Coronavirus pandemic

One day of home-based study a week from April 1

Move, which affects all schools, will prepare students for more days at home if needed

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said during a briefing with reporters yesterday that schools will also stagger dismissal times to reduce congestion on public transport and school buses.
Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said during a briefing with reporters yesterday that schools will also stagger dismissal times to reduce congestion on public transport and school buses. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Starting on April 1, all schools will conduct one day of home-based learning a week, in the light of the recent spike of Covid-19 cases in Singapore.

Primary schools will do so on Wednesdays, secondary schools on Thursdays, and junior colleges and centralised institutes on Fridays.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said yesterday that this move will better prepare parents and students for more days of home-based learning if and when it is required.

Schools will also stagger dismissal times to reduce congestion when students take public transport or school buses home.

Singapore has ramped up measures progressively over the past few weeks to curb the spread of the virus, said Mr Ong, speaking to reporters.

"So, likewise, for schools, which are a major part of people's lives, we have also been stepping up (measures)," he said.

"So, we will not want to do something dramatic, sudden, that will result in school closure."

He added: "We still have options. We are not like many countries, where they are forced into sudden school closures."

When asked how long this home-based learning arrangement will last, Mr Ong said: "It depends how long the virus lasts, and how long we feel it will be around."

Explaining the Education Ministry's thinking behind its decision, Mr Ong said: "If this virus behaves like influenza, that means children get it more than adults, and children become vectors for transmission, passing through the school from one parent to another, one family to another, I think we would have closed schools long ago.

"But this virus behaves differently, which therefore gives us the option now to take precautions in school... yet be able to keep school going, and therefore keep work (and) the economy going."

From Monday, schools will provide instructions to students and parents on how to access the home-based learning materials.

Assistance will be given to students who do not have access to digital devices when their learning requires it.

Students will have about four to five hours of learning on the day of home-based learning, out of which two hours can be used to access digital devices.

Home-based learning can come in different forms such as e-lessons or other references like worksheets and textbooks.

Teachers could also conduct lessons via "live" videos.

Schools will remain open for a small group of students whose parents are not able to make alternative childcare arrangements.

Priority will be given to parents working in essential services such as healthcare or public transport.

A small number of teachers in each school will supervise these students. Most teachers will stay at home on the day of home-based learning, while about 20 per cent of staff, including the principal, will remain in school.

Co-curricular activities will remain suspended for the rest of Term 2, and so will other activities that involve mingling of students across schools like the National School Games.

The Singapore Youth Festival Arts Presentation will also be cancelled.

Mr Ong acknowledged that the latest move will affect working parents, and he urged employers to "be as understanding as possible".

"I expect other teething issues - whether there are enough devices, whether there is enough bandwidth at home... whether lessons are clear," he said.

Schools already conduct home-based learning regularly, he said, and the ministry has been developing the Singapore Student Learning Space - an online learning platform - over the past two to three years.

On the role that teachers play, Mr Ong said: "Although teachers are not at the front line battling with the virus in hospitals, you are at the front line in terms of our response to the virus."

Thanking teachers, he said: "If not for your work, there will be no confidence among parents to send their children to school."

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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 One day of home-based study a week from April 1. Subscribe