Tuition centres opt for fully online classes or hybrid learning in heightened alert phase

Parents and guardians wait for their children outside tuition centres at United Square in May 2021. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - With Singapore returning to heightened alert on Thursday (July 22), some tuition centres were again focused on offering virtual lessons, citing safety reasons, although in-person tuition classes may continue with class sizes of up to 50.

Principal of Knowledge Trail Learning Centre Darrin Tan said classes were moving online for the safety of their students and staff.

"The students do not need to travel to attend our lessons and this will also help reduce the risks of community transmission as well as minimise the risk of student intermingling," he told The Straits Times.

Co-founder of Integral Learning Academy Alex Lim, 34, said that he was concerned over the increasing number of primary school pupils testing positive for Covid-19.

He has decided to adopt a hybrid approach of virtual and physical lessons until Aug 18.

But others said there are real benefits to in-person classes that online alternatives cannot match, and a hybrid of both suits different learning styles.

Chief executive of Indigo Education Group Isaac Lim, 40, said: "While some students have coped well with online lessons, others prefer in-person lessons as they are experiencing 'Zoom fatigue' and find it difficult to focus. With the year-end school and national examinations looming, it is crucial we offer a range of options to ease our students' anxiety and prepare them well."

There are challenges to going online, such as weak Internet connections, and malfunctioning of the student's camera and audio instruments.

Mr Lim of Integral Learning Academy noted that learners at the primary level especially seem less engaged online.

Demand for tuition centres has not diminished, especially for children taking national examinations.

That demand is high has helped defray the financial costs presented by the pandemic for tuition centres.

Ms Theresa Ho, assistant general manager at Learning Point, said the centre's costs increased by over 20 per cent during Covid-19, after installing air ionisers in classrooms and using more digital tools for online learning.

Parents The Straits Times spoke to welcomed having in-person classes for their children, but also accept that hybrid models of learning are necessary during Covid-19.

Accountant Surbhi Palta, 39, said her eight-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter were easily distracted during their virtual classes. She said: "I found my kids losing focus easily, and many times I caught them checking their mobiles."

Technical support officer Irene Tan, 43, added that some school lessons can be missed, scaled down or rushed through during the pandemic.

She said: "My children do not like one-to-one tutoring as they feel pressured that the tutor's whole attention is on them for one to two hours.

"Tuition centres also have benefits like learning with peers and picking up good ideas from them."

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