SINGAPORE - From May 19, schools may start bringing students in small groups for face-to-face lessons as circuit breaker measures slowly ease up, said the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19 in a press conference on Saturday (May 2).
Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the task force, said they would focus on the graduating cohorts taking national examinations. These are the Primary 6, Secondary 4 and 5, Junior College 2 and Pre-University 3 cohorts.
"There is naturally more anxiety among this group," he said.
Institutions of higher learning, particularly the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), will also allow more students to return to campus for critical consultations, projects or practicums.
Mr Wong said that the entire cohort will not be allowed back, but that priority will be given to those who need school facilities for coursework and practical sessions, as well as those who need additional support and mediation during school vacation periods.
"It's a small group," he said, adding that this will be done with safe distancing measures and that the students will be kept in separate groups within cohorts.
"We are not opening up the entire school system at all," he stressed.
Rather, he said, this will be done in a gradual manner from the month of May.
From June, depending on the situation then, the task force will review how much further schools can open up and how many more students can return.
Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said in a Facebook post on Saturday that the return of graduating cohort students will be done in “a careful and calibrated manner, with ample safe distancing”.
“They will come back in small groups, on selected days in a week, throughout the day, and will be spaced out within the school compound. They will meet teachers one-to-one, or in small groups. Masks are compulsory.”
He said: “We know that these students have been anxious about the preparation for their national exams, and that home-based learning cannot fully substitute face to face coaching and lessons.”
Mr Ong said that throughout the four-week mid-year school holidays, which start from May 5, schools will also continue to engage students with greater needs and provide care for those whose parents work in essential services and are unable to secure alternative care arrangements.
Teachers rostered during this period will be given time off in the later half of May, as the first two weeks of the holidays are usually set aside as protected rest time for teachers.
“This is something we always do, to allow teachers some time to rest and recharge, although we know many of them use the time to plan lessons and stay in touch with students,” added Mr Ong.