How High’s the Water, Mama? A Reflection on Water Resource Education in Singapore, pp. 17 of 33

We strongly believe the international fieldwork is a valuable experience for our students, giving them a perspective on environments quite different from Singapore, but about which they may teach in their own classrooms. The true value added of an international experience is quite difficult to quantify. Qualitatively, we can draw on two recent AAG401 case studies as an (imperfect) assessment of the value of international fieldwork. In the first case, the class spent a semester preparing for physical geography fieldwork at three locations in Thailand: Chao Phraya River aboard a live-on, traditional teak barge; Karen Hilltribe Village near the Thai-Burma border at Maesot; and coastal studies at Hua Hin. Unfortunately, because of the political protests in Bangkok, two days before the group was to travel NIE canceled the trip. As such, the students quickly had to regroup and conduct research projects in Singapore. As part of the course assessment the students were asked to write a reflection about their experience and specifically address the question of whether they felt an international field experience was of value. Of the 23 submitted reflections, 15 (65%) explicitly stated an international field experience was preferable to a local field experience, while 1 student questioned whether an international field experience should be required. A number of students (13) noted that international and local field experiences had both positive and negative aspects and, philosophically, accepted the situation. Various reasons were given as to why an international field experience was desirable and the results are summarised in Table 2.

Some students expressed very strong feelings about not going on the international field experience:

On a personal note, I have always wanted to major in Geography when I was in secondary school. This dream came true when I was offered the Crossover degree programme at NIE. The fact that I am going to go on an overseas field trip for my graduation module proved too much to be true. I never thought that I will be getting this chance to experience life as a geographer, like a once in my lifetime opportunity. However, this dream of mine still did not materialize in the end. AAG401 loses its essence in fulfilling a geographer’s experience; it now becomes just another assignment at NIE.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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