After serving 6 years in Outward Bound Singapore, life was definitely very comfortable for me. Although the job was demanding, the remuneration and benefits were still the best in the local outdoor industry. And whenever I meet any aspiring instructor outside, I will recommend them to give a shot and apply to join Outward Bound. Even till today.
But I myself left the job to pursue an MSc in Outdoor Education from the University of Edinburgh. However, I won’t be sharing the reasons why I left the job, but instead why I embarked on that course in a land far away from tropical Singapore.
1.Knowledge is Power
I joined Outward Bound with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. I agree, it is not relevant to the outdoor field. And amazingly, I managed to use my engineering analysis skills and always going for optimum results for my participants. I was also comfortable comprehending the outdoor technical skills of the field to manage safety. But that was it.
I had the practical experience but needed to know more about this profession that I practice. I definitely cannot avoid trial and errors of teaching but I want to ensure my actions are well-informed.
As Francis Bacon once shared, “Knowledge is Power”. So, gaining knowledge was sufficient of a reason to enrol in the course.
I knew what I was getting myself in. There was going to be loads of reading, discussing and writing. But as I thought again, one has to read to gain the knowledge before applying to life.
2.Knowledge is Power … if it is Applied.
The modules in the MSc course were definitely relevant in my practice:
- Interpreting the Landscape
- Personal and Social Development and Outdoor Education
- Experiential Education
- Outdoor Environmental Education: Concept-Based Practice
- Social Theory and Outdoor Education
- Ecology and Field Studies
- Source of Knowledge
- Planning Research
The MSc programme includes 5 outdoor activity courses: Canoeing, Hillwalking, Rock Climbing, Winter Mountaineering and Sea Kayaking. In addition, there will be a four –week professional placement, outdoor first aid course and 14-16 day expedition. (These practical components are all non-examinable!)
So what do the modules mean to me?
They are well-balanced and practically expose the students to the whole spectrum of outdoor education. As I have shared in some posts, I felt that I needed to explore more of the field especially the environmental component.
One of the best things that happened during the course was that the module “Ecology and Field Studies” became one of the most impactful modules. I truly appreciate the opportunity to roam almost across the Isle of Rum alone and re-set my bearings as an outdoor educator.
(Oh, the solo experience included stalking a herd of deer, returning a broken horn to the nature guide, finding an empty bothy on a secluded bay and sunbathing while watching the white-bellied sea eagle glide.)
As the practical components were non-examinable, the practical modules allowed us to explore the application of theory to practice. With the 5 activities offered, I had the opportunity to experience activities that cannot be done in warm Singapore. Again, I get to see outdoor education from a broader perspective and in this case, from a different terrain and climate.
Most importantly, the course allowed practitioners from all over the globe to meet and share opinions about the practice. It is through the endless sharing that I learnt how outdoor education is applied in other places. My perspective of the outdoor practice got stretched in all directions.
3.Expedition … Application again
The 14-16 days was another highlight of the MSc in Outdoor Education course. As we had the freedom to go anywhere, we definitely had a happy problem deciding where to go. It was like finding something that was common among us. We ended up exploring the Outer Hebrides.
(I’ll write more on this one day but the video by Dave simply summed it up).
This phase of the course was most scary for me but one that I looked forward to. Why?
It was scary because I WILL need to read a lot … A LOT. And also WRITE A LOT. Having my wife proofread my earlier assignments, I knew I will face an uphill task on the latter section.
But then again, this is the segment of the MSc course that gave me immense freedom to explore a particular section of the outdoor education practice. I really enjoyed searching, reading and connecting the seemingly-infinite research papers.
So what happened to me after the MSc course? I would say that I am … still just an outdoor educator. (Perhaps a bit more confused … as some of my peers would say.) But it’s the confusion that drives one to seek and understand whatever they are doing. And now the task is to apply the knowledge gained.
The MSc in Outdoor Education course is one that I highly recommend to any practitioner out there anywhere they might be.
(Thanks to my dearest wife for supporting me on this endeavour. Love you loads)