Full home-based learning to start on May 19 to give schools time to prepare: Chan Chun Sing

Teachers and school leaders had indicated that they just needed a few more days to complete the curriculum.
Teachers and school leaders had indicated that they just needed a few more days to complete the curriculum.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Full home-based learning for schools will only start on Wednesday (May 19) as most schools will need a day or two to prepare, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said on Sunday.

Schools which had earlier reported confirmed cases of Covid-19 among their students have already "swung into action" and have either started HBL or will do so on Monday, he added during a virtual press conference.

These include Kong Hwa School, Palm View Primary School, St Andrew's Junior School, St Margaret's Primary School, St Stephen's School, Yio Chu Kang Primary School and Yu Neng Primary School.

"For the rest of the schools, they will typically take about one to two days to get their materials ready, and for them to brief the students and parents," he said, noting parents have said they will need to make adjustments to their plans to facilitate HBL for their children, including making alternative childcare arrangements.

Mr Chan also explained the reasoning behind the decision not to bring the four-week June holidays forward from May 29, and opting for HBL instead for the remaining seven days of the school term.

He noted the measure is meant to bring down the level of activity outside the home as much as possible, following the sharp increase in the number of community cases recently.

Parents and teachers said they would like students to be meaningfully engaged in their homes for the next two weeks and having HBL can help achieve this, Mr Chan said.

Teachers and school leaders had indicated that they just needed a few more days to complete the curriculum and would prefer to do so rather than pushing it back to Term 3, he added.

"We are never sure what exactly would unfold in Term 3, and from last year's experience, we can see that if we load everything onto Term 3, then it can also be a very stressful period for the students, the parents and the schools."

The last time all of Singapore's schools switched to full HBL was from April 8 to May 4 last year, during the circuit breaker period.

Mr Chan said schools have been conducting exercises periodically since then to ensure they can switch to full HBL quickly when required.

But he noted that Covid-19 may become endemic and Singapore must be prepared to live with the virus.

Having all schools go into full HBL for a prolonged period of time is not a sustainable solution, and Singapore will need to have different tools in its toolkit, he said.

Instead, if cases are reported in schools sporadically, targeted measures will be used to ring-fence the affected schools while allowing other schools to continue operating normally, Mr Chan said.

"We will also have a suite of other measures in place to allow our schools to have the best chance to provide physical schooling for our children. This includes vaccination of more younger cohorts, when the approvals are given.

"They will also include new and more rapid testing methods so that we can quickly ring-fence affected schools without having to close down all the schools or convert all of them to home based learning."