SINGAPORE: About 12,500 laptops or tablets have been loaned out as of Apr 15 to students who do not have sufficient devices at home for home-based learning, said the Ministry of Education (MOE).
A total of 1,200 Internet enabling devices including dongles have also been loaned out to students, the ministry added.
This follows the move to full home-based learning for students across all levels from Apr 8 to May 4, as part of stricter social distancing measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.
According to a 2018 Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) survey, 98 per cent of households with school-going children have access to a computer, and almost 100 per cent have home Internet and broadband connection, noted Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung in Parliament earlier in April.
Low-income families can also apply for subsidised computers and free broadband through IMDA’s NEU PC Plus programme, he said.
Mr Ong added that the Education Ministry had been “very preoccupied” with the availability of devices and Internet access while planning for home-based learning.
He said said home-based learning started one day after the circuit breaker measures kicked in to allow students to collect the devices.
“In addition, our schools can provide students with safe spaces within the school premises so that they can come to school to use computers and the Internet in school doing their home-based learning with supervision from the teachers,” he added.
The Education Ministry said on Monday that more than 4,000 primary, secondary and junior college students, or about 1 per cent, continue to go to school during the circuit breaker period,
“These are primarily children whose parents work in essential services and do not have alternative care arrangements, or those who might need additional school support, such as access to digital devices or regular face-to-face engagement,” said Ms Liew Wei Li, director of schools at MOE.
All schools will continue to remain open “with the necessary precautionary and safe distancing measures in place” to assist a small number of students who need additional support during full home-based learning, said Ms Liew.
“During this period, schools have minimal staffing levels, to support students in school and to sustain school operations.”
All pre-schools, kindergartens and student care centres have also suspended their general services until the end of the circuit breaker period.
About 10,000 pre-schoolers, or 5 per cent of all children enrolled in pre-schools, are tapping on the limited services of pre-schools during this period, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) had said on Thursday (Apr 16).
The 10,000 children are spread across more than 1,200 pre-schools across Singapore, ECDA had said. Some of them require limited service only on certain days or periods.