Look at recess time in combating myopia

A girl getting her eyes checked for myopia.
A girl getting her eyes checked for myopia.PHOTO: ST FILE

Given the alarming rate of myopia in Singapore, I feel that the Ministry of Education (MOE) could do more than just adjusting indoor classroom lighting and mandating the number of hours for physical education classes (More synergies needed to fight childhood myopia, by Ms Aw Wen Ni, Aug 22).

Scientific evidence shows that children need to go outdoors to play for at least two to three hours a day in order to keep myopia at bay.

It has also been found, in a one-year study in Taiwan, that pupils (aged seven to 11) who spend recess time outdoors have lower incidence of myopia compared with those who do not have any outdoor recess programme.

In another study, when the recess time was extended so as to give the school children 80 minutes of outdoor activities a day, the pupils showed less incidence of myopia development compared with those not given outdoor activities during recess.

MOE could consider extending the school recess time for primary school pupils and have them stay out of the classroom so that they can look at distant objects in a brightly sunlit environment to relax their eyes after a few hours of intense work.

Schools could consider building canopies or sheltered rooftops to shield the children from direct sunlight when they engage in physical activities. The usual physical education should also have activities that are conducted outdoors.

Indoor sports halls do not have the intensity of light needed to help prevent myopia.

While these recommendations are aimed at primary schools, it could be even more important that MOE takes these into account when designing its new pre-school curriculum.

Yeo Chwee Hong (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2019, with the headline 'Look at recess time in combating myopia'. Print Edition | Subscribe