Impact of Home-Based Learning on Students’ Learning and Development

Hazel Asks the Education Minister

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Education whether the Ministry will consider moving schools to home-based learning in view of the spike in the number of COVID-19 cases. 

Full context :

Mr Darryl David asked the Minister for Education (a) whether the Government can provide an update on the recent period of home-based learning (HBL) that is implemented in late September/early October 2021 for primary school students in terms of the impact on their learning and development; and (b) whether this indicates a possible shift to more HBL periods for schools in the future.  

Ms Hazel Poa asked the Minister for Education whether the Ministry will consider moving schools to home-based learning in view of the spike in the number of COVID-19 cases. 

The Minister for Education (Mr Chan Chun Sing): Mr Speaker, Sir, can I have your permission to take Question Nos 21 and 22 together?

Mr Speaker: Yes, please.

Mr Chan Chun Sing: MOE’s approach has been to keep schools safe so that they can remain open as far as possible. We recognise that Home-Based Learning (HBL) cannot be a full substitute for the school-based learning experience. On a prolonged basis, it comes at a cost not just to students’ learning but also their socio-emotional development and mental well-being. It also imposes a burden to families and society. Moreover, not all students have a home environment conducive to HBL.

 The past few months have given us greater confidence that we can strike a balance by taking a more targeted approach to ringfence cases and their close contacts. For example, rather than resorting to full HBL across all schools, or the entire level, we would only place affected classes on HBL in response to a confirmed case, if there is a possibility of transmission within schools.

 To reduce the possible disruption to the PSLE cohort and as an additional precautionary measure for Primary schools, we had placed all our Primary schools on HBL from 27 September to 6 October. Subsequently, when the national posture tightened, this was extended by a day to include 7 October, effectively covering Term 4, Week 3 to 4, or two weeks, given that Children’s Day on 8 October is already a school holiday.

 Schools mitigate the impact of HBL by using technology to minimise disruption to curriculum coverage and maintain social connections. Teachers use online platforms and resources to ensure that students who are away from school can continue learning and conduct regular check-ins with these students to monitor their well-being. Schools have sufficient computing devices and Internet-enabling devices to loan to students and remain open for high needs students and those without alternative caregiving arrangements during HBL.

 We will continue to review the need for further periods of HBL based on the prevailing COVID-19 situation and national posture.

Mr Speaker: Mr Darryl David.

Mr Darryl David (Ang Mo Kio): Thank you, Mr Speaker. I would like to thank the Minister for his answer and like to thank also all the teachers who are currently doing a good job at HBL, as a parent of child who is currently on HBL right now in Primary school. I have two supplementary questions, Mr Speaker. 

The first one is that I understand the Minister’s point about HBL not just for our Primary school students but also for keeping our PSLE cohort safe. However, moving forward beyond this week, does the Minister foresee the possibility of HBL being extended either into the future or perhaps even until the start of the school holidays?

And also bearing in mind that we now have “N” level, “O” level and even “A” level examinations coming up, does the Minister foresee the possibility to keep those cohorts, say, protected as well, that HBL might be rolled out in Secondary schools and beyond?

Mr Chan Chun Sing: Mr Speaker, Sir, may I take the second question first and then, come back to the first.

Mr Speaker, Sir, the considerations for the Primary schools and the Secondary schools are quite different. The main difference being that most of our Primary school kids, less half of the Primary 6 cohorts, are not vaccinated yet, which is why we have taken extra precautions for our Primary schools. For Secondary schools and above, a vast majority of our students have already been vaccinated. So, the kind of anxiety that the students or their families may face is quite different. We will do what is necessary to make sure that the ongoing “N” level and the upcoming “O” level and “A” level examinations can continue to be conducted safely.

On the first question as to whether we will extend HBL for the Primary schools, MOE will be making an announcement later this week. The reason why I am not making the announcement today are as follows.

One, we are in the middle of PSLE. I would like to have all the school leaders and the teachers to focus on the task at hand first. Second, we are also proceeding with our internal preparations and communications with our educators and I would like them to know our decision collectively first before we make the announcement later part of this week in tandem with the national posture.

Source : Oral Answers to Questions