Learning centres take steps to address parents' concerns over online classes

Ms Tricia Yau, a tutor at Aspire Hub, conducting a live-stream session with a student this week. The authorities suspended all centre-based classes from last Friday until the end of this month to reduce intermingling of students from different school
Ms Tricia Yau, a tutor at Aspire Hub, conducting a live-stream session with a student this week. The authorities suspended all centre-based classes from last Friday until the end of this month to reduce intermingling of students from different schools. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Tuition and enrichment operators have moved classes online, following the authorities' decision to suspend all centre-based classes from last Friday.

The move to put on hold such classes until the end of this month was made to reduce intermingling of students from different schools.

Parents whom The Straits Times spoke to are relieved that tuition centres reacted almost immediately to the changes to deliver classes virtually, though not all have taken to the idea of paying the same amount for online lessons.

Two separate online petitions have been set up by parents whose children attend two major centres, The Learning Lab and Berries World, expressing frustration at the quality of online classes put up.

Many operators have tried to appease parents by giving discounts or credit vouchers, or allowing them to enrol their children in more than one online class a week at no extra cost.

The Learning Lab had split up class slots and scheduled some online lessons at timings that differed from those of face-to-face classes, which made it inconvenient for families with other commitments.

Mr Su Wei Li, 47, whose daughter in Primary 5 and son in Kindergarten 2 attend The Learning Lab and Berries World respectively, said: "These are not normal times. I don't expect online classes to be the same as physical sessions, but their solutions must be viable."

A spokesman for The Learning Lab said it has heard parents' concerns and has since adopted more interactive tools for online classes, including video conferences.

Tuition and enrichment centres said the move to suspend their classes caught them off guard, as there had been no indication of school closures.

Ms Huai Chew, business development director of Hua Language Centre, said physical classes have been postponed and will resume only when the suspension is lifted.

"We do not think our parents will be happy with an online class in any format being a substitute for the classes they paid for," she said, adding that students can access online lessons at no charge during this period so that they do not fall behind in learning.

The first week of virtual lessons for centres that have switched format is going smoothly, despite initial teething issues.

Ms Kristie Lim, founder and principal of Mind Stretcher Education, said some parents were sceptical at first and asked to defer classes, but changed their minds after finding online lessons effective.

Since last Friday, all students across her 19 centres have started using Zoom and a new communication app that the group developed.

Mr Low Chong Khiang, 44, a real estate agent whose daughter in Secondary 1 attends Mind Stretcher, said: "The online classes were very smooth... I can tell a lot of planning went into each class, and the teachers... make the virtual lessons engaging and enriching."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 03, 2020, with the headline 'Learning centres take steps to address parents' concerns over online classes'. Print Edition | Subscribe