Coaching your own kids in schoolwork is one of the hardest parenting duties, in my book.
The pressure starts building when learning is linked to grades in primary school; when you have to prepare your kids for mother tongue spelling tests week in, week out; when you start worrying about major exams. When learning stops being fun.
One of the reasons we get frustrated is that we look at problems from an adult lens, rather than our child’s perspective.
So when Junior just can’t get the hang of a maths problem we’ve explained for the umpteenth time, we get impatient. It escalates until both sides get emotional and the learning opportunity is lost.
Thanks to full home-based learning (HBL) under the circuit breaker measures, parents all over Singapore have spent the last two weeks playing school principal, co-form teacher, discipline mistress (rotans are said to be sold out), IT helpdesk, PE teacher, canteen uncle, bookshop auntie and school counsellor.
And they still have to do their regular jobs from home, grappling with lag issues, on top of all this.
HBL will stop on May 4, since the mid-year school holidays have been moved up to May 5.
But while children are cheering, parents are now wringing their hands over how to occupy their little ones while stuck at home for another four weeks.
Yet, all things considered, Singapore kids and parents have been relatively blessed during this pandemic.
A chance to reflect
According to an article on management consultancy McKinsey & Company’s website, 191 countries have shuttered their primary and secondary schools as of mid-April because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This has affected almost 1.6 billion children across the world – a mind-boggling number to wrap one’s head around.
More alarmingly, it says, the “shift to remote learning has been uneven” from country to country, even within nations.
The fact that our children are able to continue their education remotely is something we cannot take for granted.
We’ve never fully appreciated our children’s teachers until now, and I hope this newfound respect engenders a stronger bond of trust. (Read: Always be nice to teachers; they’re doing the best they can.)
In The New York Times, American experts warn of an academic “Covid slide” affecting some 50 million children.
While schools scramble to replace face-to-face learning with virtual lessons, not always successfully, millions of kids still lack Internet access to complete their schoolwork. The upcoming long summer break will further erode learning gains.
But the robust and wired Singapore system, with heavily subsidised laptops for low-income households and high connectivity, isn’t likely to suffer the same fate.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) has also adjusted national exams such as the PSLE to ease the learning load of affected students.
Yet, as a parent, I know many are worried, as much more hinges on the year-end exams now that there’s no mid-year assessment.
While we are all still in reactive mode, I would like to posit that these four weeks are a gift of time, a chance for us to reflect on our child’s learning journey.
Is your preschooler no longer the “angel” you thought he was (which would explain his teacher’s feedback) and does his behaviour mask a learning difficulty?
Is your primary schooler reluctant to do his worksheets because he’s a kinaesthetic learner who needs sensory input? Are you expecting too much of your kid?
If it’s “business as usual” after HBL and everyone “chiongs” back to tuition centres, we would have missed a golden opportunity to redefine what education means to us.
Covid-19 has irrevocably changed the world we live in. Are your kids prepared for the new world order when we emerge from the ashes of the pandemic?
It’s something I’m sure MOE will look at once the dust settles, but we can do our part, too. If, after all this, your child has picked up skills like cooking; if he’s learnt to be more helpful, more resourceful when he’s bored; if he learns resilience and grit, these lessons matter. A lot.
So, rather than lamenting the year we may have lost in education, why not appreciate the gains your child will reap in the school of life?
A version of this article first appeared in The Straits Times, where the writer is a senior correspondent.
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