It was mid-afternoon on Friday April 3 when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the closure of schools till May 4, or else you would have heard the groan in most homes — from parents. For the next month, there will be home-based learning for all school children and undergraduates, as part of the protection against the Covid 19 pandemic.
The first problem that this will present comes from parents who have not learnt how to use computers. Such people (and they do exist) will be a burden on their children. Unless the latter have the patience to walk them through a lesson. Or Home Study requires that the pupils sign on at a specific time when they will communicate with the teacher. After all, school is in session, albeit home-based. Parents, you need to keep your home quiet so that class (that is, teacher-pupil communication) can go on.
The government says there will be hardcopy (i.e. textbooks) and softcopy (what is online). School-based content aside, I think our Education Ministry (Ong Ye Kung seems intelligent) should grab this opportunity to train all our youth on discerning the rubbish in the mountains of information that has piled up online.
For example, set them a topic to research — say for a 10-year-old, the topic of “kids’ misbehaving” and get them to copy 10 points from the web. There has to be a lesson that anyone can post anything on the Web, and what one reads on the web is more likely to be rubbish than truth. Then have a live class discussion on their answers. The point is not to point out who is right or wrong but to get them to express what they think of what they’ve read online and why.
After that, each pupil can write down what s/he thinks if s/he learnt anything from the topic.
Students can be encouraged to come up with topics for group discussion. Teachers must remember the objective is to teach them how not to be swept by what they find on the Web. It’s good for our young to be able to discern danger or regard opinions different from theirs on the Web — acquiring such a skill is invaluable, and now is the time to do it. The class could be encouraged to discuss with parents (or any adult) the topic selected and assess this second or third opinion (whether they agree or not, and why so).
Meanwhile, schools should spare children from less well-off homes any anxiety about not being able to afford a laptop and fibre connection at home by giving them the facility to use in school and see how they can get parents to pay for it in the longer term. (Editor: Education Minister Ong spoke about this in a followup Task Force press conference held after PM Lee’s statement).
And the longer this pandemic lasts, the government has the choice of using any of the unoccupied schools as a temporary Covid 19 facility. Thanks to this new plague, educating our young has become a really exciting venture!—TISG/