DAS teaching through May
After careful consideration, including obtaining feedback from a sample of parents and consulting with the Ministry of Education, DAS decided to continue with the original MOE school term dates and teach through May. Besides concerns for a long unbroken stretch of 14-15 weeks of classes from June to early September which would have been very demanding for both students with dyslexia and their educational therapists, we believe most parents appreciate the importance of not interrupting DAS classes after 4 May. Since we started teaching online, DAS Educational therapists and students have become much more adept with online teaching and felt we needed to keep the momentum going. With the school holiday in May, students will also not be overwhelmed by having to attend both their school and DAS Home-Based Learning (HBL). And as parents will be at home in May, they will be better able to help their children with DAS HBL too. More students will also have devices because their parents are around. The family will be staying at home during the May school holidays and some educational engagement during this period via DAS HBL has been welcomed.
Reflections on Online Teaching
DAS educational therapists will continue to ensure that our students with dyslexia benefit to the best of our ability. As we complete our 7th week of HBL, I am delighted there has been some very heartening feedback from both parents and DAS educational therapists.
There is the story of a student who hated his own hands for not being able to write and on his first day of class, he screamed and cried then took a pencil to stab his hands. He is now one of our better students via online teaching. See https://das.org.sg/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/WRITING.pdf
Here is another wonderful story titled “Discovery: Underneath the Silence” about a student with Selective Mutism and how her educational therapist got to know her so much better through online teaching. See https://das.org.sg/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/MUTISM.pdf
Do read the compiled feedback of eight parents. See https://das.org.sg/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/PARENT-REFLECTIONS.pdf as well as the feedback of six other educational therapists. See https://das.org.sg/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/MLP-REFLECTIONS.pdf
There have been Challenges
I thank DAS colleagues for their most positive response and our parents for their wonderful support of online teaching This is not to say there are no challenges. There was significant angst especially in the first couple of weeks as parents, students with dyslexia and educational therapists adjusted to online teaching. DAS educational therapists have given feedback that they are lesson planning well into the night as they revised their lesson plans and create new teaching aids and resources that will complement their online teaching. We also know that parents who are supporting more than one child on HBL and at the same time must work from home have not had it easy. Then there was the Starhub outage on 15 April which caused great disruption. And there are still a group of students without devices.
I am pleased to share that as at end Week 5 (26 Apr), of our 3,000 students, 97% of students on the MOE-aided DAS Main Literacy Programme and 96% of students on various programmes of the Specialised Educational Services now attend classes via Online Teaching using Google Meet or Zoom.
But there remain 3-4% of students who are still being supported by Home Learning Packs and they are mostly from lower-income families on bursaries. Their homes may have only handphones or desktops and not laptops with webcams or their laptops have webcams or microphones that are damaged. There are sometimes several children in the household who share one laptop, or they may not have home broadband. Their profile matches the children described in this article https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/cnainsider/home-based-learning-rental-flat-low-income-covid19-12685142
Donation of Laptops by Engineering Good
DAS colleagues have identified 151 DAS students who have requested for a device to help them access online teaching. We are most appreciative of the donation of 151 preloved laptops from non-profit group Engineering Good (https://engineeringgood.org/) and received the first batch of 50 laptops on 4 May. Engineering Good will also be providing new headphones to reduce the impact of noise at home. DAS colleagues are exploring the donation of internet dongles with sponsored SIM cards for families without Home wifi. Delivery of laptops to the students’ homes have commenced. Although it is now into the second half of Term 2, we hope these students can access our online make-up and supplementary classes in June. There may also continue to be online teaching after the Circuit Breaker depending on the national posture. So, the above continues to be a very worthwhile effort. DAS will do all we can to help these students continue to learn during this pandemic.
Most importantly, DAS is incredibly pleased that our students’ learning has not been interrupted because parents, students with dyslexia and staff have been willing to embrace online teaching!
Lee Siang is the Chief Executive Officer of the Dyslexia Association of Singapore. He regularly notes down his thoughts on the DAS Blog.