Closed: 2 Schools Move To Online Learning

Although the government has not shut down schools in Singapore, two top-tier international schools have decided, unilaterally, to close temporarily. Singapore American School is closed for three days to trial its online learning programme, and Tanglin Trust School will switch to distance learning from tomorrow until the end of term.
This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19
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This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19

Singapore is one of a declining number of Covid-19-hit countries not to issue a nationwide closure of schools in response to the pandemic. However, two of Singapore’s largest international schools have decided, unilaterally, to close and move to online learning.

Singapore American School (SAS), which has a student body of 4,000, is closed from today for three days; Tanglin Trust School, which enrols around 2,700 students, will close its campus from tomorrow (Wednesday, March 19) until the start of the spring break on March 28.

Tanglin Trust informed students and parents today that it would switch to a remote learning programme from tomorrow until the end of Term 2 next Friday.

Craig Considine, CEO of Tanglin Trust School said:

“Since the end of January, we have followed directives from the Ministry of Health (MOH), Committee for Private Education (CPE) and various other Ministries to comply with Government expectations. However, we have now reached the point where we feel we should move to remote learning.
“With the increasing restrictions and advisories, there is too much uncertainty in the community and too much of an impact on the school’s operations.”

Students in Tanglin’s Infant, Junior and Senior Schools will move to online learning for Thursday, Friday and all of next week. The school says that “learning tasks will be posted on online platforms that students and parents are familiar with”, and teachers will be working from 8am to 4pm. A small number of Senior School students will be allowed to attend campus to sit exams next week.

While the school hopes to reopen for Term 3 on Monday, April 13, it will contact parents “over the school holidays to confirm arrangements.”

Considine added: “Remote learning provision can never fully replace the depth and variety of learning experiences that are available on campus. The aim is to provide as much continuity as possible for students, so that they can make progress and so that they are fully ready to return to class when the school re-opens.”

Singapore American School (SAS) is closed for three days from today (Wednesday, March 18) to trial its distance learning model; it plans to then resume normal school as scheduled after the spring break on March 30.

The school says: “In light of the rapid spread of the virus globally and the increasing steps that governments are taking to combat this spread, we believe it is quite possible in the coming weeks that we will have to go to a distance learning model.
"We want to be as well prepared as possible for this and seek to reduce the anxiety before spring break among students, parents, and teachers over what such a transition might look like.”

The school will dedicate one day for teachers to prepare, then two days when students will follow their regular schedule from home using the virtual learning tools. SAS has held several distance learning practice sessions over the past two months to prepare for the possibility of closure. It says there is real value in holding practice sessions in real-time over the course of two full days.

“This will allow our teachers and tech coaches to work together on any challenges and to share their experiences and best practices in person. This exercise will offer us vital practice time in advance of spring break and steps we might have to take to limit access to school after the break.”

The majority of Singapore’s 60-plus international schools remain open, or are currently on their spring break. All local, MOE-run schools are on their spring holiday this week, and students are due to return to campus on Monday.

But, with the rising number of Covid-19 cases, can we expect the government to announce mandatory school closures before next week? And, following the swift and urgent decision by Malaysia to enforce a two-week lockdown, including the closure of all schools and universities, will Singapore follow suit?

Government minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the Covid-19 multi-ministry taskforce, said yesterday that it is considering “a whole range of measures in our toolkit”.

Wong said that the government could enforce “a major circuit breaker that doesn't entail a lockdown, but entails school closures, workplace closures, and do it on a temporary basis over a period of two to three weeks, just as the Malaysians have done."

Read more:
How can Singapore's precautionary measures be used as a template for the safe reopening of schools around the world?

Stay-Home Notices: what you need to know

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