Coronavirus: Laptops, headsets - families all set for home-based learning

Some parents also plan daily study and play time for kids; minister urges students to practise self-directed learning

Primary 6 pupil Kyan Low taking an online Chinese language enrichment class at home on Monday.
Primary 6 pupil Kyan Low taking an online Chinese language enrichment class at home on Monday. PHOTO: COURTESY OF EUNICE TAY

From buying laptops and assessment books to making a dash to the libraries to borrow books before their closure yesterday, families have geared up for full home-based learning which starts today.

They have also drawn up daily schedules for study and play, even as parents work from home themselves. Full home-based learning will last until at least May 4.

Madam Eunice Tay, 43, who has a daughter, Kayla, in Primary 4 and son, Kyan, in Primary 6, had ordered an extra laptop online about two weeks ago so that they can use separate devices for learning.

She also ordered headsets with microphones so that they would not distract each other.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said parents have concerns about how to guide their children while juggling work from home.

"If we still expect to drill and tutor students to achieve the same mastery of academic knowledge and curriculum, and ace their exams, we are likely to be frustrated. Because home-based learning is just not the same as face-to-face teaching and tutoring," he said.

Instead, home-based learning can encourage students to practise self-directed learning, he said. "If we can get our children to be acquainted with that idea, this period of home-based learning would have gifted them a precious skill for life."

He shared tips such as creating routines and ground rules, and prioritising tasks.

Students should also not be meeting friends for projects or their tutors, he said. "To defeat Covid-19, we must lower the transmission of the virus. This means we need to reduce our social interactions, reduce the number of people we meet outside of our immediate household members."

He had acknowledged on Monday that full home-based learning may throw up challenges, even as the practice day last week gave parents, students and teachers an idea of what to expect.

Primary school pupils went through lessons at home last Wednesday, secondary school students did so on Thursday, and junior college and Millennia Institute students on Friday.

Calling for parents' understanding, Mr Ong said home-based learning is not ideal but that teachers will do their best.

He said teachers will also check on students regularly, noting that many teachers who are also parents of young children may not be able to give immediate replies.

Anticipating the amount of time her family will spend at home, Madam Tay, an entrepreneur who is working from home, also bought practice test papers, more snacks, reams of paper and ink cartridges.

"It's more to be self-sufficient at home so that we don't need to make trips out of the house," she said.

She has planned a daily schedule, including the children's enrichment classes online and exercise time.

"My son is a swimmer and my girl is in badminton, so we need to draw up time for them for training to keep fit. They're also not used to being indoors for so long, and they are facing the screen for such a long period," she said.

"This month will be challenging. But these are our children, we can manage them. If you want to keep everyone safe, and go back to normalcy as fast as possible, it's good to keep everyone including the kids at home."

FAQ for parents

Q How do I keep track of my child's progress?

A Teachers will use various ways to assess your child's progress, and provide you with timely feedback. Here is what you can do:

• Use the teacher's feedback on assignments and daily work to learn about your child's strengths and areas for improvement.

• Affirm your child in areas he has done well in, and share ideas on how to improve.

• Encourage your child to check in with the teachers if, or when, help is needed. You can also e-mail your child's teacher for clarifications.

National examinations such as the Primary School Leaving Examination and the O/N/A levels will proceed as they are major milestones. The Ministry of Education (MOE) will ensure that your child is not disadvantaged. For instance, if curriculum time cannot be fully recovered, certain topics will not be tested.

Q Now that I work from home, my child keeps asking me for help. I don't want to shut out my child, but I have work commitments too.

A It is natural for your child to approach you for help, but do not take over the role of the teacher. Help him develop the habit of self-directed learning.

• Draw up a family timetable together. Mark out the time slots during which each family member is busy or engaged in "live" lesson or teleconference, so that everyone knows when not to interrupt.

• Agree on when your child can approach you for help or advice (such as in logging on to devices). This will help you juggle your work, while supporting your child.

• It is easy to get carried away when working from home. Try to start and end work at your usual office hours.

Q How can I help my child learn more independently?

A Create a space (online or in hard copy) for your child to note down questions and encourage him to find out the answers from classmates and teachers. Make the contact details of the teachers easily available for your child.

• Guide your child to search for answers on his own (for example, through the MOE library on online platform Student Learning Space).

• Encourage your child to share his learning with you daily.

• Let your child know it is okay not to get the right answers all the time. What matters is that your child has put in his best effort.

Q My child may be anxious about this disruption to the usual schedule. What can I do?

A Let your child know it is normal to feel worried and anxious in stressful and uncertain times.

At the same time, encourage him to share his feelings, worries and concerns.

Help your child stay positive by getting him to reflect on his successes and the things he is thankful for.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 08, 2020, with the headline Coronavirus: Laptops, headsets - families all set for home-based learning. Subscribe