About 96 per cent of all students took part in the month of full home-based learning, said Second Minister for Education Indranee Rajah in Parliament yesterday.
"The few who did not participate were largely on medical leave, and those who did not participate persistently were encouraged to return to school," she said, in response to Ms Rahayu Mahzam (Jurong GRC), who asked how schools assessed whether students have the necessary support at home.
During this period of full home-based learning, about 3,300 primary school pupils and 700 secondary school students returned to school daily for several reasons, said Ms Indranee.
Ms Rahayu had also asked if there were requests from parents for students to attend school, which could not be acceded to.
Said Ms Indranee: "Requests from parents for their children to return to school were met, as long as there were genuine needs.
"The challenge has in fact been the opposite, where schools invite the student to come back to school, but the parents were reluctant over various reasons. But schools will continue to try."
Full home-based learning, which started on April 8 and ended yesterday, was implemented in line with Singapore's circuit breaker measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.
Ms Indranee said schools had also identified a proportion of students who would benefit from returning to school during this period, based on their understanding of the student and his/her family circumstances, parents' requests, and referrals from social workers.
These include students whose parents are in essential services and do not have alternative care-giving arrangements. These students can also access limited services offered by school-based student care centres.
Schools also reached out to students who face significant challenges learning at home, as well as those who require face-to-face support, said Ms Indranee.
"Schools proactively identified these students and encouraged them to return to school, by providing a welcoming environment and additional small-group activities, such as non-contact sports and enrichment modules, while practising safe distancing," she added.
"This has helped them to stay connected and engaged, and maintain a school-going routine."
Another group of students who needed more support were those who lacked digital devices or Internet access at home for learning.
Ms Indranee said that schools have loaned more than 20,000 computing devices and 1,600 Internet-enabling devices to date, with some corporate support.
"The numbers coming back to schools for this purpose have dropped significantly since, to a small group whose parents do not wish to (take up the) loan for personal reasons," she added.
The period of full home-based learning has been a learning process for families as well as schools, said Ms Indranee in response to Ms Rahayu's question on the challenges that parents and teachers had faced.
"Certainly the first week, there was quite a lot of adjustment and learning that had to take place, but a couple weeks on... things have more or less stabilised," said Ms Indranee. "It has gone on much better than we had hoped, but not without challenges."
These challenges include parents learning how to use software while handling their work from home, and supporting multiple children, some with special needs.
"No two children are exactly alike. Some have taken to home-based learning very well. Some others need more offline learning," she said, adding that teachers have tried to maintain contact with parents and find solutions together.
For students who need support beyond lessons, school counsellors and social welfare officers have also reached out to them, through phone or video calls, or e-mails, she said.
The Education Ministry is starting to look at the feedback it has received, she said.