Ong Ye Kung Explains Why Tuition Centres Are Closed Instead Of Schools, Answers Other FAQs

On 24 Mar, Singapore’s Covid-19 Multi-Ministry Task Force announced that all centre-based tuition and enrichment classes will close from Thursday (26 Apr) 11.59pm onwards.

The announcement naturally led to some confusion among parents, who questioned why schools were still open when private learning facilities were ordered to close.

To alleviate concerns, Minister of Education Ong Ye Kung took Facebook to respond to some of the top queries received by the Ministry of Education (MOE).

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In his post on Wednesday (25 Mar), he explains the rationale behind some of the key decisions made by MOE.

School is essential, tuition is not

As to why schools are still open when tuition classes have been suspended, Mr Ong explained that the decision for suspension is not based on the number of students or nature of activity.

Instead, the government’s focus is on maintaining daily life while reducing risk of Covid-19 spread.

He explained,

For an adult, work is essential, entertainment less so. Hence we closed entertainment outlets. For a student, school is essential, but tuition and enrichment are not.

According to Mr Ong, school activities have been arranged such that students only mingle with their classmates. In the rare event of a confirmed case, MOE is able to contact trace quickly and control the spread by quarantining the entire class.

Tuition and enrichment centres will close from 27 Mar onwards
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But if a case is confirmed in a tuition centre, this would mean that students from multiple schools are at risk.

Hence, on top of tuition and enrichment centres, all classes at MOE language centres will be suspended as well.

Travel declaration a matter of social responsibility

Another popular question asked was how to ensure that students who travelled overseas during the March holidays don’t go to school.

According to Mr Ong, MOE enforced travel declarations before the March holidays, and in his experience, “students take their travel declarations seriously”.

Juying Seconday School travel declaration measure
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When school reopened on Monday, school staff also conducted checks at the gate to ensure that only those who did not travel were allowed in school.

He called this a matter of social responsibility, and appealed:

We seek parents’ cooperation to make truthful travel declarations, whether it is for yourself, or your children, so as not to put other children at risk.

SCCs will remain open

According to Mr Ong, Student Care Centres (SCCs) are essential in ensuring that parents can continue working without having to worry for their children.

As such, they will remain open, with extra precautions taken to minimise risk of transmission.

MOE considered staggered hours for older students

Although schools have diligently been working to control Covid-19 risk on their premises, another concern is when students travel to school.

Crowded public transport another area of concern
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Mr Ong acknowledged that crowded public transport is an area of worry, and explained that the government is pushing to reduce the number of people on transport systems by promoting work from home arrangements and flexible hours.

MOE is also “actively considering” suggestions to stagger hours for older students to reduce commuter traffic volume.

Being ever-ready for future changes

While parents will never not worry about the safety of their children, it seems that MOE is doing all they can to ensure the safety of students without having to close schools.

But we still have remain flexible to changing situations and be prepared for future developments.

Featured image adapted from Advent Music.