Minister Addresses Top COVID-19 Concerns

Updated on 05 Jun 2020, 12:05

Back to School Arrangement

1. I will need to work from 2 Jun, but my child is going to school only on alternate weeks. How do I plan for childcare arrangements?

I hope parents and families can try your best to work out a suitable arrangement. Companies should also continue to allow employees to telecommute to the maximum extent possible.

If you are really unable to make suitable childcare arrangements, please approach your child's school for assistance. Schools will be prepared to extend limited care to young students on HBL but without childcare arrangements.


2. I don't feel safe sending my child to school. Can he do HBL instead?

We will do our utmost to keep schools safe. We have a holistic system of safe management, comprising health screening for everyone entering the school, cohortisation of students, good hygiene practices and safe distancing.

But unless there are specific concerns arising from medical conditions, we cannot make attending school voluntary.

First, it is likely that COVID-19 will stay with us for more than a year, and until a vaccine is available. We simply cannot keep our children at home for so long. The impact on their socio-emotional and mental well-being will be serious. Having brought community transmission to a low and controlled level, we should resume school, reclaim a sense of normalcy, while taking many precautions.

Second, a voluntary system for parents is not good for the morale of both students and teachers. It segregates students into those whose families are able to provide care at home, and those who can't. Teachers will end up having to juggle between classroom teaching and facilitating HBL for every lesson, which is not sustainable.

Lastly, keeping our children away from school does not guarantee that they will be safe from COVID-19 either. Family members have to go to work, and a large proportion of transmission to children has been from their family members.

Many countries have realised that school cannot be closed indefinitely, and are making plans to re-open theirs - even though their number of community cases is much higher than Singapore's. By working together, exercising personal responsibility, plus maintaining high levels of personal hygiene and environmental cleanliness, our children can return to school in a safe manner.


Inviting graduating cohorts to school during holidays
1. Why are students going back to school during the holidays? And why only for those from graduating cohorts?

Schools will be inviting students in the graduating cohorts to return to school for coaching and consultations with teachers. These are not formal classes, nor is attendance compulsory. It is a form of support that schools give students in the graduating cohorts every year, during the mid-year holidays. Students find it useful, and given the current situation, we know that many students are getting anxious about year-end national examinations and would like to see their teachers. It also allows students who need to use school facilities and equipment for subjects with coursework and practical components to catch up on their work.


2. How will schools ensure the safety and well-being of students?

Only students in the graduating cohort are invited. Schools will also roster students to return at different days and times throughout the day and week. They will stay in class groupings, with no intermingling, use well-ventilated venues with fixed exam-style seating and appropriate distancing. All students and staff will be required to wear masks, and daily temperature-taking and wipe-down routines will continue.


3. Can't we just postpone or cancel all national examinations?

Even during the circuit breaker period, essential services have to continue. Education is a big part of people's lives. We have suspended schools and moved to full HBL since 7 Apr 2020 to support circuit breaker measures, but will continue very selected activities as essential education activities. These are: First, registration for a new cohort. Second, allowing certain student groups, such as those from vulnerable backgrounds, to continue to use school facilities. Finally, preparation and taking of national examinations, which is regarded as very important to many parents and students as they affect future education postings.


4. With so many activities, will teachers rest during the school holidays?

We expect all these activities to involve only a fraction of the student population. So not all teachers need to be involved. Regardless, all teachers will be assured of two weeks of protected time in May, mostly in the first half of the month, and in the second half for some. But there is no doubt teachers have been working extra hard this year, because of the COVID-19 situation.

Full Home-Based Learning (HBL)
1. My child keeps asking me for help for his work. But I have work to do as well. What should I do? Why is the teacher not guiding him?

It’s natural for your child to ask you for help, because you are there! But don’t take over the role of the teacher. Help him develop the habit of self-directed learning.

How parents can help is to create routines. Draw up a family timetable, set ground rules, and agree on slots where they can check in with you. Outside of the slots he has to figure things out himself. This will help you juggle work while supporting your child.


2. I have one laptop and three children having HBL. How do I manage?

Find out the different lessons and tasks assigned to your children. Schools will typically require a student to use a device for about two hours a day to access lessons. The rest of the time can be reading, doing hard copy assignments or even exercise.

