For the better part of 2020 and 2021, controlling the spread of COVID-19 and the several variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been a top priority for academic institutions around the world. In many situations, the responses adopted by the academic institutions reflected the measures recommended by their host country’s health or education ministry. The same can be said of schools that are based in Singapore.
From the beginning, the national government of Singapore has been very proactive in preventing and controlling the spread of the disease around civic and social spaces where large numbers of people typically gather, and these include schools and other academic institutions Weeks before the WHO declared COVID-19 as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHIEC), the government, through the Ministry of Health (MOF), has swiftlyestablished precautionary measures while delivering regular updates about the then-novel coronavirus disease.
In turn, the agencies that oversee different levels of educational institutions were able to provide clear and concise guidelines on how to keep students, educators, support staff, and other members of academic communities safe from the disease. Over time, these guidelines were refined and reinforced to curb the effects of the pandemic, and the recommendations were diligently observed by every academic institution, whether it’s a university, a local primary school, or an international high school in Singapore.
What are the measures that Singapore schools have adopted to keep their communities safe from COVID-19? Let’s take a closer look.
Seeing School Absences in a New Light
School absences were traditionally seen in a negative light before the pandemic, and in many cases, it was justified, since being absent prevented students from actively participating in their lessons. However, because quarantine has become an important component of curbing the spread of COVID-19, government agencies and schools have made an effort to significantly lessen the stigmatization of missing school days while emphasizing the need to quarantine in order to protect one’s community from the pandemic. The same principle was also applied to teachers, administrators, and support staff members. Even during the early days of the pandemic, schools have advised people who have traveled to areas with high rates of infection to quarantine first. Even today, students and staff members who are sick or have been exposed to possible carriers of the virus are encouraged to stay home, focus on their well-being, and limit their contact with other people.
Maximizing Home-Based Learning Opportunities
As a response to periodic surges in COVID-19 cases, educational facilities have had to turn to home-based learning (HBL) and blended learning (BL) models of instructions so that they can continue their lessons without putting the health of their students and staff members at risk. On top of limiting academic interruptions and distractions, adopting home-based learning strategies for short periods of time allowed students to adjust to their new learning environment. It also gave schools the chance to test and refine their strategies for carrying out distance learning programs. In fact, there have been suggestions to make distance learning courses available to a wider audience and to make them a more permanent offering even after the worst of the pandemic is over.
Observing COVID-Safe ABCs in School Grounds
Returning to school after a circuit breaker can be a nerve-wracking event for students, parents, and school staff. However, many schools in Singapore have used the suspension of face-to-face classes to improve their facilities and purchase equipment that will help their community observe COVID-Safe Access, Behaviors, and Classrooms (ABCs).
To promote strict adherence to safety protocols, many schools began installing barriers and relevant signs, they started designing and implementing schedules and foot traffic schemes that help minimize crowding, and they turned to regularly deep-cleaning their facilities. As such, once the students returned to their classrooms in June of 2021, they were able to feel safer and were able to follow the safety protocols more closely.
Developing Protocols for Different Alert Levels
In these uncertain times, having a plan in place can go a long way in calming anxious students and their families. While not a lot of Singapore schools were able to prepare at the start of the pandemic, many academic institutions eventually made an effort to develop protocols on how to handle and carry out classes during alert level changes.
Knowing exactly what to expect during uncertain times helped students, parents, and teachers adjust to their new working and learning environments. They were able to transition more smoothly to home-based learning, and back to their classrooms months later. At the same time, the schools were able to provide adequate support and guidance to students who were having a hard time coping with these changes.
There is no assurance that early learning centers, schools, universities, and other educational institutions will remain completely safe from COVID-19, but the measures that schools in Singapore are taking to protect their students and staff members have been largely effective. Currently, the majority of the students who have acquired the disease didn’t get it from their schools; rather, they were exposed to infected members of their families or social circles.
So that the measures can remain effective in curbing the spread of disease in schools, it’s important that the entirety of the academic community—from students and parents to teachers and administrators—work together. Only by watching out for each community member can schools ensure that no one will be left behind in the fight against the spread of the pandemic.