Singapore’s primary students are returning to the classroom – but is it safe?

A teacher assisting students at a primary school. Photo: Chan Chun Sing/Facebook
A teacher assisting students at a primary school. Photo: Chan Chun Sing/Facebook

The Education Ministry is facing pushback over its decision to allow primary students back to school next week despite two consecutive days of record-breaking COVID-19 infections.

Primary school students aged 7 to 11, who are ineligible for vaccination, were made to stay at home for two weeks until their graduating cohorts, mostly 12 and vaccinated, completed their leaving examinations yesterday. The ministry has canceled year-end examinations for primary three and four students, allowing them more time to catch up after the COVID-19 disruption. 

The ministry brought back home-based learning for 10 days ending yesterday in a bid to protect students from the nation’s worst outbreak of the disease. But it is now allowing them back into classrooms even as Singapore reports more cases – upward of 3,000 each day – than ever. Education Minister Chan Chun Sing justified this move as a way to alleviate the stress of home-based learning, which “must thus only be a last resort, to be used in a targeted manner.”

“Not all children necessarily have conducive environments for HBL. Prolonged HBL can also negatively impact many students’ academic progress and socio-emotional well-being,” he said, using an acronym for home-based learning.   

People have criticized the move for risking student health. 

“Honestly, these two weeks of [home-based learning] makes no difference. After all, the kids still have to go back, get exposed. We are like clowns, say what, do what, as [and] when you all like. Did the number of cases go down in the last two weeks? No,” Facebook user Vann Leo said. 

“If no exam, why still send kids back to school? Each pupil links to a whole family, including elderly. Exposing them to school is also exposing family to community exposure too!” Joy Gai Jiazi said. 

Singapore set a new record for the second consecutive day last night with 3,577 infections reported. Another eight people were either placed in the ICU or on ventilators, while three more died. 

Other stories:

COVID-19 self-test kits ‘moving fast’ due to ‘elevated’ Singapore demand

Singapore PM’s bro offloading S$30M in fancy bungalows

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