SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Education (MOE) has provided about 3,300 devices such as tablets and laptops, and more than 200 dongles for Internet access, to students who require them for home-based learning.
The figures, which are correct as of last Friday (April 3), were revealed by Education Minister Ong Ye Kung in Parliament on Monday (April 6).
He was responding to a question by Nominated MP Walter Theseira on the ministry's plans to ensure that students, particularly those on financial assistance schemes, have adequate resources to access online learning from their homes.
Full home-based learning will kick in from April 8 till at least May 4.
Mr Ong said schools will also reach out to students who may not have support at home for home-based learning.
These students can use computers and the Internet access in their school while being supervised by teachers.
Corporate sponsors will also be providing students-in-need with free dongles and Internet subscriptions.
For one, StarHub will be sponsoring unlimited mobile broadband connectivity to 550 students from lower-income families who do not have access to broadband at home.
The telco will start with 158 primary and secondary students this week.
Home-based learning is not only done through online learning. A substantial part of it also involves offline readings and assignments.
Prior to the move to full home-based learning, MOE had been preoccupied with the availability of devices and Internet access for students to keep up with their work at home, said Mr Ong.
"There is no doubt... that when schools have to move to home-based learning and have to close, students from lower-income groups will be the most adversely affected," he said.
"And that is why we are only moving to full home-based learning now, and not earlier, because we do know it creates a lot of disruptions to people's lives, and children lower-income, vulnerable families are most affected."
MOE will work with the Ministry of Social and Family Development and community partners, such as Social Service Offices, to provide financial and other support for such families.
Mr Ong said the shift to full home-based learning is in support of the circuit breaker measures that will kick in on Tuesday and remain in place for about a month.
"This is part of our psychological unity - students, teachers, parents all being part of it - and we all rise to the call as one united people in tackling this crisis," he added.
The minister also noted that long-term absenteeism is "starting to creep up in school" due to the Covid-19 pandemic and corresponding measures implemented in schools.
"The decision to shift into full home-based learning is therefore a very major decision and not to be taken lightly. But now that we have taken the decision, let us make the best out of this situation."