Outdoor Education Too Often Relegated to a Minor Role

In the autumn 2021 edition of Independent Education magazine (Volume 24, No 1, Autumn 21), two articles caught my eye; ‘Born to Run’ by Ammie Pringle, and ‘Stop telling students to study STEM instead of humanities for the post-Coronavirus world’ by Alan Sears and Penney Clarke.

They provided a welcome change from the plethora of articles promoting a narrow focus on economic goals for an education system. In fact, a large part of education should be preparing our youth for life, for global competence and teaching them how to make a meaningful contribution to their society; not just preparing them to fulfil a job. The past few years have seen an explosion of online teaching models, and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is seemingly the buzzword in current education.

If one is concerned solely with a career, and the ability to navigate the technology-driven 21st century, it is indeed important that the youth (and educators) embrace it. What has not changed however, is that life, careers and by extension education, all involve relationships. The ability to negotiate relationships has not diminished in this new era; indeed it has become more important than ever (recent sociopolitical events bear this out).

Yet one of the more successful educational models, proven to teach skills such as teamwork, leadership and negotiation as ways to collective well-being, has been relegated to a minor role at most of our schools. Experiential learning as part of a well-planned outdoor education programme teaches pupils to flourish as human beings, and that education is more about the journey than the destination.

Few schools offer a meaningful outdoor curriculum that isn’t only centred around sport or the occasional hike. I’m not sure why: perhaps because it doesn’t look as impressive on the school balance sheet or Facebook page.


Conan Olivier