The weekly home-based learning (HBL) for Primary school pupils starts today (1 April) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is part of the Ministry of Education (MOE)’s plan to help students and parents to be better prepared for frequent home-based learning should the COVID-19 situation calls for it in the future.
Last Friday (27 March), the MOE announced that all schools will conduct one day of HBL a week, commencing from April 2020. When the students are not on HBL, schools will stagger dismissal times to reduce the transient congestion of students.
HBL days and duration are set at each school level. Primary schools will be on Wednesdays for four hours, secondary schools will be on Thursdays for five hours, and junior colleges or centralised institute will be on Fridays for six hours.
About 200,000 students who are staying at home will participate in these online classes based on different timetables set by the schools.
A digital platform developed by the MOE, Singapore Student Learning Space (SLS), is also accessible to students during this period. Some starts as early as 7.30am and others are told to start it a bit later like at noon.
Digital technologies play a key part in HBL. Students will join e-classes as well as do assignments and worksheets. Additionally, physical education is also conducted online, where pupils engage in high-intensity interval training by following an exercise video on YouTube.
Separately, parents are also involved by doing research on various platforms to prepare for the online sessions. Some parents mentioned to the Straits Times that they are worried if their old devices will be able to support the online learning app, such as Google Meet.
“We have a parents chat group (for her son’s class). Some of us were worried if our old devices, laptops and headphones can support Google Meet, which the school is using. One mum, who is familiar with Google Meet, set up a trial run for us to try out last Saturday,” said Mrs. Tan who has a daughter in Primary 1 and a son in Primary 5.
She also said that her children shared a laptop and took turns to do their HBL.
Apart from having to set the schedule for device using amongst children, another parent mentioned that they have to share their personal laptop with their children.
“The good thing is I am home this week, so I can supervise him. But next week, I need to be in office, so it will be a bit challenging to do that. But we shall see,” said Mrs. Vaswani who has a son in Primary 2.
The MOE also encourages parents to schedule a routine for study, meal, and resting time with their children, as well as to create an ideal space for them to study.
The ministry said that parents are not required to be a substitute to teachers at home, but to support their children to study independently. However, MOE noted that primary school pupils do need more help.
On top of that, MOE also said that schools will remain open for a small group of students whose parents are not able to secure alternative childcare arrangement. There are students who are currently enrolled in school-based student care centers, but about 10 percent of them should be in school during HBL days.
IMDA to help out students who lack equipment for HBL
While the MOE announced the HBL initiative, there are students who are not properly equipped for the change, with no laptops or internet. Therefore, Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) has launched a programme called NEU PC Plus Programme which provides a brand-new computer with the price of less than $225 for needy students. This programme also comes with a free broadband connection, so students need not worry about not being able to go online to access learning materials.
According to IMDA’s website, the NEU PC Plus Programme offers an opportunity for low-income households with student or person with disabilities to own a brand new computer at an affordable price.
The website explained that an applicant must have a permanent disability or is a full-time student (aged 25 and below) in a Government/Government-Aided School, Junior College, Centralised Institute, Independent School, Specialised Independent School, Specialised School, Institute of Technical Education, Polytechnic or MOE-funded Special Education School. Other than that, the gross monthly household income must not exceed $3,400 or per capita income not exceeding $900 ($1,125 if there is a permanently disabled household member).