Parliamentary Replies

May 04, 2020

Support for students returning to their schools during full HBL

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Ms Rahayu Mahzam, Jurong GRC

Question

To ask the Minister for Education with regard to the implementation of home-based learning during the circuit breaker period (a) what is the total number of students returning to their schools during this period; (b) how do schools assess whether students have the necessary support at home to do home-based learning and, if not, will need to return to school; and (c) whether there have been requests from parents for students to attend school during this period which could not be acceded to and, if so, what are the reasons.

Response

1. The vast majority of our students have been able to participate in full home-based learning (HBL) during the Circuit Breaker. Participation in full HBL was high, averaging 96% across the levels. The few who did not participate were largely on medical leave, and those who did not participate persistently were encouraged to return to school.

2. Notwithstanding, schools have also identified a proportion of students who would benefit from returning to school during this period, based on their understanding of the student and his/her family circumstances, parents' requests, and referrals from social workers. These would generally come under the following categories:

3. First, students whose parents are in essential services and do not have alternative care-giving arrangements. These students can also access the limited services offered by school-based Student Care Centres (SCCs), including students who were not previously enrolled in the SCCs.

4. Second, students who face significant challenges learning at home, require face-to-face support or for whom a school environment is in the best interests of the student. Schools proactively identified these students and encouraged them to return to school, by providing a welcoming environment and additional small-group activities such as non-contact sports and enrichment modules, while practising safe distancing. This has helped them to stay connected and engaged, and maintain a school-going routine.

5. Thirdly, students who do not have sufficient digital devices at home or needed Internet access to support home-based learning. To support this group, schools have loaned out more than 20,000 computing devices and 1,600 internet-enabling devices to date, with some support from corporates. The numbers coming back to schools for this purpose has dropped significantly since, to a small group whose parents do not wish to loan for personal reasons. If members come across families who need devices, please refer them to the school, as we have more than enough to loan out.

6. Over the full HBL period, about 3,300 primary school students and 700 secondary school students returned to school daily for one or more of the above reasons. Requests from parents for their children to return to school were met, as long as there were genuine needs. The challenge has in fact been the opposite, where schools invite the student to come back to school, but the parents were reluctant over various reasons. But schools will continue to try.

7. Beyond loan of devices, MOE and schools have also provided support to students and their families to facilitate participation in full HBL. Teachers monitored their students' learning and well-being through text messages, phone or video calls. Resource kits are provided so parents can help supervise their children and reinforce their learning.

8. Through these various measures, we have been able to maintain high participation in HBL while at the same time enabling those with genuine need to return to school subject to the enhanced safe distancing measures in force during this period.