askST: If Singapore closes schools, will exams go on?

Students returning to Zhenghua Primary School. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Parents had some questions on the move to have schools conduct one day of home-based learning a week. The Straits Times' senior education correspondent Sandra Davie responds.

Q What if parents do not work in essential services like the healthcare sector, but in jobs like retail, and cannot take leave on home-learning days?

A The Ministry of Education (MOE) has said that schools will remain open for a small group of students whose parents are not able to secure alternative childcare arrangements. Priority will be given to parents in essential services such as healthcare, but if you are unable to take leave on the days where your child will be doing home-learning, then approach the school for help.

All schools will have a small number of teachers in school to supervise students whose parents are not able to make alternative arrangements.

Student care centres will also be open to support these students.

Q Does home-based learning refer to e-lessons by teachers? And how many hours a day does this entail, and do students need to be supervised by their parents?

A Students can expect to have about four to five hours of learning on the day of home-based learning, of which two hours can be through the use of laptops or tablets.

So, home-based learning is not confined to e-learning or learning with computers.

Schools will plan and implement a home-based learning programme that best suits the lessons and the needs of their students.

It can come in different forms. For example, schools may ask students to undertake specific pieces of homework or reading from their textbooks. Sometimes, for subjects such as art, schools may drop off hard-copy packages at a student's home.

Schools may also ask students to go through online materials in the Singapore Student Learning Space or the Learning Management Systems. Teachers will also be able to monitor the students' learning progress through these systems.

MOE said that only young children, in lower primary, may need some supervision and help. Those in upper primary and secondary schools, and junior colleges, should be able to do home-based learning on their own.

If you have young children and are not able to take leave on the days where your child will be doing home-based learning, then approach the school for help.

Q In the event that schools have to close, will major exams, such as the Primary School Leaving Examination, the O levels and A levels still go on?

A Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said yesterday that exams such as the PSLE, O levels and A levels are major milestones, so they will continue to be held. If schools have to close for a significant period of time and curriculum time is lost, then MOE will make adjustments on the topics that are covered by the exams. He said that some topics, for example, can be dropped.

Examinations will continue, and students will be graded fairly.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2020, with the headline askST: If Singapore closes schools, will exams go on?. Subscribe