Coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus: Timing of school holidays not ideal but parents realise need

Siblings doing home-based learning at home. Their father, Mr Saravanan, said the emotional health of children could be a concern during the circuit breaker period. Brothers Gadiel (at left) and Rayhan playing a board game with their father Tengku Raz
Siblings doing home-based learning at home. Their father, Mr Saravanan, said the emotional health of children could be a concern during the circuit breaker period.PHOTO: COURTESY OF SARAVANAN
Siblings doing home-based learning at home. Their father, Mr Saravanan, said the emotional health of children could be a concern during the circuit breaker period. Brothers Gadiel (at left) and Rayhan playing a board game with their father Tengku Raz
Brothers Gadiel (at left) and Rayhan playing a board game with their father Tengku Razman and mother Cassandra Nadira Lee (not pictured) at home. Ms Lee said her family makes it a point to talk about the Covid-19 situation and why the circuit breaker measures are important.PHOTO: COURTESY OF CASSANDRA NADIRA LEE

The timing of this year's school holidays will not be ideal for families stuck at home, parents said.

The one-month school break will coincide with the four-week circuit breaker extension, which was announced on Tuesday.

But parents said they understood it was necessary to bring the June holidays forward to avoid prolonging home-based learning.

The Education Ministry said on Tuesday that the June holidays will start on May 5 and end on June 1. Term 3 lessons will start on June 2.

Parents told The Straits Times yesterday that they recognised the work schools put into planning and conducting home-based learning, and bringing the holidays forward would help ease the pressure on teachers.

Business manager Frederick Chong, 47, whose sons are in Primary 5 and Secondary 3, said: "It looks tremendously difficult for teachers to do home-based learning on a prolonged basis, so at least they get a breather. Teachers who have primary school-age children have the biggest headache."

Ms Cassandra Nadira Lee, 46, who has two sons in Secondary 1 and Primary 5, said: "It has been a steep learning curve for teachers to do home-based learning so quickly, so this will be a big load off them. They really need to rest.

"They also need time to think creatively about how to address learning gaps and help students catch up on what they have lost this term."

But without home lessons, parents will have to find ways to keep their children busy.

"It's not going to be a real holiday, where we can travel, go shopping or even go to Sentosa," said Mr Chong, whose sons have not left the house since the circuit breaker period began. "I think it will really sink in during the first week of the holidays, when they realise they can't meet friends or go to the library."

Said Ms Lee, an executive leadership coach: "My boys have been saying they're so bored... They're physically very active and they miss seeing their friends."

IT recruitment consultant Saravanan, 40, who goes by one name, said children's emotional health could be a concern. He has a Primary 6 daughter and Secondary 1 son and mostly looks after them on his own as his wife is working in student care services.

"My children have been staying at home since home-based learning started - no outings at all, not even going downstairs to play. (The holidays) will be the same and if all is well, right after that, they will go back to school with a definitely heavy school schedule," he said. "This may not be healthy for them psychologically and emotionally."

Parents are thinking of ways to keep everyone occupied at home, from playing games to doing workouts and chores. Said Ms Lee: "I allow the boys to read comics, something I didn't usually allow, and I extended their screen time a little so it's easier to pass time. We also encourage my older son to cook more."

Ms Adeline Kwan, who works in public service and is in her late 30s, said her Primary 1 son is exploring his interest in wildlife through books and online resources. She added: "He also looks forward to cooking dinner with us."

She also talks to him about the importance of showing appreciation for essential workers in this period.

Mr Chong said: "We've started playing board games as a family, table soccer, and (we are) probably going to take out jigsaws to do."

His son, Secondary 3 student Gabriel Chong, 15, said: "Holidays are usually spent on badminton competitions and going out, but now, that's not possible... But it's also good because hopefully after the circuit breaker, we can go back to school immediately without further disruption."

Some parents are taking the opportunity to teach their children life lessons. Ms Lee's family makes it a point to talk about the Covid-19 situation and why the circuit breaker measures are important.

"With four people in one space 24 hours a day, we have to communicate a lot more now - me and my husband and (with) the children," she said. "It's a great time for the children to understand personal and social responsibility. All this wouldn't happen without the circuit breaker. I feel as long as we have our health nowadays, we are very blessed."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 23, 2020, with the headline 'Timing of school holidays not ideal but parents realise need'. Subscribe