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Tuition, enrichment centres more prepared to move lessons online; some parents pull the plug on these classes

SINGAPORE — This time last year when Covid-19 was at its peak, Ms Nicolette Ng, the co-founder of Write Edge Learning Centre, was scrambling to move classes online.

Tuition, enrichment centres more prepared to move lessons online; some parents pull the plug on these classes

Music teacher Philip Tan said there are some topics like music theory that can be quite difficult to make lively and interactive.

  • Many centre owners said they were prepared for the current phase, having experienced closure during last year’s circuit breaker
  • One tuition centre has moved all classes online ahead of the tightened measures
  • But online classes remain a challenge for those conducting enrichment classes such as music, drama and dance
  • One parent has pulled the plug on his child’s enrichment class after a series of disruptions in the last year

 

SINGAPORE — This time last year when Covid-19 was at its peak, Ms Nicolette Ng, the co-founder of Write Edge Learning Centre, was scrambling to move classes online.

But this year she was more prepared. Her team had spent the weekend putting together and delivering six weeks’ worth of worksheets to the homes of over 1,000 students enrolled in the centre, which conducts English and writing lessons.

All classes at the centre are moved online until the end of Phase Two (heightened alert) on June 13.

“While online lessons are really convenient and they provide us with that accessibility to learn from home, I think it is important that students still get hardcopy worksheets to write things down. It helps their brain process the information actively and encourages the recall of important information,” Ms Ng said on Monday (May 17).

The Ministry of Education (MOE) announced on Sunday evening that all centre-based tuition and enrichment classes “should” move activities online to reduce the intermingling of students from different schools. But the ministry later amended the press release on its website to say the move is mandatory.

This comes after a spate of Covid-19 cases linked to tuition centres in recent days.

In fact, this prompted Mr Lim Wei Yi, co-founder of tuition centre Study Room, to move all classes online last Friday, even before the Government announced tighter measures.

Mr Lim said he had earlier planned to implement the arrangement for a week and had spent the whole of Friday morning contacting parents.

“A majority of the parents were supportive, they understood the severity of the situation,” he said, adding that he has not seen parents pulling their children out of classes so far.

Other tuition and enrichment centres TODAY spoke to said having experienced closure during the circuit breaker in April last year has prepared them to embrace online learning, with many even having an online curriculum at their disposal for situations like this.

Some, like Mr Irfan Musthapa, have even gone the extra mile to provide resources for parents to aid their children’s learning.

The founder of Master Maths Education Centre said this time around, he provided parents with strategies that can help increase the effectiveness of home-based learning — such as by sitting in during virtual classes and watching video tutorials with their children.

“Especially with young children, we cannot let the child do things on his own. So we try to increase support for parents or guardians and include them in their children’s learning,” he added.

Employees at Write Edge Learning Centre prepared and delivered six weeks’ worth of worksheets to the homes of over 1,000 students to aid them in their online classes. Photo: Nicolette Ng

HARDER FOR HANDS-ON CLASSES

While those teaching academic subjects have found it less challenging than last year, those dealing with more hands-on activities such as music, drama and dance said conducting classes online remain a challenge.

Music teacher Philip Tan said there are some topics like music theory that can be quite difficult to make lively and interactive.

Hence, he produces his own videos, some on the theme of Covid-19, to keep his students engaged.

Ms Liyana Ibrahim, a teacher at The Music Scientist, which integrates music and sensory and science in their classes, said she faced mostly technical difficulties having to work around the audio shared on-screen and speaking to the students at the same time.

However, it is less challenging this time around as she could conduct the classes from the enrichment centre as compared to her own home during the circuit breaker last year.

“I felt it wasn’t ideal for teachers (to hold classes in their own home) but we pulled through and I believe… we’re better prepared now for such circumstances,” she added.

Mr John Khoo, the director of performing arts school MADDspace, who has shifted 90 per cent of his music, art, drama and dance classes online, said the biggest challenge is the space constraints in students’ homes given that some classes require students to move around.

“Not everyone has an abundance of space at home so it could be squeezy for them,” he said.

Since classes conducted at Mr Khoo’s studios fall under “performing arts” and not “enrichment”, he can still conduct small classes onsite.

But even though it is permitted, he prefers to move most classes online for the students’ safety.

According to guidelines on the National Arts Council’s website, classes can be held at the studio but must be limited to two participants, excluding one instructor, and must be conducted with face masks on at all times.

But no singing or wind and brass instrument classes are permitted, even if masked.  

Indoor dance classes must be capped at 30 people including the instructor, subject to the capacity of the venue with safe distancing.

SOME PARENTS PULL THE PLUG

While parents TODAY spoke to welcome the shift to online, some are concerned about whether it is worth paying for enrichment classes, especially those that require physical guidance.

Sales manager Esther Teoh, 33, whose five-year-old son’s piano lessons have been moved online, said it is also not as effective as having physical lessons.

“How will the music teacher make sure he is using the right fingers and is on the right beat? I feel that if the classes go online, I might as well let him watch YouTube and learn from there.”

Ms Teoh feels that schools should offer parents the option of suspending classes till physical lessons resume, especially when these lessons can be quite costly.

The tightened measures have even led some parents to pull the plug on their children’s enrichment classes.

Engineer Wilson Ong, 37, said the tightened measures spurred him to stop his six-year-old son’s taekwondo classes.

“At first, we were going to wait and see but now we just decided to pull him out of the class since he was starting to lose interest, which is understandable since (there have been) many disruptions to his classes in the last year.”

Private hire car driver Nuranisha Noor, 38, had a private tutor come to her home to teach her two daughters, aged eight and 10. But she has suspended this arrangement until the end of the month.

She said: “This is to protect both the tutor and my family. I also don’t want the tutor to feel obliged to come to my house if she is uncomfortable.”

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Covid-19 coronavirus Phase 2 enrichment lessons MOE

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