Govt to announce decision on HBL extension for primary schools later this week

SINGAPORE – An announcement will be made later this week on whether home-based-learning (HBL) will be extended for primary schools, said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing.

All Primary 1 to 5 pupils are currently due to return to school next Monday (Oct 11) after two weeks of HBL to help reduce the risk of transmission amid Singapore’s largest surge in Covid-19 cases.

MOE had initially announced that these pupils would be placed on HBL from Sept 27 to Wednesday (Oct 6) – the end of this year’s PSLE exams. This was later extended by a day to Thursday, with Children’s Day on Friday.

Mr Chan said the announcement is not being made immediately because school staff should focus on the ongoing PSLE, and his ministry wants to inform educators first.

He was responding in Parliament on Monday (Oct 4) to Mr Darryl David (Ang Mo Kio GRC), who had asked if HBL could be extended past this week or even to the start of the school holidays – which start on Nov 20 this year.

Mr David had also asked about HBL plans for older students taking the upcoming N, O and A level exams.

Mr Chan replied that the considerations for primary and secondary schools are different. HBL was necessary to protect primary school pupils, most of whom are unvaccinated as they are not yet eligible for any of the Covid-19 vaccines available here.

Meanwhile, the majority of older students have received a vaccine.

He added that the Ministry will do what is necessary to ensure that national exams can continue safely.

Responding to Nominated MP Shahira Abdullah on resuming co-curricular activities (CCA) in schools, Mr Chan said his ministry hopes to resume these activities as soon as they can be done safely.

Separately, MOE has waived two months of rental fees for school canteen stall holders this year while Singapore was in phase two (heightened alert) Covid-19 restrictions from May to July, said Minister of State for Education Sun Xueling.

The ministry will provide another half a month of waivers this month, she added in response to questions on financial assistance for stall holders from Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC).

Ms Sun also said the canteen operators and their assistants are considered self-employed, and hence should be able to access financial support through the Government’s Covid-19 Recovery Grants.

Giving an update on the employment situation for graduates of sectors hard-hit by the pandemic – hospitality, aviation and aerospace – Minister of State for Education Gan Siow Huang said about nine in 10 of the roughly 5,000 students graduating between December 2020 and September 2021 were employed within six months.

Of these, one in 10 found work through the SGUnited Traineeships programme, which was rolled out in June last year to help fresh graduates from institutes of higher learning boost their employability.