Forum: Closing schools not cut and dried matter

Students returning to Zhenghua Primary School on March 23, 2020.
Students returning to Zhenghua Primary School on March 23, 2020.PHOTO: ST FILE

Instituting school closures is never an easy decision. While online learning might be available, it is ineffective compared with face-to-face lessons, and children without Internet service and a computer at home will be disproportionately disadvantaged.

No mixing with their friends will also have deleterious effects.

Children will need care during a school closure and this will have an impact on the delivery of many essential services like healthcare, cleaning and food delivery because the workers may need to care for their children at home.

Unless parents can also work from home, and many cannot, children will either be left unsupervised or watched by others, perhaps grandparents - and older people are at highest risk of infection by the coronavirus.

Some schools can move to online learning, but not all are prepared. Those children under the Ministry of Education (MOE) Financial Assistance Scheme may also miss out on the subsidy for meals.

That would be a burden for low-income families.

Cheng Choon Fei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 03, 2020, with the headline 'Closing schools not cut and dried matter'. Print Edition | Subscribe