SINGAPORE: From April, students in primary and secondary schools as well as junior colleges and centralised institutes will have one day of home-based learning a week, said the Ministry of Education (MOE) on Friday (Mar 27).

The move comes amid an increase in the number of imported COVID-19 cases in Singapore and enhanced measures to stem the spread of the outbreak.

Schools will stagger dismissal times to “reduce the transient congestion of students” on days when they are not on home-based learning, said MOE.

READ: COVID-19: Education Minister Ong Ye Kung addresses 4 common questions from parents 

READ: COVID-19: PM Lee explains why schools remain open

Primary schools will carry out home-based learning on Wednesdays, secondary schools on Thursdays, while junior colleges and centralised institutes will conduct them on Friday, said MOE.

“The recent spike in imported cases signals a new phase in our nation’s fight against COVID-19”, said MOE.

“To support further safe distancing, schools will progressively transit to a blended learning model, starting with one day of home-based learning a week,” the ministry said.

MOE Kindergartens will not be affected by the arrangement.

SCHOOLS TO ASSIST STUDENTS WITH NO ACCESS TO DIGITAL DEVICES

The ministry added that schools will provide instructions to students and parents on accessing home-based learning materials from Monday.

READ: All PCF centres to close for 4 days after 14 employees, including principal, infected with COVID-19

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“When this requires use of digital devices, schools will assist students who do not have access,” said MOE, adding that the ministry’s headquarters will provide schools with sufficient resources.

The Singapore Student Learning Space will also be accessible to students during this period, it said.

“While digital technologies will play a key part in home-based learning, all our students can rely upon the ongoing support of their teachers and other school personnel,” said MOE.

Students in Special Education (SPED) Schools and their parents will also receive home-based learning support for the customised curriculum from SPED teacher through regular contact.

STUDENT CARE PRIORITY GIVEN TO PARENTS WITH JOBS IN ESSENTIAL SERVICES

Schools will remain open for “a small group of students” whose parents are not able to secure alternative childcare arrangement, said MOE, adding that priority will be given to parents in essential services such as healthcare.

A small number of teachers will be in school to supervise these students, as well as support students at home who may have any enquires.

READ: Singapore reports 73 new COVID-19 cases, new cluster involving PCF Sparkletots centre linked to 18 cases

“Home-based learning will not be able to fully replace the depth and variety of learning experiences that out students derive from being physically present in school”, said MOE.

“We are also conscious that moving to home-based learning will have impact on many parents and families, especially those without good home support. Hence, we want to progressively introduce home-based learning, so as to allow both our students and parents to be better prepared should the situation call for more days of home-based learning,” said the ministry.

It added that it will put in place additional measures to help students with higher needs or those who require more support for this arrangement.

Additionally, all centre-based learning including at MOE Language Centres will continue to be conducted in a home-based learning format until the end Term 2.

“For graduating students in Secondary 4 and 5, and JC2, the mode of learning can take the form of video-conferencing in their respective schools or at home, so that ‘live’ lessons can still be conducted without them having to travel to the centres and mingle across schools,” said MOE.

Meanwhile, co-curricular activities as well as external activities and those that involve the mingling of students across schools – such as Learning Journeys, activities at Outdoor Adventure Learning Centres and the National School Games – will also remain suspended for the rest of the term.

The Singapore Youth Festival Arts Presentation will also be cancelled.

CHILDREN AT “MORE RISK” IF SCHOOLS CLOSE: PM LEE

The introduction of home-based learning comes amid concern among parents following a cluster of COVID-19 cases at PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Sparkletots centre in Fengshan​​​​​​​, as well as at Dover Court International School. 

Last month, a 12-year-old student from Raffles Institution was infected with COVID-19. 

Singapore on Thursday reported 52 new cases of COVID-19, bringing its total number of cases to 683.​​​​​​​

Earlier on Friday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said that children may be at “more risk” of contracting COVID-19 if schools were closed and parents are not at home to take care of their children. 

School is a “controlled environment” and not all parents can look after children at home if schools are shut, he said.

READ: COVID-19: PM Lee explains why schools remain open

Mr Lee also highlighted that children would be at a disadvantage if enrichment stopped and if teachers were unable to socialise with their students and guide them. 

Children who “bear the burden more” are the ones from lower income families, he added. 

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