SINGAPORE - The June school holidays will be brought forward, and will start from May 5, with the one-month extension of the national circuit breaker period announced on Tuesday (April 21).
The Ministry of Education (MOE) said in a statement on Tuesday evening: "While home-based learning has been going well, it has been an intense period of hard work and adjustment for parents, students and teachers.
"An early June holiday will give everyone a respite. It also buys us time for a less restrictive school opening in June."
With the school holidays brought forward, lessons will resume on June 2, the MOE said. More details on the format of lessons - whether they will be face-to-face, at home, or a mix of both, will be confirmed later.
This means that Term 3 will now be longer, but the MOE said it will put in place a one-week mid-term break from July 20 to 26.
These adjustments will apply to all MOE kindergartens, primary, secondary and pre-university students, including those from special education schools.
Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Tuesday in a Facebook post: "By June 1, hopefully, the situation will be much better, and we can look forward to a safe and orderly opening of schools."
Acknowledging that this period of home-based learning has not been easy for families, Mr Ong said it cannot be a prolonged substitute for attending school, and can only be a "fall back when schools are suspended".
"It is better to let everyone have a break from this intense period."
The revised academic calendar is as follows:
- May 5 to June 1: School holidays
- June 2: Start of Term 3
- July 20 to 26: Mid-term break
- Sept 6: End of Term 3
The MOE will also make changes to the curricula tested in national examinations this year, to take into account the impact of the extended circuit breaker on curriculum time and to allay students' concerns and anxiety.
It said that common last topics - a set of topics that are typically taught last by all schools towards the end of the academic year - will be removed from the national examinations this year.
These include "interactions within the environment" for science at the Primary School Leaving Examination level, vectors for O-level mathematics and "introduction to the chemistry of transition elements" for A-level H2 chemistry.
"The common last topics provide MOE and Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) with the flexibility of reducing the scope covered in national examinations should an unforeseen situation occur that does not allow schools to complete their teaching for the graduating cohorts. The common last topics will still be taught, but not be examinable," said the MOE.
For skill-based subjects such as English language and mother tongue languages, the MOE said it will not be "meaningful and practical" to identify common last topics.
"In such instances, SEAB will take the disruption to curriculum time into consideration during marking and grading to ensure that all students are fairly assessed," it added.
Mr Ong said removing the common last topics from national examinations "will reduce the curriculum load and ease the pressure off teachers and students in catching up with the curriculum".
"Just to be clear, as far as possible, these topics will still be taught. But they will not appear as questions in the national examinations," he said.
In the light of the changes, the SEAB will reschedule the mid-year mother tongue language written examinations. The O-level and A-level H1 mother tongue language papers 1 and 2 on June 1 will be rescheduled to June 18, and the O-level and A-level mother tongue language B papers 1 and 2 on June 2 will be shifted to June 19.
The listening comprehension for O- and A-level mother tongue language and mother tongue language B will be rescheduled from July 21 and 22 respectively to July 27.
About 20,600 students across all schools have registered for the O- and A-Level mother tongue language mid-year examinations.
"SEAB will work with schools to put in place precautionary measures to protect the safety and well-being of students and examination personnel," said the MOE.
The ministry noted that even with the adjustments to national examinations, students in graduating cohorts will continue to face some anxiety.
"We will look to phase in more consultations for these students, and explore more face-to-face lessons, when the national situation improves," it said.
Schools will also similarly help non-graduating students cope with the reduced curriculum time and the demands of the year-end school examinations, and MOE will guide schools further on how to make these adjustments.
Meanwhile, polytechnic students will continue with full home-based learning from May 5 to June 1. Those from the Institute of Technical Education will continue with full home-based learning until May 8, and will be on vacation from May 9 to June 1.
Students from the Singapore Institute of Technology and some from the Singapore University of Technology and Design will start their school term with full home-based learning on May 18, and other autonomous universities will be having their holidays. Those offering a summer term will conduct all classes online.
Due to the coronavirus situation, many students here have been on full home-based learning since April 8, which was initially meant to last until May 4.
Home-based learning is a combination of online lessons and activities, as well as offline readings and assignments.
For parents working in essential services like healthcare and are unable to secure alternative care arrangements, they may continue to approach their children's primary school, MOE kindergarten or special education school for assistance during the school holidays, said the MOE.
Students who do not have support at home have been supported by a small group of teachers in schools, and they can use devices and the Internet access in their schools.
"These support services have been ongoing throughout the home-based learning period, and will continue to be offered. Private education institutions should either continue with their home-based learning arrangements, or suspend classes otherwise," said the MOE.
The moves by MOE come after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's fourth national address on the Covid-19 situation on Tuesday.
He said that the one-month circuit breaker will be extended by another month to June 1, to further curb the spread of the virus.
While he noted that the circuit breaker measures have been working, he stressed that Singapore cannot be complacent. He said the number of unlinked cases has not come down, which suggests a "hidden reservoir" of cases in the community.