As the first cases of community spread COVID-19 arose in Singapore, much of the country began to take preventive measures, and at One World International School we recognised the many stress factors for parents during this pandemic. Parents and children stayed at home for two or three months, learning how to work from home and complete distance learning assignments. The term ‘new normal’ became widely used, and families were forced to adjust rapidly, in some cases making profound changes to their lives. While this experience was stressful in its own right, parents were finding that they have a whole new slew of concerns during the pandemic as Singapore begins to reopen.
At OWIS, we have taken measures to mitigate the effects of the below areas of stress and worry for our parents:
The Safety and Health of Children
In the midst of the ongoing pandemic, safety is a top concern among parents. In Singapore, parents are particularly concerned about their children’s health and well-being as they commute to school, and while they are in the school building. The local government has enacted strict guidelines to help minimise the spread of COVID-19, and many of these measures are designed to protect children as they head back to school.
In addition, many international schools in Singapore are taking extra precautions to keep their students safe. At OWIS, a variety of safety measures have been implemented, including temperature screenings, face mask or face shield requirements, heightened cleaning and safe distancing measures, altered play and activity routines and more. We have invested in the best testing and sanitising systems possible to ensure that everyone can feel confident that we will protect children, families and staff, as best as we can, from the virus. With staggered start and finish times and social distancing within all areas of the school, we can ensure that the risk of spread is as low as possible.
Continuity in Learning
Many parents are worried that the pandemic will have a detrimental impact on their child’s education. This is particularly true for parents of secondary students in Grades 9 and above. With the cancellation of the Cambridge IGCSE and IB DP (International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme) examinations that were to be held in May and June 2020, parents are anxious about the effect on their children’s future.
Fortunately, at OWIS, we have implemented a seamless system that has ensured that learning has continued throughout the crisis. When the schools were shut down, OWIS ensured education continuity with e-Learning to provide students with a full distance learning experience. Teachers constantly kept in touch with students and parents to ensure that they were reaching their goals, getting help with anything they needed and were progressing as expected. They were also there for their social and emotional needs.
The Cost of Education
The COVID-19 pandemic has been more than a public health crisis; it also has become a worldwide economic crisis. During this uncertain economic climate, some parents have become stressed about the cost of education. In some cases, families are also concerned about staying in Singapore as they may want to return home to be closer to their families or may have found themselves no longer with a job. OWIS understands that many parents are facing unique circumstances, and our school offers an attractive school fees structure that provides families with access to affordable, high-quality education for their children. We are also able to offer support for each family based on their individual circumstance and discuss a range of options to ensure that children continue to have access to top-quality education.
Physical Activity Levels in Children
In the first few weeks and months of the onset of the pandemic, government restrictions prevented students from participating in their group sports and extracurricular activities. As they transitioned to remote learning, they spent more time in front of screens than ever before, and parents quickly became concerned about physical activity levels in their children. Teachers ensured that physical activities were included in their lesson plans to encourage children and families to participate in some form of exercise during the day.
Even as restrictions are being lifted, it will still be difficult for children to gather in groups and participate in organised activities over the next several months. At OWIS, during our re-opening in June, when students came in on a rotational basis, we offered students a combination of virtual physical activities and in-person classes with appropriate social distancing in place. We will continue to adapt our physical activity programme to ensure that children are doing the recommended amount of exercise each day. We will follow government guidelines and where required, make adjustments to our usual sport and exercise options. We understand the importance of exercise for emotional, mental and physical health so strive to ensure that children do not miss out during these difficult times.
Mental Well-Being of Children
Children have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in a variety of ways, and many children of all ages are beginning to show signs of stress, anxiety and depression. Their world became so different so suddenly, and it is easy to understand why they are feeling like this. School is such a social environment, so for many children, the adjustment of being at home, possibly without another sibling, can be very difficult.
Older children, especially those impacted by cancellations to their Cambridge IGCSE and International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme exams and changes to their examination schedules, may be particularly vulnerable. They may feel that their future has been disadvantaged, or that they won’t get into the university that they are aiming for. Explaining that this is a very unusual situation, that they are not alone in facing this and looking at the positive aspects of this uncertain time, can be reassuring to them.
Social Interaction for Children
Children in Singapore are now able to meet up with their classmates again and interact in very small groups. This comes as a great relief to parents, as many have been worrying about the lack of social interaction. However, parents need to prepare students for the fact that socialising will look different than before, with face masks or face shields to be worn in public and safe distancing to be practised. They need to reinforce the reasoning behind these new norms so that children understand the importance of keeping each other safe. It is still important to get creative when planning activities and to opt for virtual experiences whenever possible.
Most parents desperately want to provide their children with a sense of normalcy in these uncertain times. To help children cope with the changing social landscape, parents should take time to address specific concerns that children have, talk about how things have changed and how society is adapting to a new normal. Trying to make sure that they still keep in contact with their friends if they are at home is crucial as they may feel like they are alone in the situation. Encourage them to use video calls with their friends so that they can still maintain face-to-face, social interactions.
At OWIS, we are committed to helping children adjust during these unprecedented times. To learn more about us and to discover how we are adapting to life during the COVID-19 pandemic, fill out our enquiry form to schedule your school tour.
This blog was originally written in collaboration with Preeti Bhati, former Head of Additional Needs, OWIS Nanyang.