Safe-distancing measures were significantly heightened in Singapore when the Prime Minister announced on 3 April 2020 that all workspaces except those providing essential services would be suspended from 7 April to 4 May in a month-long “circuit breaker” to curb further local transmission of COVID-19. As part of these measures, schools and institutes of higher learning are shifting to full home-based learning. The Ministry of Education (MOE) has issued a statement, urging parents to keep their children at home during this period.
MOE has also announced that “National examinations, including the mid-year GCE O- and A-Level Mother Tongue Language examinations in June, Year-End Examinations and Primary School Leaving Examinations will proceed as planned and with the necessary precautionary measures in place”.
Educating our students remains a priority even during a pandemic, and we should find innovative ways to continue teaching them. While video conferencing is one such way, some parents may be reluctant to have their children having lessons via video conferencing, understandably preferring to have lessons in person.
Tutoring over video conferencing: An inferior option?
Parents across Singapore have had to adapt to home-based learning over the last week of March, and will have to adapt to full home-based learning over the next month. Notwithstanding this, many remain reluctant to have tutoring over video conferencing. Why has that been?
During this week of home-based learning, students and parents have reported technical issues regarding logging in and getting the audio and video for lessons to work. These understandably, do take some time to get over, and may impinge on lesson timeslots. However, given that various Ministers have come out to state that COVID-19 and its economic fallout will last at least a year, learning from home will have to become a new normal for parents in Singapore.
Tutors are becoming increasingly familiar with delivering lessons over video conferencing tools, and are equipped to guide parents and students through any necessary set up. English tutor Shaun Zhang commented that tutors that he is familiar with are committed to taking extra time to help his students become proficient in the technology.
Infrequent progress updates
Parents whom we have spoken to have indicated some hesitation to move towards online tutoring, largely because they are uncertain about how effective tutors would be in guiding their children.
Mrs. Matthews, 41, expressed concern over how these “circuit breakers” would affect tutoring in her daughter’s PSLE year. She advised that “tutors should update parents even more frequently during this uncertain period to ensure that parents are satisfied that they are doing a good job”.
Tools such as Learnable help parents to track student progress effectively, as parents receive a summary email each week collating updates across all hired tutors on:
- Upcoming homework and their deadlines,
- Feedback on work done, and
- Upcoming tuition dates
Some teachers in Primary schools have expressed the view that children who learn best through physical activities may not receive as much stimuli through a screen, as teachers in school have manipulatives for them to use in mathematics and science classes.
However, Mrs Grace Hobbs, who was interviewed by the Straits Times, said that “once [her children] started the online classes, they were very focused. Somehow, technology has an influence on kids – it makes them want to sit and concentrate, and the materials were quite engaging.”
As tutors plan out their lessons, many are considering how they can remotely test their students on whether they’ve retained the knowledge from the lesson, and how they can better update parents on the above.
A New Normal in Tutoring
Pandemics drive change. Ultimately, parents should remember that when they hired a tutor for their child, they have placed upon their tutors a significant level of trust. In these difficult times, it is important to keep calm and continue to trust that our tutors’ empathy and capabilities will continue to shine through to help our children to do well.
Looking for a tutor? Learnable is an education platform that helps parents:
- Vet and hire qualified tutors
- Automatically track student progress
- Earn credit card rewards on traditionally cash-based tuition expenses