Parents struggle to juggle working from home and supervising kids' home-based learning amid Covid-19 crisis

Kevin Yu, seven, with his sister, Nicole, four, on his first day of full home-based learning on April 8, 2020.
Kevin Yu, seven, with his sister, Nicole, four, on his first day of full home-based learning on April 8, 2020. PHOTO: COURTESY OF YU JIARONG

SINGAPORE - Supervising their children's learning from home while working from home is a struggle for many parents as Singapore starts full home-based learning on Wednesday (April 8) to help stem the spread of Covid-19.

Some, like Ms Michele Tan, had to wake up at 7am to do her work so that she could focus on helping her Primary 3 daughter with her lessons from 9.30 am.

"This is only the first day. I will have to work out a schedule for the rest of the month," said the administrative executive, who is in her mid-30s and working from home.

The home-based learning will continue till May 4, when the stay-home circuit breaker period is scheduled to end.

Schools are also giving their students varying amounts of work on the Singapore Student Learning Space (SLS) platform, said parents interviewed by The Straits Times.

Some received detailed checklists, while others were given just a few assignments.

When contacted, the Ministry of Education said schools and teachers are allowed to decide what is best for their students.

They "have the autonomy to decide on the sequencing of topics, pace of coverage and pedagogy applied, based on the profile and learning needs of their students", said its deputy director-general of education (curriculum) Sng Chern Wei.

"Hence, for home-based learning, teachers will exercise their professional judgment to decide on the content to be taught based on the learning stage of their classes, and design learning experiences or lessons that best meet the needs of their students. Schools will also keep the home-based learning and assessment load manageable," he added.

In general, primary, secondary and junior college students are given four, five and six hours of home-based learning a day, respectively, and the pace and scope of homework and assignments will align with these hours.

Mr Sng said teachers will monitor their students' progress through their participation and the assignments they complete.

 
 
 

"Teachers will also discuss how they can be better engaged with their parents," he added.

Ms Tan's daughter received a detailed to-do list on the day's work, ranging from the usual academic subjects such as English, mathematics and science to the non-academic like music and physical education.

Many lower primary pupils, including her daughter, find it hard to concentrate without a teacher or an adult being physically present, so parents have to be around, she added.

"At certain time slots, there are class discussions on Zoom (a video-conferencing app). Then there are so many resources - YouTube, SLS, documents on Google Drive and hard-copy worksheets. The information is everywhere, and we have to sit beside them and work with them.


The home-based learning will continue till May 4. PHOTO: JASONTAICC/INSTAGRAM

"My daughter is not used to home-based learning, so she's not a very independent learner yet. She kept asking me questions and I also had to help with technical issues such as websites not loading or videos not playing smoothly."

Ms Tan's big concern is that the children will miss interacting with their classmates and teachers during the weeks of home-based learning.

"Parents from my daughter's class are trying to arrange some Zoom sessions for the kids to have communication time with their friends. Some classes already have a 'Zoom recess', short breaks where the children eat meals together via video call. Parents can also get some break time then."


The home-based learning will continue till May 4. PHOTO: ALITTLEFOOTPRINT/INSTAGRAM

Other parents, like Mrs Janeshtha Vaswani, struggle to juggle both their work and helping their children.

The 47-year-year said while home-based learning has been smooth so far, it can be a challenge to stay focused on her own work while helping her son, who is in Primary 2.

"Sometimes, kids get stuck because they do not know how to approach the questions. My son keeps asking me to check his work before he submits it. But we still have to do our own work and take our own calls. So it can be difficult to cope," said the assistant manager at a medical school.


The home-based learning will continue till May 4. PHOTO: DONALD.JUNHAO/INSTAGRAM

Mrs Jasmine Teng, 40, who is in human resources and working from home, said it can be "burdensome" to have to move between different online learning platforms and websites.

But her two children, who are in Primary 4 and 5, have been attending online tuition classes at OneSanta for some time.

"They are quite used to learning online. If they have any questions while doing home-based learning, they can clarify doubts with their online tutors," she said, which makes it easier for her to do her own work.


The home-based learning will continue till May 4. PHOTO: MASNORAINI/INSTAGRAM

But some parents like Mr Aaron Koh, 44, who has a Primary 6 son, said lessons went smoothly as they had done extensive preparations before Wednesday.

Mr Koh and his son logged on at 10am to start the day's assignments on English composition and mathematics.

"I got all his passwords ready, including his SLS password and also the passwords for each subject - we wrote them all down. For my son, each subject class has its own username and password, which adds a bit of complexity because every file you download, you have to enter both fields."

He had also bookmarked the various links his teachers had sent for easy access by his son. He had bought more reams of paper and ink cartridges for his printer at home.

 
 
 

Mr Koh, who works in software sales, has been working from home for the past two years and as a result, he was "probably more prepared than most parents" to juggle working and supervising his son's learning.

"He can be distracted sometimes. He has some games installed on his laptop, so I have to periodically check on him. But I know how to manage my time."

Secondary 2 student Chloe Wong said she spent about five hours on home-based learning using SLS.

"It was better than the trial last week, when I couldn't log on to SLS for about an hour. But this time round, no one had complaints that they couldn't log on," she said.

Some of her friends FaceTime each other to do their work together, she added.

"There was one question in my English Literature assignment on SLS that I didn't know how to do, but I was able to directly WhatsApp the teacher. She took about 20 minutes to reply, which was a bit slow. But she teaches the subject for all classes at my level , so I understand."