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Missing time spent in school, selected students who returned for classes say they’re glad to be back

SINGAPORE — It is the school holidays, but in what is probably an unusual sentiment, students in graduating cohorts who returned to school this week told TODAY that they were glad to be back for supplementary lessons.

Abigail Juarez (front row) who studies at Jurong West Secondary School was among a small group of students who returned for lessons in class on May 20, 2020.

Abigail Juarez (front row) who studies at Jurong West Secondary School was among a small group of students who returned for lessons in class on May 20, 2020.

SINGAPORE — It is the school holidays, but in what is probably an unusual sentiment, students in graduating cohorts who returned to school this week told TODAY that they were glad to be back for supplementary lessons. 

Others, who are from these cohorts but were not called back for lessons, are relieved that school will resume soon on June 2.

The main reason? They preferred taking lessons in class rather than online.

In tandem with the stay-home curbs imposed by the Government, the mid-year school holidays in June were brought forward to start from May 5 and will end on June 2.

Schools were already closed on April 8 to arrest the spread of Covid-19 in the country, and students have since been completing assignments and taking lessons online at home.

Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung said earlier this month that students in Primary 6, Secondary 4 and 5, their second year of junior college or third year of pre-university education will have face-to-face lessons from May 19 to help them prepare for their national examinations. 

Mr Ong said that these will be done in a “careful and calibrated manner, with ample safe distancing”. 

In a circular addressed to parents seen by TODAY, CHIJ Primary (Toa Payoh) students have been told not to arrive at school more than five minutes earlier than the time of their lessons to prevent intermingling. They should also leave the school immediately after their classes end. 

Jurong West Secondary School sent an email to its students, saying that apart from having safe distancing measures, the school was looking into making microphones available for all its teachers since they may not be heard as well behind their protective masks. 

One of the students who had supplementary English lessons on Tuesday was Keia Goh, 12, who is taking her Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) this year. 

Keia had her lessons with around 30 other classmates in their school hall and she said that everyone had obeyed safe-distancing rules such as remaining in their individual seats that were about a metre apart. 

She was thankful to be in school because she found it easier to follow what was taught compared to the online Google Meet lessons hosted by her teacher.

“Sometimes there will be poor internet connection… and I cannot hear the teachers clearly, so being able to meet them face to face is much better.”

Sec 4 student Abigail Juarez, 16, who studies at Jurong West Secondary School, returned for lessons on Wednesday and felt good to be able to conduct experiments in the school laboratory for chemistry class. 

“I’m glad to get to practise in the lab… home-based learning for chemistry was more focused on the concepts,” she said. 

In the design and technology class, she was able to consult her teacher on a component of coursework that will be graded as part of the GCE O-Level syllabus. Learning at home, it was a different teacher who taught them just the concepts. 

“Our workshop instructor also gave us an in-depth demonstration for our coursework,” she said.

Another O-Level student Joelle Ng, who went back to Nan Hua High School for supplementary lessons on Tuesday, said that she was not really worried about contracting the coronavirus because of the precautions taken.

The 16-year-old said that she had to use the contact-tracing mobile application SafeEntry when she entered or left the school and she wiped down her desk before and after their lessons with a disinfecting solution and paper towels provided by the school. 

Joelle added that having a mix of e-learning at home and classes in school would be beneficial.

“Home-based learning for me is more productive as I have more energy to listen and learn better,” she said, explaining that she has a better balance between her studies and rest when she is at home.

“Those of us who live far away from school have to wake up early and travel, which makes us very tired and not have enough energy.”

LOOKING FORWARD TO SCHOOL REOPENING

Among the students from graduating cohorts who spoke to TODAY, there were those who were not called back for supplementary lessons. They did not ask their schools about them but are looking forward to school reopening. 

When schools reopen on June 2, only the graduating cohorts of Primary 6, Secondary 4 and 5 will attend class daily. 

Asked whether it was up to schools to decide whether or not to have supplementary classes for their graduating cohorts, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said: "In light of the extended Home-Based Learning, schools have invited students in the graduating cohorts to return for various reasons, such as to catch up on their coursework subjects, practical sessions, and targeted remediation for those who need additional support.

"Schools would assess the needs of their graduating students to prioritise the support."

TODAY has also reached out to a few schools for comment on why supplementary lessons were not held for all graduating students and what other forms of support the schools will be providing. 

For instance, Kate Wong, a Primary 6 student from Methodist Girls’ School, said that only certain students have been called back for remedial lessons during the stay-home period since April 8 and she will be returning to school only on June 2. 

“I would prefer going back to school because even though online learning is useful, I think it’s quite insufficient and needs to be supplemented,” she said. 

Instructions and explanations for some coursework may be clearer in face-to-face settings, she added, and this has left her feeling slightly worried about not being sufficiently prepared for her PSLE. 

Yet, she is aware that it would be difficult for school attendance to be the way it was before and there is still a small chance of her contracting the virus from her classmates. 

“Some students may not follow the rules because people are complaining that it’s hot in the masks and stuff like that,” Kate said. 

Samuel Liu, 18, a second-year student from National Junior College, has also not been called back to school for classes. 

“I’m looking forward to being around people. I think that now, with community cases being around fewer than five people, it’s not really so worrisome. I believe precautions will be taken although the school hasn’t told us about them yet.”

Ms Lin Limei, a 48-year-old housewife, said she is glad that her son, Primary 6 student Ryan Vaswani from Nanyang Primary School, will be returning to school. She felt that his teachers would be better able to inculcate a sense of urgency in him because working from home could feel like being on holiday. 

“As he’s quite a diligent guy, he seems to be coping all right. I am guiding him to do some papers now,”  Ms Lin said, adding that Ryan has online tuition class as well. 

“He and most of his classmates have help at home or they have tuition. Those without similar help at home will be quite lost since they are not in school for such a long time.”

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Covid-19 coronavirus school holiday home-based learning students

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