Parents, Teachers Mostly Supportive Of Closure, But Students Prefer Schools To Be Shut Down Instead

As Singapore prepares to tackle the next phase of the Covid-19 battle, more precautionary measures are being rolled out to ensure the spread is minimised.

On Tuesday (24 Mar), more stringent social distancing measures were announced, including the closure of tuition centres starting this Friday (27 Mar).

The announcement sparked a debate among Singaporeans, as schools will still be operating but with enhanced precautionary measures.

An online petition to close schools in Singapore even garnered over 12,000 signatures, possibly indicating that Singaporeans aren’t happy that school is still in session.

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Opinions on tuition centre closures

MS News spoke to a number of parents, tutors, teachers, and students to get a better understanding of their opinions about the closure of tuition centres.

Read on to find out how our interviewees feel about the temporary closure of tuition centres, and whether they would be supportive if schools were also closed.

Parents & educators agree that tuition centres’ closure is necessary

Prior to the interviews, it seemed like the general consensus of many was that they felt that the move to close tuition centres contradicted the decision to keep schools open.

Most of our interviewees, however, felt that closing tuition centres was “the right thing to do” given the gravity of the situation. Some even said that they “expected” the closure.

While most of the parents we spoke to were concerned and even “worried” about this affecting their child’s schoolwork, they agreed that the measure was “understandable” to avoid Covid-19 affecting even more people.

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A Ministry of Education (MOE) schoolteacher with over 30 years of experience conducting both school and tuition classes shared that she was “mostly supportive” of the closure of tuition centres, as their classrooms are smaller and put students and teachers within close proximity to one another.

Given the ease of transmission in enclosed spaces and over short distances, she felt that it was a wise decision to close tuition centres for now.

Tutors, teachers & parents worried about efficacy of e-learning

While tuition centres will be physically closed, many are making alternative arrangements for lessons to carry on.

Many of them are turning to online classes or e-learning.

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That means students won’t have to miss out on tuition classes completely, but educators and parents expressed concern they may still face some difficulties with the new learning arrangement.

Most parents were concerned that their child won’t be receiving the same amount of attention online as compared with during face-to-face tuition classes.

For instance, a parent of a Secondary 4 student shared that her son typically requires attention from a tutor to guide him during his revision, to optimise learning.

A tuition teacher of secondary school students — who wished to be known only as Mr J —  agreed that students may not learn as well with online classes.

He acknowledged that his students may experience a “lack of guidance” without physically being in class. He plans to conduct lessons online using video-conferencing applications.

Extra help from parents may not be the solution

The MOE teacher we interviewed felt that parents should step in to assist their child during this period, such as by giving them “extra exercises” for practise.

However, this isn’t a one-fits-all solution — some parents felt that by doing so, they would do more harm than good.

A parent of a secondary school student told us:

As his parents, we would have to try our best to support him, although unfortunately we may not be the most effective pillar of support in his academic profile.

Parents may not possess the expertise to assist their children with academic work, especially at higher levels like junior college.

Even if they do, they might lack the confidence to do so. Thus students will still end up missing out.

Students dismayed, feel that online lessons ineffective

So far, it seems like parents and educators are generally supportive of tuition centres being closed.

The students we spoke to, on the other hand, appear to be mostly dismayed at the suspension of their supplementary classes.

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After they shared their woes over online tuition classes, we gathered that many of them prefer to attend lessons in the flesh.

A secondary school student felt that tuition classes were more productive, and the environment at the centre was more conducive towards learning, so much so that the students would even stay back at their tuition centre to study.

A junior college student told us:

Tuition to me offers an avenue to instantly voice any queries I may have.

Without having a tutor present to address her concerns immediately, she felt that her learning might be slightly impeded, although she plans to address this by putting in extra hours of revision.

Overall, students felt that it would be difficult for tutors to “effectively help each student” during online classes, and don’t seem keen on the prospect of relying on pre-recorded tutorials as revision material for examinations.

Students lean towards school closure

Though the closure of tuition centres isn’t sitting well with students, many of them are actually supportive of closing schools.

A junior college student felt that at least secondary schools and junior colleges should be closed. Her reasons were that as the students are older, they thus don’t require adult supervision while at home, unlike younger students in primary school and below.

On top of that, she informed us that her junior college has already started using remote learning as a means of social distancing, and streams lectures online. She feels this could be easily translated to online learning in the case of a school closure.

Precautionary measures tiresome, even redundant, say students

Other students felt that the build-up of precautionary measures was “tiresome and repetitive”, and at times even redundant.

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For instance, assigned seating in classrooms isn’t effective, as students still mingle with each other between classes.

Wipe-downs are also burdensome for students, as they’re carried out at the start and end of the day —  the two times when students are most fatigued.

Queueing in the canteen for food was a concern, too, as oftentimes there are “more than 60 people in 1 place” without adequate distance between them.

Mixed opinions on school closure

Parents and educators gave us a much more varied response when we asked them for their opinions on a nationwide school closure.

Some said “yes” to schools closing, but many others acknowledged the challenges that may follow a complete school closure.

A secondary school teacher pointed out that closing schools now would be “too disruptive, especially for graduating students”.

Another teacher reminded us that schools didn’t close during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic, so they shouldn’t have to close now, either.

She added:

Unless the spread is bad again, or a student is found to have it, schools should try to resume normal classes, or children will fall behind in school.

Most parents, however, felt that schools should close since tuition centres have, some felt that it wouldn’t be effective, as it’s not a “long-term solution”.

Others questioned how effective a school closure would actually be, and thus can’t bring themselves to support it.

Supporting prescribed measures and adapting to changes

The closure of tuition centres definitely gave Singaporeans a much-needed reality check. It truly conveyed the severity of this pandemic, and hopefully reminded us not to be complacent despite the international praise Singapore keeps getting for how we’ve handled Covid-19.

School is an integral part of Singaporean students’ lives —  the suspension of it would simply cause more panic than good.

However, it can also be said that tuition centres have also become a vital part of students’ lives, considering how many local students get tuition.

At the end of the day, there’s nothing we can do about the situation except follow the rules. They may be less than optimal and even a hindrance at times, but they’re aimed at controlling the spread of Covid-19 as far as possible, and it’s our responsibility to see them through.

It’s won’t be fun, but we’re going to have to wait this virus out.

Let’s just be grateful that our lives can still go on relatively normally — pending more precautionary measures coming our way.

Featured image adapted from Chinese Tuition