So get them to prioritise based on urgency and importance, and together, work out a schedule to decide who uses the device at what time.

Also consider using smartphones for video conferencing. Free up the laptops and tablets for assignments and SLS lessons that are easier to access on these larger devices.


3. My child wants to meet his friends to study and do project work. My child also needs to meet with his tuition teacher to keep up with his work. Is that allowed?

No. To defeat COVID-19, we must lower the transmission of the virus. This means we need to reduce our social interactions, reduce the number of people we meet outside of our immediate household members. It is as simple as that.

That is why we are implementing the circuit breaker for the coming month, and school closure is part of the national response.

Young people may think that you’re resilient and healthy and won’t be so affected even if you contract COVID-19. But you may pass the virus to others, including your parents and grandparents, who can have more severe reactions to the virus.

So, my appeal to all students – during this month of full HBL, please stay home, stay safe for yourself and your loved ones. You can always connect with your friends online and meet them when this crisis is over.


4. Why are we moving to full HBL?

We have kept schools safe. We have not had a case of transmission in school. All the infections of students so far are due to travel, or from a family member at home. But we are moving to HBL, as part of enhancing safe distancing with nationwide circuit-breaker measures. We want everyone to stay home, and come out only for essential activities.


5. What if I do not have computing devices or WiFi?

Approach your child's school. Our schools have loaned out more than 3,200 computing devices and 200 internet dongles/routers. We will loan out more if need be. Assistance will continue to be available throughout the HBL period.


6. What if there's no one to look after my young child at home?

If you're working in essential services and are unable to secure alternative care arrangements, do approach your child's school for assistance. Schools will be able to accommodate those whose homes are not conducive for HBL, or whose parents need to perform essential services. But we will prioritise this for those who really need it. While in school, there will be teachers to supervise their ‘HBL’.


7. My child will be at home doing HBL, will the teacher be able to remotely supervise the classes properly?

We know HBL is not ideal because education is still best done through schools. But we will do our best. Teachers are using a range of methods to supervise their classes, like attendance taking, selected Live lessons, online quizzes, assignments and more. They can check if students understand the lessons through the HBL work that is submitted. Teachers will also regularly touch base with students through phone/video calls to ensure their well being. Of course, many of our teachers are parents of young children themselves. While teachers are working from home and contactable during school hours, please be understanding if they are unable to reply to you immediately.

Singaporean Students Studying Overseas
1. I am now doing internship/studying in a foreign university. I am happy where I am. Do I have to come back to Singapore?

We encourage you to return home soon. The global COVID-19 situation is very fluid and uncertain. Other than travel restrictions and reduction of services, as cases grow, there may be a strain on medical facilities. Should you fall ill, medical care may not be readily available. And with the increasing disruption to travel routes, you may face issues booking flights when you do decide to return.


2. What if no flights are available?

The Government will liaise with airlines to facilitate flights to key cities, when necessary, during this period.

Whether you manage to book a flight or not, do register with MFA (https://eregister.mfa.gov.sg) so we can contact you if necessary.


3. There are now so many restrictions. Some cities are on lockdown mode, others will subject me to Stay Home Notice (SHN) when I return to Singapore. How best should I plan my trip back?

Don’t worry about SHN; it is a necessary precaution to protect you and your family. So go book an available flight back.

A group of students from the National University of Singapore has put together a page (www.nus.edu.sg/cominghome) that provides information such as worldwide travel restrictions, important contacts, and precautionary measures in Singapore. They are also working to add flight information. They have made arrangements to return home themselves, and now want to help other Singaporean students who want to come home. They did a great job.


4. Will I be subject to SHN even if I just transit through a city where Singapore has imposed an SHN requirement?

Yes, but don’t worry about it. It is more important that you come home safe. Just book an available flight back.


5. I am worried that my internship or academic credits will be affected if I return to Singapore. What should I do?

Most institutions in areas affected by COVID-19 are making alternative learning arrangements for their students. Your institution would be able to guide you on other arrangements for you to continue your learning.

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