Skip to main content

Advertisement

Advertisement

MOE to review haze management in schools

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Education (MOE) is working with the Ministry of Health and the National Environment Agency to review its haze-management measures in schools, it said today (Oct 20) in response to TODAY’s queries. “We will provide an update on the enhanced haze management measures when we have completed the review,” the ministry said.

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Education (MOE) is working with the Ministry of Health and the National Environment Agency to review its haze-management measures in schools, it said today (Oct 20) in response to TODAY’s queries. “We will provide an update on the enhanced haze management measures when we have completed the review,” the ministry said.

Together with MOH and NEA, the education ministry will “carefully re-assess our existing haze-management measures to better protect our students from the effects of haze for future haze seasons”.

MOE was responding to a petition for the ministry to take immediate steps to haze-proof its schools. Started two days ago, the petition has garnered more than 2,200 supporters as of 10pm today.

Initiated by Dr Christy Toh — a mother of two aged five and nine — the petition on Change.org called on MOE to make arrangements for lessons to be conducted in air-conditioned rooms with mechanical air filters and implement e-learning for “non-essential lessons” when PM2.5 concentration reaches unhealthy levels, among other things. Support for the petition grew as both PM2.5 and three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) readings rocketed on yesterday night. The one-hour PM2.5 levels hit 471 micrograms per cubic metre in western Singapore at 11pm — the highest level recorded so far this year.

PM2.5 refers to fine particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which can slip past the nasal passages into the lungs and blood streams. Guidelines by the World Health Organization state that there is little evidence for setting a threshold for particular matter below which there will be no adverse health effects. But, the American Environmental Protection Agency sets a 24-hour threshold for PM2.5 at a level of 35 micrograms per cubic metre.

In the petition, Dr Toh noted that children are particularly vulnerable to the haze because their respiratory systems are immature. She told TODAY: “The measures now are very inconsistent across different schools, you have teachers who say children do not need to wear masks in the classroom because classrooms are ‘indoors’ even though the doors and windows remain open.”

Other parents whom this newspaper spoke to noted that current MOE guidelines only call for lesson plans to be modified only when the 24-hour PSI surges beyond 200, which they found inadequate.

Mdm Law Jee Wei, who has a 10-year-old son and five-year-old daughter, said she has kept her son from school for at least five times over the last two months when haze conditions worsened. “But we cannot keep doing that, we don’t want him to fall back (in his studies), and he wants to attend classes too,” she said.

Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease doctor in private practice, said school-going children are especially vulnerable because many classrooms are not air-conditioned. “Even when we move students into an air-conditioned hall when PSI levels cross MOE’s threshold, the hall will be overcrowded and lessons cannot be conducted in an effective manner,” he said.

As part of MOE’s existing haze-management measures, all schools have sufficient enclosed spaces to cater to the students. The schools are also equipped with air purifiers for students who feel unwell or have underlying conditions. Citing the closure of schools on Sept 25, MOE said it would also consider shutting schools when the 24-hour PSI for the next day is expected to hit hazardous levels. It added: “Nevertheless, we also note that this year’s haze season is unusually prolonged, and with more episodes of elevated PSI levels than we have typically experienced in the past.”

Read more of the latest on

Advertisement

Popular

Advertisement

Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.

Aa