Acting Education Minister (Schools) Mr Ng Chee Meng recently announced in Parliament that, as part of the National Outdoor Adventure Education Masterplan, all students will get to participate in three cohort camps during their school years. The move is aimed at increasing our students’ exposure to the outdoors and developing attributes such as ruggedness and resilience. Believing that students with disabilities should have equal opportunities to be a part of this experiential learning, SPD executive director Mr Abhimanyau Pal shares in this letter published in The Straits Times Forum on 22 April the importance of including students with disabilities in the outdoor activities.
We applaud the Government’s plan to include students with disabilities in outdoor adventure education and are encouraged that the Ministry of Education is working with various partners to raise the quality and quantity of outdoor adventure learning programmes (“Outdoor adventure education: MOE to work with various partners“; 18 April).
A well-rounded education is not limited to academic subjects and hard knowledge, but includes inculcating social values, character-building and soft skills.
Outdoor adventure education promotes active learning through direct personal experience while offering excitement and fun.
As students come together to take part in a physical activity or co-operate to solve problems as a team, they develop self-confidence and independence, and learn to appreciate one another’s abilities and differences.
Students with disabilities should have equal opportunities to learn and play alongside their peers.
With the Government’s new plan, students with disabilities in mainstream and special schools can look forward to more opportunities to participate in adventure sports.
To conduct these outdoor programmes safely and effectively, facilities need to be barrier-free, and outdoor adventure trainers have to be equipped with relevant skills to understand the different needs of students with disabilities and to adapt activities to suit their different abilities.
MOE and private providers could work with SPD or other voluntary welfare organisations to get relevant expertise to provide technical and safety advice, and to plan programmes that include students with disabilities.
To take a step further, we hope that all physical education teachers can be equipped to run adapted and inclusive classes so that more students with disabilities can participate, not only in outdoor adventure sports, but also in their regular PE lessons in school.