In May 2021, the Ministry of Education in Singapore advised a shift to home-based learning (HBL) from May 19 for a short period to curb the spread of new community cases, especially among students. At One World International School (OWIS), our leadership team understood the significance of this health advisory, and we took a decision to keep all our students and staff safe by going back to home-based learning for the suggested period.
Having gone through a period of home-based learning last year during the circuit breaker in Singapore, our teachers were well prepared to bring back those techniques and strategies. Our focus in e-learning is always on continuing our engagement with students and adapting the inquiry-based, hands-on learning methods we usually follow in our in-school classes.
Overview of Our HBL Schedule for Students
We are very mindful of the different age groups and learning styles within our K-12 school and we don’t follow a one-size-fits-all approach to HBL for all grades. Here’s a glimpse of how we implement HBL for Early Childhood, Primary, Secondary and IB DP students:
Early Childhood: For our young learners, we understand online time should be kept to a minimum, but live online lessons are still required to keep concepts fresh in their minds and explore new topics under the teacher’s guidance. We teach Maths, English and the Unit of Enquiry through Zoom in short lessons spaced out over the week. The rest of the time, we use pre-recorded teacher-led videos to encourage physical education, music, art and Mandarin and to complete activities and learning goals set out in the Zoom classes.
Primary: For our primary students in Grades 1-5, the focus on live lessons with the teacher via Zoom increases proportionately with the grade levels. Maths and English become daily live lessons via Zoom and the UOI starts getting more focussed attention as well. Children continue to stay active and engage in fun arts activities via pre-recorded teacher-led sessions and activities posted on the learning apps our school uses.
Secondary (Grades 6-10) – As the span of subjects deepens and widens in Secondary classes, the Zoom lessons are allocated accordingly. For example, Grades 6-8 have 3 teacher-led live Zoom Room lessons for Science per week, and Grade 9 has 2 Zoom lessons per week per subject for Chemistry, Biology and Physics. English, Maths, physical education and arts subjects are also given adequate focus through live Zoom classes and instructional videos which encourage independent work from students.
Our Grade 10 IGCSE students are continuing their examination journey with full support from our teachers. All other internal assessments have been postponed for now.
IB DP (Grade 11-12) – Our older IB DP students have shown they have the academic rigour and adaptability to take HBL in their stride. They have almost daily Zoom lessons with their teachers for different subjects and focussed weekly attention for the Theory of Knowledge, Extended Essay and Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) to continue to build their skills in these core International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme areas.
Our IB DP Grade 12 cohort have just completed their final graduating examinations, and are enjoying some downtime after the rigour of their two-year preparation.
How OWIS Supports Our School Community During HBL
Reverting to home-based learning in Singapore has come unexpectedly with a new spike in Covid-19 cases and the risk of the infection spreading rapidly in the population. For those of us in schools who had become used to some measure of normalcy albeit with social distancing protocols, HBL requires a reset in our mental and physical functioning. Having closely interacted with parents and students through the circuit-breaker last year, we know the emotional needs of our community must be met as well, along with continuing our academic learning.
To that end, we’ve been mindful of our emotional outreach to our school community:
- Students: We know that one of the best parts of school days at OWIS is meeting our friends and enjoying learning with them. In the switch to virtual lessons, we have made sure to accommodate “social check-in” time in the schedule. This allows our students to chat and interact with their classmates, somewhat like what they would do in class in school.
For our secondary students, tutor time is an integral part of our pastoral care at school. We have incorporated tutor time in the online learning schedule as well, so students can socialise with the rest of the class, maintain their relationship with their tutors and air out their concerns so solutions can be offered to keep stress to a minimum.
- Teachers: Our Head of School and Senior Coordinators are in touch with all teachers to offer emotional support and practical solutions for virtual teaching, which brings with it its own quirks and learning curve. OWIS is a collaborative workplace for our academic staff, and we are making sure that our teachers know they always have work friends they can reach out to for any problems.
- Parents: With children at home for their safety during this crucial period, we know parents will be juggling so many more tasks than usual. We appreciate the extra work they’re putting in. We always remind our school’s parents that they do not need to replace the teachers in home-based learning. They just need to be positive and support the process and encourage children to be independent and manage their tasks and time. We’ve also given a number of tips for successful HBL such as following routines, setting up a dedicated learning area etc.
Many parents have been writing to us to appreciate our home-based learning plan and implementation.
David, who has children in primary and secondary grades, took the time to pen down, “Both of our kids have been able to adapt to the Zoom classes without any issues. Mainly due to all the preparation that happens behind the scenes. Please pass on our thanks to the teachers and the support staff that have made this possible.”
We are thankful for his kind words and the continued support of our parent community to our school. We also applaud our resilient students who are adapting smoothly to this new phase and our hard-working staff who have risen to this new challenge Covid-19 has set for Singapore.