Singapore’s Ministry of Education (MOE) has enforced its newest measures this week to prevent any local transmission of the Wuhan coronavirus from affecting schools across the country.
On Wednesday, February 5, students across the country have experienced a new school routine. School assemblies, which are normally done with the rest of the school, are now down in classrooms and recess times were now longer.
The new measures reported here were enforced Tuesday evening to all primary, secondary, special education schools and junior colleges in the country.
The Millennia Institute is also enforcing the MOE’s new measures to protect their students from the virus. The new measures also add to the already existing temperature checks done to all students and staff entering school.
Impact of the new protocols in schools
Upon the enforcement of the new MOE measures as detailed here, schools have seen a very big impact on school events and activities.
For instance, the Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) shared that their usual mass lectures are now done through online learning platforms. They have also cancelled and rescheduled orientations to prevent any potential outbreak from starting.
Junior colleges have also cancelled their orientation activities despite it being the first day of classes for junior college students.
A few schools, such as in HCI, allowed certain orientation programs to continue but measures are being done to limit the number of people in one space at the same time.
Freshmen orientations are always a student pleaser for many junior colleges with each school preparing months before the main event. But, with the new protocols in place, they are now shorter and simpler.
Other events are not yet cancelled or postponed as of the present time.
The response of students, parents, and teachers
Junior college students and students studying in the Millennia Institute were disappointed with the newest MOE measures.
Some of them shared that they were looking forward to the freshmen orientation activities scheduled for their schools. But, with the cancellation of the events, they will not be able to enjoy these activities and meet their new peers.
Others also shared that their orientations were done in small lecture halls and the JC2 students tried their best to help freshmen enjoy the orientations despite the tense atmosphere.
Some were understanding with regards to the safety measures being introduced across the country. One student from Yishun Innova Junior College shared that the orientation was still informative and enjoyable.
Parents, meanwhile, welcome the new measures to combat the spread of the virus. It is a clear sign that schools are taking the issue seriously and keep the situation under control.
They also commended the new recess times because this gives children time to practice proper hygiene and keep things in check.
Teachers responded that the disappointing response from students is understandable. Some of these children were born during the SARS outbreak and they are not aware of how much impact it brought to the country.
They believe that this new shortened schedule will give them time to explain why this virus must be taken seriously and see how it is affecting the community.
Should classes be suspended in the meantime?
With the growing concerns over the virus spreading in Singapore, some have asked the government if it is time to suspend classes indefinitely until the virus is controlled.
According to MOE’s minister Ong Ye Kung on Friday, there is no need to suspend school and here is why schools are not closed. The impact it can bring to families is immense, especially for older children.
The risk of them developing the virus while at home or in the community is higher than them being in school.
He explains that the current measures can help reduce the chance of the virus growing in school. The school may even be the safest place for students to be in because of all the protocols now introduced to keep students safe.
They are also on high alert regarding the situation and will adjust their protocols if necessary.
Additional MOE actions in light of the coronavirus
Next week, the MOE has announced that they will be adding new protocols for mealtimes in schools.
According to MOE’s director for schools Liew Wei Li, it will involve cleaning their tables after eating to ensure the other people who will use the table will be safe.
The MOE has also released a new educational curriculum to help students learn more about the virus and how to prevent it from spreading.
Reiteration of good hygiene is also enforced for students, as well as the 14-day compulsory leave of absence for any student or staff who travelled to China in the past few weeks.
The enforcement of the LOA is strictly done by the MOE and opened the Student Learning Space to keep students in touch with their peers in classes. If the students are unable to catch up after their LOA completes, they may consider hiring a private tutor.
Student Suspended for Violating LOA
One student from the National University of Singapore (NUS) was suspended for a month after attending class even while under the LOA.
According to the dean of students of NUS Associate Professor Leong Ching on Sunday, the student already met with the university’s Board of Discipline through Skype and was told of his suspension after violating the isolation rules.
The student’s suspension starts one day after the student completes their LOA requirements.
A reprimand was also given to the student and both the reprimand and the suspension will be recorded in his educational record.
NUS also said that if students violate the compulsory LOA twice, they can be suspended or expelled from the school.
Those who are on LOA should be considerate and respect that these measures are in place to prevent a community virus outbreak. If they like to keep up with their studies, there are always online tutoring options available.
As parents, we must see the new measures of the MOE in our child’s schools as a good sign that the government is doing its best to protect our children. It is still uncertain when the virus will be contained, but the measures will give students additional protection from the virus.
Although the events that were cancelled are important, they can still be rescheduled. For now, it is important that students are informed and protected from the virus in whatever way possible.
If your child is on LOA, perhaps they can download some free test papers and practice to brush up their exam skills while at home, rather than play computer games all day.
For the latest MOE released news, here are some: