While I am saddened by the deaths of pupils in the Sabah earthquake, there shouldn't be a moratorium on overseas trips for students ("Rethink rationale for overseas school trips" by Mr Ramesh Niedu; yesterday).
First, this incident was a freak accident that nobody could have anticipated.
Sabah is not a region that is earthquake-prone and, thus, it was impossible for anybody to predict that this tragedy would occur.
Climbing Mount Kinabalu is not dangerous - laymen are typically able to scale it with little training. Even children as young as seven have attempted an ascent safely.
This was, therefore, a case of the pupils being at the wrong place at the wrong time, rather than one of placing pupils in unnecessary danger.
Furthermore, the Ministry of Education (MOE) and Singapore schools have always taken very strict precautions to minimise risk to students and individuals.
Teachers have to come up with extremely rigorous risk-assessment matrices to cover as many possibilities as they can.
Teachers also take care to regularly update parents on their children's progress.
The MOE also has a very rigorous standard operating procedure to respond to these situations, leading to its decisive and swift response to this crisis.
Every possible effort has, therefore, been made to ensure that overseas trips are safe for all students.
Going on overseas trips is beneficial to the development of students.
Many people have lamented that students today are mollycoddled and unused to hardship and the outdoors. Such adventure trips mitigate this by putting students in an environment outside of urbanised Singapore, where they have to get by without modern conveniences.
They also learn resilience from working together to overcome physical challenges. Moreover, such trips also expose students to the world around them, teaching them about the geography, biodiversity and history of different countries.
Such exposure is important, considering the increasingly globalised nature of the world, which requires students to be more aware of different cultures and environments.
It would be a pity to forfeit such benefits out of an irrational fear of danger at every turn.
While we mourn the tragic deaths of the pupils, let us do so in the understanding that we do not have full control of every situation.
We should not succumb to fear by cutting overseas trips because of one freak accident.
Ng Qi Siang
This article was first published on June 9, 2015.
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