Health & Fitness Ong Ye Kung: HBL will not be extended and June holidays will...

Ong Ye Kung: HBL will not be extended and June holidays will be brought forward to start on May 4

The minister said that home based learning cannot be a prolonged substitute for school

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SINGAPORE—Education Minister Ong Ye Kung announced on Facebook that the June school holidays will be moved up to begin on May 4, covering the entire lengthened circuit breaker period, and that home-based learning (HBL) will not be extended as it “cannot be a prolonged substitute for school”.

During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, schooling has become a struggle for Singaporeans, with teachers, students and parents alike challenged by HBL. The changes accompanying the recently announced four-week extension of the circuit breaker period will have implications on education, many of which were discussed by Minister Ong on his Facebook page.

In a post on Tuesday (Apr 21), Minister Ong talked about how the tighter measures and extension of the circuit breaker period—from May 4 to June 1—will affect education in Singapore, particularly whether HBL will be extended for the same amount of time.

Thanking students, teachers and parents for their “hard work, perseverance, patience and positivity”, Mr Ong acknowledged that HBL “hasn’t been easy”.

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However, he noted that it would be in everyone’s best interests not to extend the HBL:

“But it is better not to extend the HBL,” wrote Mr Ong, adding, “HBL is a fall back when schools are suspended; it cannot be a prolonged substitute for school.”

The Ministry of Education (MOE) is instead endorsing a “break” and moving up the June school holidays a month earlier, from May 4, covering the entire extended circuit breaker period until June 1.

“It is better to let everyone have a break from this intense period,” Mr Ong noted. “By 1 Jun 2020, hopefully the situation will be much better, and we can look forward to a safe and orderly opening of schools.”

The minister explained that Term 3 would be a long one—seven weeks in total, made up of six weeks of school and a one-week mid-term break from July 20 to 26.

Mr Ong noted that the additional break of one week will reduce curriculum teaching time, and he acknowledged that “the pace of HBL tends to be slower than classroom teaching”. Therefore, topics commonly taught by all schools—such as pie charts and volume for PSLE Maths, Organic chemistry and vectors for O level Chemistry and Maths—will at the end of the academic year be non-examinable.

“This will reduce the curriculum load and ease the pressure off teachers and students in catching up with the curriculum. Just to be clear, as far as possible, these topics will still be taught. But they will not appear as questions in the national examinations,” explained Minister Ong.

Mr Ong spoke of two other things that MOE will be focusing its attention on during the brought-forward holidays.

He noted that graduating students facing their national exams will need support, which will be provided by Singapore schools. This includes having them come back to school for face-to-face consultation and coaching “when the national situation improves, which we are confident will be the case”, said Mr Ong. He also noted that schools will remain open during the holidays for children of essential workers and vulnerable students.

“It has been a topsy-turvy few months as the health situation has been very fluid and uncertain. I thank everyone for your hard work and co-operation. We shall overcome the virus,” wrote Mr Ong, adding that he was “very sorry” as bubble tea shops—a favourite among students—will be closed.

Here is his post:

The Government has announced tighter measures during the circuit breaker period and extended it by another four weeks,…

Posted by Ong Ye Kung on Tuesday, April 21, 2020

/TISG

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