SINGAPORE - Schools will conduct home-based learning (HBL) for students for at least two days a month, starting from the third term of next year, with the practice set to become part of the new normal, coronavirus pandemic or not.
This change will affect all secondary school and junior college students, with every secondary school student set to receive a personal learning device (PLD) by the end of next year.
With primary school pupils, the Ministry of Education will take a more calibrated approach, starting with a small-scale pilot involving five primary schools to better understand how the use of learning devices might impact younger students.
Minister for Education Lawrence Wong, who made these announcements at the annual appointment and appreciation ceremony for principals on Tuesday (Dec 29), said the move to full HBL during the circuit breaker period had reinforced the need to develop students to be adaptable and nimble, to be more self-directed and independent learners.
Teachers saw the benefits of HBL in instilling these attitudes and mindsets, when their students took the initiative to organise themselves into teams and delegated tasks to one another to complete group-based assignments.
"The question now is how we can lock in these gains and mainstream these new practices," said Mr Wong.
Anticipating concerns over the affordability of personal learning devices, which will take the form of a tablet or a laptop, he said students can use their Edusave accounts to pay for them.
With the one-off $200 Edusave top-up that occurred in April, along with the regular annual Edusave contributions, most students will have enough money in their Edusave accounts to pay for the PLDs.
Students from lower-income households will also receive more subsidies so that they do not incur any out-of-pocket expenses when buying their devices.
While the HBL days will be mandatory and part of the new curriculum, Mr Wong said students who need to return to school during HBL for a variety of reasons will be allowed to do so, in consultation with their schools and teachers.
This includes students who require more supervision, those with special needs and those who lack a conducive home environment.
He also addressed concerns over students misusing the devices.
Device management software will be installed on each device that will allow teachers to control how it is being used as well as track how students use it. The MOE will also be ramping up cyber wellness education.
Students whom The Straits Times spoke to welcomed the move, with many citing more rest and more family time as elements of HBL that helped reduce their stress.
While Secondary 1 student Veron Chia was initially concerned with being able to focus at home, the 13-year-old from Bedok South Secondary School said HBL helped her identify her own weaknesses and ask for help, rather than waiting for her teachers to notice she was having problems.
"While I think I will miss my friends and doing things like group projects, HBL made me do things like plan my own schedule and manage my own work," she added.
In his speech, Mr Wong emphasised the crucial role that principals play in the continuing evolution of the education system.
"You are the catalysts for change, and you are the ones who make a critical difference in our education system," he said.
He was speaking to retiring, rotating and newly appointed principals and senior educators. He thanked the 30 retiring senior educators, commending their leadership through several public health crises.
"Through it all, they have shown their commitment, perseverance and resilience as leaders," he said.
"They are living testimonies of passion, courage and grit required in school leadership work."
Additional reporting by Liew Ai Xin