Opinion: Encouraging MOE during Covid-19

11 April 2020. Members of the Homeschool Singapore community wrote in to appreciate the work of Education Minister Ong Ye Kung and the MOE team. We reprint the appreciation to invite more homeschoolers to join in.

Dawn Fung : I wrote to the Minister on 19 March 2020 to offer our assistance in home education matters. After HBL started, I wrote in again on 10 April 2020 because I was worried about the mental state of teachers and parents.

Let me just say that when we take our work seriously as home educators, we should care deeply for three groups of people – educators, parents, and children. These are the demographies that are closest to our lives in homeschooling: our minds work as parents and educators, and our children are the recipients of our work.

Being so involved in education everyday affects me. I can’t stop teaching. I talk to children I meet. I ask about their day. I see if I can help someone connect better to their teacher, or a teacher to a parent, or a parent to a child. Building the right connections matter, because I can help someone see how a shift in perspective can transform a life. And the more I teach in such organic settings, the more I love what it is about. Teaching is helping someone realise their potential in the role they play.

On 10 April, the Minister replied. His gesture moved me and the community. There is something magical about acknowledgment. It makes you feel valued. Furthermore, some of us are going through very difficult times. No one is spared the repercussions of COVID-19. When someone in top leadership sees the little guy and says hi, it does something. Hey now, we think, he is our education minister too. Because the gap between MOE schooling/legislation vs homeschooling has been so wide, this act seems…healing.

I thought the most appropriate response was to let the Minister and his team know we homeschoolers appreciated them. See, so many of us are ex-teachers. We have friends who are still teaching. They are barely coping with HBL. They struggle to figure out ICT, how to please parents, draw children’s attention, understand new strategies for learning, and juggle their own caregiving duties. Who can teach others’ kids while helping their own on HBL at the same time?! And then, there are our fellow parents who are in despair. They need to work from home. They need to help their kids at HBL. The major transitions of HBL + socialdistancing are two extreme adjustments for Singaporeans. Plus, HBL is not homeschooling; in homeschooling, you can choose your curriculum and teachers. HBL is MOE’s response to the children it looks after. It is not perfect but it is a swift measure from a very responsible administration.

So despite our differences on how education should be, we stand with the country. Look, we grumble about our education system because we really care. You can hear some of our complaints about it below, but we balance it out with the community involvement we do too. The last thing we want is for homeschoolers to come across as entitled and arms-crossed.

We want to see everyone win, ok. Our hearts go out to the teachers of the nation. You can work this out. Maybe it is time you to speak up for your own rights. Maybe now is the time to rethink education. Whatever it is, Mr Ong, MOE, teachers…fighting. 🙂

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“We had the opportunity to show encouragement and support to our front-liners by donating 4 original paintings to Healthserve. Here’s a little poem expressing our appreciation to MOE:

THANK YOU, SIMPLY

Thank you simply 
For giving your best;
For weighing the options
And bearing the stress.

Thank you simply
For helping the weak; 
Those who crave structure
And others who seek.

Thank you simply
For investing your hearts;
We appreciate the 
Teachers and their art.

Thank you simply
For the sacrifices;
We shall emerge stronger
From this C0VID-19 crisis.”

Madeline, homeschooling 1 child. 

________

“Dear Sir, 

It is clear that a lot of hard work and time and thought has gone into all the planning and preparation by the government and the schools for HBL. Even though my children do not attend mainstream school, I would still like to take this opportunity to appreciate the government and schools for all they have done. 

Parents and teachers are both feeling the heat and stress of keeping up with the schedule and not falling behind, making sure all the assignments are completed within a certain period of time. There is little room for self-directed learning, which requires space and time for the children to explore and delve deep when they desire. Granted different schools have different measures, but it appears that for many, detailed timetables and checklists are the norm. It might do some good for the Minister to emphasise again the intention of HBL to the parents, but also to the schools directly so they can adjust their expectations and workload for teachers and students accordingly. Yes, some minimal work should be assigned, but let it be minimal, so that it can fulfill the purpose of not letting kids run wild, without dampening their love for learning and exploration. Most importantly this is such a precious time for parents and children to enjoy each other at home, to build stronger bonds, which takes time as well. 

