Coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus: Attendance not compulsory for students allowed back to school in May

A cleaner at Beatty Secondary School on April 9, the second day after Singapore schools shifted to full home-based learning. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Precautions will be taken to keep students safe as they are allowed back to school, including institutes of higher learning, from May 19 but attendance is not compulsory.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung also explained that schools will be inviting students in the graduating cohorts to return for coaching and consultations with teachers.

Not for formal classes, he added, but to provide support that schools give students in these cohorts every year during the mid-year break.

Said Mr Ong: "Students find it useful, and given the current situation, we know that many students are getting anxious about year-end national examinations and would like to see their teachers.

"It also allows students who need to use school facilities and equipment for subjects with coursework and practical components to catch up on their work," he added.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) also clarified on its website that these lessons are not for learning new content, which will be done in Term 3.

Safe distancing will be practised when students return during the break, with schools rostering them to return on different days during the week and at different times throughout the day, MOE said.

The students will also stay in class groupings, with no intermingling, and use well-ventilated venues with fixed exam-style seating and appropriate distancing.

All students and staff will be required to wear masks, and daily temperature-taking and wipe-down routines will also continue.

In response to calls to cancel the national exams, Mr Ong said these exams are "essential education activities".

"Preparation and taking of national examinations... (are) regarded as very important to many parents and students as they affect future education postings."

He also addressed concerns that teachers may not get adequate rest during the month-long school holidays which have been brought forward to tomorrow and end on June 2.

Mr Ong noted that not all teachers are involved as only a fraction of students will be invited back to school.

And teachers will still be given two weeks of protected time off this month. "There is no doubt teachers have been working extra hard this year, because of the Covid-19 situation," he said.

The remarks follow the announcement on Saturday by the Covid-19 multi-ministry task force to allow students to return to schools in small groups for face-to-face lessons as circuit breaker measures are slowly eased.

Besides coaching, the institutes of higher learning will also allow students to return to campus for critical consultations, projects or practicums.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the task force, stressed that it does not mean the entire school system is opening up.

That will be done in a gradual manner from this month.

Depending on the situation from next month, the task force will review how much further schools can open up and how many more students can return.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2020, with the headline Coronavirus: Attendance not compulsory for students allowed back to school in May. Subscribe