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Covid-19: All primary, secondary schools and JCs to adopt one day of e-learning a week, starting from April

SINGAPORE — Starting from April, all schools will adopt one day of e-learning a week where students will learn remotely from home, the Education Ministry (MOE) said on Friday (March 27).

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung speaking to the media on Friday (March 27).

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung speaking to the media on Friday (March 27).

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SINGAPORE — Starting from April, all schools will adopt one day of e-learning a week where students will learn remotely from home, the Education Ministry (MOE) said on Friday (March 27).

All primary schools will conduct this e-learning on Wednesdays, secondary schools on Thursdays, and junior colleges (JC) and centralised institutes, such as Millennia Institute, on Fridays. MOE kindergartens are not affected.

On the days when students are not taking part in home-based learning, the schools will stagger dismissal times as part of safe distancing measures, said the MOE in a statement.

The move is part of a transition towards what MOE called a “blended learning model”.

“We want to progressively introduce home-based learning (HBL) so as to allow both our students and parents to be better prepared should the situation call for more days of HBL,” the ministry said.

The move follows a recent spike in imported cases of Covid-19 and new safe distancing measures that kicked in on Friday, and comes amid calls by some netizens to shut schools after the discovery of two new clusters of Covid-19 cases occurring in education institutions.

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Speaking to the media at the MOE headquarters in Buona Vista, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said: “We are not like many countries where you’re forced into sudden dramatic measures. But even as we progressively step up our measures, I think there are some parts of our life that we are doing our best to safeguard.

“We treat the closure of school with seriousness and will not do it lightly and we do so because it majorly disrupts people’s lives,” he added.

On Friday at the Istana, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had told the media that the Government has mulled school closures carefully and that the impact of any lockdown would hurt children in lower-income families more.

This is as students with little parental care could head to the video arcade or to the shops to roam around, thus placing them at greater risk of contracting Covid-19 than if they had remained in a controlled school environment, said Mr Lee.

When asked, the MOE confirmed that no disciplinary actions will be taken against students who do not remain at home during their e-learning days. TODAY understands that MOE will be stressing the importance of safe distancing to students and that parental guidance plays a role too.

“Since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, schools have implemented a strict regime of precautionary measures to safeguard the well-being of our staff and students. With further enhanced measures, we have been able to open schools as planned following the March school holidays,” said the MOE.

For parents who are not able to secure alternative childcare arrangements during this time, schools will still remain open for this small group of students, the ministry added.

Parents with occupations in essential services, such as those working in healthcare, will be prioritised.

This group of students will be supervised by a small number of teachers in school, said the MOE. Parents may approach the school for assistance, it added.

Said MOE: “HBL will not be able to fully replace the depth and variety of learning experiences that our students derive from being physically present in school. We are also conscious that moving to HBL will have (an) impact on many parents and families, especially those without good home support.’’

Mr Ong said schools have been practising HBL once a term.

“It is actually quite a good discipline that you want children to start developing. But we do it once a term and I would say we would be open to the idea of doing more, even in peacetime,” he said, later stating that when the Covid-19 pandemic has passed, HBL will be here to stay.

MOE is also planning to give every child a device as well, said the minister. Several schools have been piloting this, and Mr Ong had previously spoken about the idea in February during the debate into his ministry’s budget.

Schools will provide instructions to students and parents on how to access e-learning, and Singapore Student Learning Spaces — an online learning portal that contains learning resources — will remain open to students.

“While digital technologies will play a key part in HBL, all our students can rely upon the ongoing support of their teachers and other school personnel. Our students in Special Education (Sped) schools as well as their parents will also receive HBL support for the customised curriculum from Sped teachers through regular contact,” said the ministry.

MOE’s centre-based learning at its language centres and various special and elective programmes, such as subjects offered by autonomous universities, have already transitioned to e-learning to reduce mingling by students from different schools.

Graduating students in Secondary 4 and 5, and JC2, who had previously needed to travel to these centres, are now doing video-conferencing in their respective schools or at home instead. This allows “live lessons” to be conducted, the ministry said.

External activities and inter-school activities — training camps, national school games, school trips, outdoor learning activities included — will continue to be suspended.

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