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COVID-19: Primary, secondary schools and JCs to move to full home-based learning from May 19

Pre-schools and student care centres will remain open, while tuition centres should move activities online.

COVID-19: Primary, secondary schools and JCs to move to full home-based learning from May 19

Students wearing protective face masks attend a class at Yio Chu Kang Secondary School. (File photo: Reuters/Edgar Su)

SINGAPORE: All primary and secondary schools, as well as junior colleges and Millennia Institute, will shift to full home-based learning from Wednesday (May 19) until the end of the term on May 28, amid a rise in COVID-19 cases in Singapore. 

This also applies to students from special education schools.  

Announcing the decision on Sunday, Minister for Education Chan Chun Sing said authorities understand that the shift to full home-based learning "may cause anxiety in some parents".

"But we want to assure all parents and students that MOE (Ministry of Education) will continue to extend our help and our fullest support to the schools, the teachers and the parents who require additional help to make these adjustments," he said.

“And we also want to put in place measures to continue to minimise the disruptions to the learning of our students.” 

The decision comes after several primary school students tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days, with most of the infections linked to tuition centres.

READ: Timeline: How a COVID-19 cluster emerged at Learning Point tuition centre 

At a media conference by the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force, Mr Chan noted that some of the new mutations of the coronavirus are “much more virulent” and “seem to attack the younger children”. 

The B1617 strain appears to affect children more, said Minister for Health Ong Ye Kung, citing the ministry’s director of medical services Kenneth Mak.

"So you will notice that for schools, the response has been different compared to say last year,” he added.

READ: Singapore studying if it should extend the time between COVID-19 vaccine doses: Ong Ye Kung

During the June holidays, schools will allow graduating cohorts to return in small groups where necessary, and the mid-year GCE O- and A-Level Mother Tongue language examinations will proceed as planned with strict measures in place, said MOE in a separate press release. 

PRE-SCHOOLS WILL REMAIN OPEN

Pre-schools and student care centres will remain open to support families who need these services, said Mr Chan, although he encouraged parents to keep their children at home where possible since work-from-home is now the default arrangement.

Institutes of higher learning will reduce attendance on campus by converting more classes online where possible, except for essential in-person sessions like labs, practicals and final-year projects, said Mr Chan. 

All centre-based tuition and enrichment classes should move activities online until the end of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert), he added.  

“This is necessary to reduce the intermingling of students from different schools and enhance the safety of our students,” said MOE in its media release. 

These measures will last until the end of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert). 

READ: Group sizes down from 5 to 2, dining-in suspended as Singapore tightens COVID-19 measures

“Going forward, we must work on the assumption that now and then, there will be cases that will emerge in our community and perhaps in our schools. Thus far, we have no conclusive evidence of school-based transmission, we must never be complacent,” said Mr Chan. 

“Going forward we will need a range of options in order to thrive in a COVID world, for us to continue learning and living in a COVID world.”

Mr Chan also responded to a question about the transmission of the virus between several students who had shared a school bus, as reported in the Ministry of Health's daily update on Saturday.

“What is of course of concern to us is not just what is happening within the classroom in the school setting. What is of course of concern to us will be the outside school activities and interactions including … the school bus,” said Mr Chan.

Adding that this is why tuition and enrichment centres have been asked to move activities online, he said: “Because we have tried our very best to make sure that we keep the cohorts within each of the school tight. And that is how we have been relatively successful in preventing transmissions within the schools.” 

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Source: CNA/hw(gs)

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