SINGAPORE: A recent Channel NewsAsia report on Nanyang Girls' High (NYGH) students starting school at 8.15am - about 45 minutes later than most secondary schools - has generated a fair bit of debate online and off.
A CNA Insider video report on the initiative has chalked up more than half a million views and more than 300 comments.
Many saw the report as a wake-up call for other schools to follow suit. Others, however, cautioned against supporting the move with their eyes closed.
DON'T "CLASH" WITH THE WORKING CROWD
For those who are against a later start to the day for students, a common thread of argument was that it would add to the morning rush hour woes.
“How we have managed to keep things more or less under control is to effectively have two ‘shifts’. First the kids go to school and then office worker rush begins,” said Ben Leong on his Facebook page on Wednesday.
The associate professor at the National University of Singapore’s School of Computing added: “The school bus companies also benefit because they can first ferry the kids to school and then they can carry the workers.
“I hope the rest of the schools don't follow NYGH's example and cause the morning rush hour to be a bigger disaster than it currently is.”
His views were shared by several people who commented on Channel NewsAsia’s Facebook pages.
“Before 8.30am is preferred so as not to clash with work traffic/bus congestions,” said Mary Mah. Another reader, David Ho, wrote: “Have you taken an MRT during 8am? Why add another group of students to the overloaded train. The main reason is to spread out the load.”
Facebook user Luqman Hakin agreed that having students start at 8.15am might put more burden on the public transport system during peak hours. He suggested that schools start even later – at 9.30am or 10am – to “stagger travelling times and give our children more rest”.
"IF ONE SCHOOL CAN DO IT, SO CAN ALL"
On the other side of the fence, a good number of people suggested that primary schools, too, follow in the footsteps of Nanyang Girls’ High, with parents and students alike seeing the benefits to the childrens’ well-being.
There were a few people who pointed out that the "unearthly" start time of 7.30am for primary schools was the "legacy" of the double-session timetable that most schools had. The recommendation for all primary schools to switch to a single morning session was made in 2009 by the Primary Education Review and Implementation (PERI) committee.
Among the many who praised Nanyang's decision to start school later, Facebook user Adam Reutens-Tan described it as a “very bold initiative” and "wonderful example of thinking out of the box and challenging the status quo that has clearly reaped positive results."
“If one school can do it, so can all,” said another.
In the case of Nanyang, the school had looked into how it ran its curriculum so that students wouldn’t have to end school later.
For instance, the school re-designed the timetable structure, re-distributed the curriculum hours, staggered the recess timing, and changed the assembly to a fortnightly session.
It took about half a year of planning before they rolled out the initiative in mid-2016.
This has reaped results, according to the school, which noticed a distinct change in the students’ behaviour and “fewer sleepyheads in class”.
CALL FOR MORE "HOLISTIC" EDUCATION SYSTEM
There were others who blamed the students' lack of sleep on the education system and how they are being made to take part in too many activities.
"Our teens are losing sleep due to the increasing long hours in school and extra curricular activities," said Bernice Wee, adding that the education system in Singapore has to "change and adapt to be more holistic and less focused on classroom learning."
Agreeing, Madhavi Tewari said: "Some policies/practices are causing unnecessary stress in the children. They are not getting enough sleep which is affecting their health."
Ultimately, a number of people said it's how students use the extra time that matters. "I think it's a matter of just getting the children to sleep earlier instead of playing games or on the phones," Facebook user Danny Yong wrote.
"Think the teenagers should be disciplined to go to bed early to have enough sleep," said Nancy Chan.
And here's one suggestion by Allan Tan: "Alternatively if needed, students can be given sleep breaks."
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