Ubin and then move back to Coney Island, and then maybe end up at the East Coast or do another expedition around Tekong and end up at Sembawang," said Mr David Chua Chief Executive of the National Youth Council.

To support more youths, OBS said it will boost its manpower - including instructors - from 110 currently to more than 300 by 2020.

Apart from undergoing outdoor activities, nature appreciation will also be an integral part of the learning experience.

The Coney Island campus is part of the National Outdoor Adventure Education Masterplan, which aims to help students develop attributes like resilience.

"We want all OBS participants to develop a keen sense of how the environment supports us and what we can do to keep it lush and thriving," said Ms Fu, adding that the campus will be designed in a way that is nature-friendly.

DEVELOPING "RUGGEDNESS"

In his Budget speech last week, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that the second OBS campus will be built as part of the National Outdoor Adventure Education Masterplan which aims to help students develop attributes such as resilience.

Building on this, Ms Fu pointed out OBS plays an important role in helping youths develop "ruggedness" - a trait that remains essential today as it was back in the early years of independence, she said.

"We need to continue to build up our youths - people like you - 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," said Ms Fu.

She noted the changing social landscape and looming terrorism threats that Singapore faces. Said 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."

Meanwhile, a group of 10 outdoor learning firms have banded together to form an association called the Outdoor Learning and Adventure Education Association (OLAE).

Its president said the group was legally recognised in February this year and its objective is to standardise some of the industry's practices, which include safety, operational and marketing practices.

- CNA/xk/ek


Every student to experience OBS camp by 2020
KENNETH CHENG Today Online 30 Mar 16;

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.

OBS set to be rugged new melting pot
Yuen Sin, Straits Times AsiaOne 31 Mar 16;

As Singapore moves into the next 50 years of its development, Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) is set to play a critical role in toughening up its young people and providing them with a common experience in its rugged environment.

By 2020, all young Singaporeans will have the opportunity to go through an OBS camp at least once in their schooling years, announced Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu at the OBS campus on Pulau Ubin yesterday.

Noting how the path ahead for Singapore may not be an easy one, she said that OBS - originally mooted in 1967 by then Defence Minister Goh Keng Swee to "develop youth with a spirit of derring-do" - can be a "common experience for all young Singaporeans".

"Our future remains uncertain. We live in a more diverse society. We face the threats of terrorism... We need to continue to build up our youth... so that when the going gets tough, we will be resilient and hardy enough to overcome it together, to bounce back," said Ms Fu.

With the $250 million expansion of OBS to Coney Island in Punggol, announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat last week, the capacity of OBS will be tripled by 2020. Some 45,000 young people will be able to attend an OBS camp every year, up from the current 14,000. This includes students at the secondary and tertiary levels, as well as young working adults.

The area occupied by OBS @ Coney is equivalent to 12ha, or about 14½ football pitches. It will be situated on the south-eastern end of Coney Island, close to the bridge that connects the island to Pasir Ris. The rest of the island will remain open to the public.

Mr Ng Chun Pin, deputy chief executive of the National Youth Council (NYC), which OBS is part of, said the new site on Coney Island was picked because of its proximity to the mainland, serving as a gateway for new activities. For example, participants may be able to go on multi-element expeditions on customised bicycles, with kayaks or canoes attached, to explore Singapore's coastal waterways and park connectors.

While the structure of the typical five-day camp has not changed, programmes will now have a greater focus on problem-solving as a team, and pay attention to social integration and diversity. OBS will work with the Ministry of Education (MOE) to ensure that there will be more "deliberate mixing" of students from various types of schools in the camps, and also craft different expeditions to cater to those with different physical abilities.

MOE said it will announce more details about making OBS available for more students soon. NYC and OBS also said they may hold public consultations, given that OBS may pan out to become "more like a national institution" in the future.

Said Mr Ng: "Today, you have your national service, which benefits only the guys... (OBS can be) a rich and meaningful programme for all our youth to take Singapore to the next level."

Ms Denise Phua, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, applauded OBS' emphasis on inclusivity.

"Students with special needs can also partake in all or part of the OBS with the right needs assessment, training and support. (They) must be included in the main chapter of the Singapore education story," she said.

Mr Chan Wei Guan, 44, who has two sons and a daughter, said attending OBS should be made compulsory. "OBS is a good place to build up physical and mental resilience, even if it's for only a few days."

Sociologist Paulin Straughan, however, cautioned against making the OBS programme compulsory. "Social integration needs to be done by choice. If they feel that it needs to be done out of compulsion, this misses the point completely."

Additional reporting by Ng Keng Gene

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