Parents okay with move, but some wonder about efficacy

Starting next week, all schools will conduct one day of home-based learning a week. Assistance will be given to students who do not have access to digital devices when their learning requires it. School dismissal times will also be staggered to reduc
Starting next week, all schools will conduct one day of home-based learning a week. Assistance will be given to students who do not have access to digital devices when their learning requires it. School dismissal times will also be staggered to reduce the congestion when students take public transport or the school bus home.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Having lessons at home once a week is manageable even if disruptive for some families, said parents in response to the latest social distancing measure by the Ministry of Education, which begins next week.

But some parents and students wondered if it would make a difference in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Madam Grace Chua, 39, who has a Primary 5 son and Nursery 2 daughter, said parents had expected remote learning to occur. "I'm glad it's not an entire block period of school closure, because it will catch parents off guard," she said.

The account manager, who is working from home, said: "It's a good decision to space it out, so that there are fewer people and students out in public every week."

She said her son is familiar with e-learning as his school holds it once every term. "He knows how to navigate the online platforms, and doesn't require much supervision."

But with tuition classes and swimming lessons also suspended, he misses his friends, she said. "I'd rather children be kept in schools, so that they have some interaction with friends, and things are kept as normal as possible."

Secondary 3 student Xavier Lim said: "I'm glad and relieved that the Government is trying to safeguard students and mentally preparing us if schools need to close. But I'm not sure how much this will help to reduce contact, if teachers and students' exposure to the public is minimised by only a day."

Some parents have questioned why schools have remained open during the pandemic, even as other countries have shut them.

Housewife Liew Cheng Huan, 53, who has three children in secondary school, is concerned that schools can become Covid-19 clusters, citing the outbreak at the PAP Community Foundation Sparkletots centre at Fengshan.

 
 
 
 

"It highlights the potential of such an outbreak happening in schools. The concept of social distancing is to minimise large gatherings which, by definition, is currently happening at schools," she said.

Mrs Sophie Lam, 41, who runs a handicraft business and has twin daughters in Primary 6, said: "This is a start, and a big step for the Government to take. But one day of home-based learning doesn't do much (in preventing the spread of the virus). I hope they can come up with a better arrangement fast."

Students said home-based learning will help them keep up with the syllabus, in the event schools close.

Catholic Junior College student Dawn Liew, 17, suggested that online attendance can be taken to ensure all students are taking part, and subject content released according to the normal school timetable, so that "students have a meaningful learning experience".

"If the necessary help were to be given to students and schools, like for example loaning laptops to lower-income students for the month, it could be just as effective as going to school, not to mention it being indubitably much safer," added the JC1 student.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2020, with the headline 'Parents okay with move, but some wonder about efficacy'. Print Edition | Subscribe