Pre-schools create home-learning kits as attendance dips

Kids still encouraged to go to school if they are well; precautions in place amid outbreak

Home-learning kits developed by EtonHouse Community Fund have been given to children on leave of absence from school as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, which has infected 75 people here.
Home-learning kits developed by EtonHouse Community Fund have been given to children on leave of absence from school as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, which has infected 75 people here. PHOTO: ETONHOUSE COMMUNITY FUND

Several pre-school chains including EtonHouse, PCF Sparkletots and NTUC First Campus have come up with resources for children to learn at home, in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, which has infected 75 people here. Some centres said they have seen a slight dip in attendance in the past few weeks after the Chinese New Year break.

Home-learning kits have been given to these children, although pre-schools said they encourage the kids to continue attending school as long as they are well.

Dr T. Chandroo, chairman and chief executive of Modern Montessori International Group, which runs 13 pre-schools with more than 1,000 children, said there was an attendance drop of about 15 per cent on average per centre in the week after Chinese New Year. Most children have resumed school, he said.

The group has 13 children currently on leave of absence who will return to school on Thursday, while three staff also on leave of absence will return today.

MapleBear's chief executive Patricia Koh said only 1 per cent of its pre-school children and 3 per cent of staff were on leave of absence. Another 13 children have opted to stay home, she added.

Mr Ng Yi Xian, executive director of EtonHouse International Education Group, said attendance across its pre-schools has dropped slightly in the past weeks, with many children "on self-imposed quarantine" or leave of absence.

Its charity arm, EtonHouse Community Fund, developed at-home kits for these children across its E-Bridge pre-schools and EtonHouse centres. Some packs were also sent to NTUC First Campus' pre-schools.

The sets, which have been delivered to the children's homes, include a storybook and related craft activities, as well as information and activities on the virus.

The EtonHouse Community Fund has also produced a book, A New Virus Has Arrived.

The e-book has had 5,000 downloads since its launch on Feb 6, and 8,000 copies will be distributed to children at EtonHouse, E-Bridge and other pre-schools.

NTUC First Campus' My First Skool said about 2 per cent of its staff and less than 1 per cent of children were on leave of absence.

The operator has also developed a series of home-based learning materials for parents and caregivers to implement with children at home.

For toddlers, there are activities such as making music shakers with recycled materials, while older children have activities aligned with curriculum content.

One such activity is to get parents to help children understand why they need to stay home and how to keep safe from the coronavirus, through newspaper articles, pamphlets and conversations based on suggested talking points.

A spokesman for My First Skool said: "For children who are well and fit for school, we would like to encourage and assure parents to continue to send their children for continued learning and for normalcy as precautionary efforts at our centres have been stepped up and implemented."

Mr Ronald Kwong, Busy Bees Asia's director of operations, said children on leave of absence or who have chosen to remain at home have received a home-learning kit.

The company runs several pre-school chains such as Learning Vision, Pat's Schoolhouse and Small Wonder, and each brand has its own set of resources developed by curriculum specialists, he said.

"Our plans in place ensure that the educational development of our children will not be disrupted even if they are unable to attend school," he said.

One parent, Ms Ishwarya Jayshree, 28, said she prefers to have her mother care for her three-year-old daughter at home for now, instead of her attending childcare.

"It's not just me - I know of at least six other children who have not gone back to school yet," said the regional sales support coordinator.

"There are a lot of unknown factors, like taking public transport to school, not knowing who we come into contact with, and who the other kids have been in contact with. I don't want to take the risk."

Other parents like business owner Linda Ho continue to send their children to school.

"We initially had some concerns because the school has a lot of teachers from China, but because of the precautions, we feel safe," said Mrs Ho, 38, whose son is turning two.

"School is a controlled environment, compared to places like shopping malls. My son is very active so I wouldn't be able to keep him at home the whole day."

MapleBear's Mrs Koh added: "We all do our part by taking the necessary precautions, being sensible, but not paranoid."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2020, with the headline Pre-schools create home-learning kits as attendance dips. Subscribe