Over the last 3 months, 129 students and 17 school staff have tested positive for COVID-19, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said in a Facebook post. This represents 0.03% of our total student population, from Primary to Pre-University levels.
Mr Chan said he had received feedback from parents keen on transiting to Full Home-based Learning. There are also others who are against this. Such mixed views are understandable, he said.
“Singapore is unlikely to see zero community cases in the short term and vaccination for younger children are also currently unavailable,” Mr Chan said.
Full HBL comes at a significant cost to students
However, full HBL on a prolonged basis comes at a significant cost to our students’ learning, and social-emotional and mental well-being, Mr Chan said. Moreover, not all children have a conducive home environments for HBL.
“There are many parents who have to scramble to make alternative care arrangements, which may not necessarily be better for their children,” he said. “Teachers are juggling the additional demands of preparing and conducting online lessons while taking care of their families,” he added.
Mr Chan also said that that disruption to normalcy can cause fear, stress and despair, which has serious and real consequences in the long term.
The sustainable solution
Mr Chan assured parents that schools remain safe places for learning. Stringent Safe Management Measures have been implemented to minimise transmission risks. There are surveillance measures in place to detect potential COVID-19 positive cases as soon as possible. Ring-fencing measures such as MOE’s Leave of Absence (LOA) are in place to keep potential cases out of schools.
Based on current science, MOE will continue to adopt a targeted approach to deal with COVID-19 cases in our schools, Mr Chan said.
This means when there is a school case, close contacts of the case will be isolated through LOA or a Quarantine Order.
In exceptional cases where the situation is unclear, the entire school will be placed on HBL to break any possible transmission as well as give Ministry of Health, Singapore time to test and investigate thoroughly before re-opening the school, Mr Chan said.
“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and review if any adjustment is needed in line with national guidelines, especially as we transit towards managing COVID-19 as an endemic disease,” he added.