On my end, what I have been doing is to encourage and support the parents in my social circle with kids in preschool and primary school to focus on building their relationships with their kids, to try not to be stressed out as it is really not easy to manage all the different changes at the same time, and to remind them that the other things their kids are learning besides academics that the parents might be teaching are also very important. Things like how to behave and think in a global crisis, life skills, how to live in harmony with family members etc.

Thank you again for all your hard work.”

Sarah, homeschooling mother to 3.

________

“Dear Mr Ong and team,

Thank you for working tirelessly behind the scenes. It is not easy to strike a balance in a time like this and we know your team is working really hard to ensure the students are still engaged through HBL. So much has been done to make this happen for the whole nation.

We, as a family, are helping friends who are now at home trying to understand what it means to school at home. I am sharing ideas with my friends whose children are now at home and they are learning how to manage having their children with them 24/7. Although it is different from homeschooling, my teens are able to give suggestions to their friends on how they can stay engaged on their HBL. My son who is currently serving NS is able to step in to help his NS mates on setting up zoom accounts and guiding them to having online meetings as this has been part of how he learned as a homeschooler. We feel so privileged to be of help to the community we are in.”

Tsui Ling, homeschooling mum of 6.

________

“Dear Sir,
We are very appreciative of your thoughtful and prompt  response despite your probably hectic schedule with all that is going on. It is tough trying to cater to everyone’s needs.. Kudos to the teachers who have to do HBL lessons and also mind their own kids’ lessons at home. MOE is certainly endeavouring to be as responsible as they can for the children under their charge. As a family, we have been actively encouraging our friends and exchanging interesting stay home ideas to engage and occupy our children. I am thankful to be a Singaporean knowing that our government has our best interests at heart.”

Dorcas, homeschooling mum of 5.

________

“I applaud the fast response of MOE in reacting to the circuit breaker announcement. I personally know of Teachers who’ve to adapt real fast to the demands of going online and still care for their families. Trying to please every segment of society is impossible and it is easier to critique than serve. Those who rise above the situation and move with it are the resilient ones and are to be appreciated and applauded! 

Managing the home and HBL is not easy at all. While homeschooling is very different from HBL, I still share what I know about juggling both and more on my blog to moms (working and SAHMs) caught in this situation without prep. 

As a society, as we share what we each are good at, we can learn and grow together and become more appreciative of each other’s strengths and contributions.“

Serene, homeschooling mum of 7.

________

“I want to applaud all teachers who are trying so hard to make things work in such a short notice. Having to juggle their own children’s HBL plus teaching their own. It is not easy. And having feedback on the need for face to face time, they quickly picked up how to use online conferencing systems. It is not easy, sometimes, their students discover functions they don’t even know. It is unchartered grounds. But teachers are so resilient and caring, leaving their own children at home to go to school for their students. They are much much appreciated. And of course the IT team, Comms team and everyone else who is working hard to make all these things happen. My company initiated a community group to crowdsource stay home activity ideas for parents with young children. Our hope is that parents can share and learn from one another and all enjoy their time at home. We also helped to collect empty plastic bottles for migrant workers to collect hand sanitizers in collaboration with Migrant Workers Council and Temasek Foundation.” 

Zhen Xin, homeschooling mum to 4. 

________

“Dear Mr. Ong and Team, 

Thank you for bearing the burden of educating our young through this challenging period. Even though, my children are not in the mainstream schools, I see the effort school teachers put in to make sure that the children are able to continue learning, I see how parents took up the challenge of taking charged of their children’s education in addition to their work responsibilities and I see how children adapt to new ways of learning. I am encouraged by how they are all determined to emerge stronger from this situation. I also hope that HBL will not add to the stress of family life and families will find their new normal. Please continue to use your voice to emphasise the importance of valuing family bonds, mental health and relationships above academic progress. You and your team play a crucial role in setting the tone at home for many Singaporeans. We can do this together!”

Wan Ling, homeschooling mother of 2. 

