Students to stay at home 1 day a week to support safe distancing measures: Ong Ye Kung

Additional support will be given to students and families who need it.

Ashley Tan | Sulaiman Daud | March 27, 2020, 06:43 PM

To help with Covid-19 containment efforts, Singapore schools will implement one day of Home-Based Learning (HBL) every week.

This "blended learning model" initiative, announced by Education Minister Ong Ye Kung on March 27, will start in April 2020. Here's the schedule:

  • Primary schools -- Wednesday
  • Secondary schools -- Thursday
  • Junior college / Centralised institute -- Friday

Ministry of Education (MOE) Kindergartens will not be affected. Schools will also conduct staggered dismissal times to prevent a congestion of students on regular school days.

Support for students learning at home

Instructions will be provided to students and their parents on how to conduct HBL at home.

It will last for about four to five hours a day, with a maximum of two hours using a device. The schedule is flexible, with students able to decide when to access their assignments.

If lessons require digital devices, schools will assist students who do not have access. The Student Learning Space (SLS) will also be accessible during this period.

Students in Special Education Schools, and their parents, will receive support for HBL from teachers and other school staff.

HBL may be extended beyond the current one day, if the situation calls for it.

Ong emphasised that this was not a drastic, sudden measure, but a progressive measure that allows students and parents to get used to it.

Schools to remain open for a small group of students

For the small group of students whose parents cannot look after them during HBL days, or arrange alternative childcare, schools will still remain open.

There will be a few teachers in school to supervise them, as well as to support students using the SLS at home.

Priority is given to parents who work in essential services such as healthcare, and they can approach schools for assistance.

Ong also implored employers to be as understanding as possible with parents who may have to change their schedules due to HBL.

Most teachers will work from home during HBL days, but the principal and general office staff will still be in school.

HBL is not a full replacement for attending school

MOE's press release stated that HBL cannot fully replace the learning experience of attending school.

It is conscious that implementing HBL will have a big impact on families and students without strong home support. Additional measures will be introduced for students who need more support for HBL.

In a doorstop interview earlier on March 27, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made the point that closing schools entirely would have a deleterious effect on students from lower-income households.

PM Lee explained that school is not just about going there, attending lessons and coming home.

"It is also a place where you socialise, where you mix, where the teachers guide you, where you get the enrichment classes, and that is how we level up our kids and make sure that the people from less advantaged families are well taken care of and have a chance to level up."

Although other countries such as Japan have closed schools to help fight the spread of Covid-19, Ong previously explained why Singapore did not follow suit, citing disruption to students, their parents, and the fact that the virus does not seem to affect young children as much as adults.

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Top photo by Ashley Tan.