________

“I want to thank you and your fellow colleagues who are working extremely hard during this unprecedented times to help bring a new “normal” for the children. The thoughts that goes behind every decision, the consideration of the families who are affected by each decision. These are never easy but we appreciate how your team delicately balance each option at every stage of the pandemic. As you and your team continue to pour out of your hearts and give of yourselves to serve the needs of the nation, we want to remember each and every of your family members who are silently rooting for all of you, and at the same time missing  your presence because of work. Thank you for your tireless contribution. Thank you for embracing the kids’ curiosities and encouraging the parents to follow their children’s interests.

In order to help parents make the best of their stay in period with their children, we have put together a Learning at Home series across the Homeschool Singapore social media platforms. We hope that the stories that are being shared encourage, inspire and uplift parents and help them navigate through the uncharted waters. As a contribution from our family to thank the frontline healthcare workers, my girl came up with a drawing, which we are sending out to support and cheer them up during this crunch time. After all this is over, we will come out stronger than we ever be. Let’s stand #SGUnited”

Valerie, homeschooling mother of 1.

________

“Dear Sir,
First off, I want to applaud you and your team for the hard work and intensive planning that went into the implementation of this programme across all schools in Singapore. It is no easy feat to put into place such a widespread programme at such a short notice. I cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like to be the Education Minister during such a difficult time. I wanted to say that you have been doing a fantastic job and my encouragement is simply to do what you have been doing. My wife and I are foster parents. And I was also a former officer at the National Youth Council handling youth at risk  matters. I am heartened to see how much is being done for this important group. As a counsellor, I am also concerned about the mental and emotional well-being of the kids and their families, and I’m hoping for this group to also be cared for. On our end my wife and I are publishing a Sensory Superhero Series – 14 Days of Ideas to engage sensory kiddos in the home. This includes an understanding of terms such as proprioception, as well as an understanding of how to use sensory resources to help kids meet their sensory diet. Thank you for the important work that you have been doing. Do take care and I wish you well in all that you do!”

Best Wishes,
Mark, homeschooling dad of 2.

________ 

“Thank you OYK and all the teachers who are trying to make the most of such a difficult situation. It is such a huge responsibility to bear, for the well-being of so many young lives. On our end, we’ve dropped off notes at neighbours’ homes, offering to buy food and supplies for them, they just need to give us a call. These are elderly who live alone. One has trouble walking. We have passed out care packs for cleaners who have been working doubly hard during this period. The boys also coloured and put up some posters in the lifts to encourage our neighbours.”

Mei Ling, homeschooling mother of 3.

________

“Dear Minister Ong,

Thank you for making the effort to express the thinking behind your team’s efforts. Despite homeschooling my family, I’m proud to be a citizen of one of the nations that has come into this crisis prepared with HBL systems, and that can actually support its students with it. It comes at no small personal cost to teachers, so I really hope parents at home will appreciate all the effort that goes into it daily. So as some here have said, (and in fact I think this was already addressed by you somewhere at some point) – stay curious etc. So do keep on assuring parents all will not be lost if they do not complete all the homework within a set time every day or week. Help them understand education is long term and more than Science, Math, English etc. Thank you for your authentic sharing with the homeschool community. May it be the first of many!”

Daphne, homeschooling mother of 3.

You are welcome to join in. Leave a comment on our FB Page post. Or… go say some nice things on the OYK/MOE FB page.


Opinion covers thoughts about Singapore education from homeschooling parents. Send us yours. 

2 Replies to “Opinion: Encouraging MOE during Covid-19”

  1. Dear Mr Ong,
    We as homeschooler greatly appreciated your mentorship. Do continue to give words to parents and teachers alike. Do also have words for the students in these time of crisis. MOE has done a great mandatory education leaving no one behind. No discrepancies… HBL and HS we work hand in hand supporting one another. Thank you Mr Ong.

    Diana, homeschooler of 1

  2. Dear Mr Ong,
    My eyes were wet when I read your post about providing food at school for some students from a less fortunate background. I was touched.

    A country is only as strong as its weakest link. Thanks for taking care of every students especially those who really needed.

    Suryani Halim, Mom of 3

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