Why teaching with masks on is challenging for both teachers & students, explained by Chan Chun Sing

Following the announcement that selected teachers and students will have the option to remove their masks during language and literacy lessons from Mar 29, 2022, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing further explained the move with a Facebook post.

He wrote that many teachers have shared the difficulties of teaching languages to young children with masks on because students are unable to get visual and verbal cues of how certain complex words are pronounced.

“This is particularly challenging when teaching students a language that is not commonly spoken in their homes, or students with higher learning needs.”

The rationale behind removing masks

While cognisant of the advantages of wearing masks to battle Covid-19, Minister Chan said that mask wearing has a significant impact on teaching and learning.

“[Mask wearing] may potentially inhibit students’ social and emotional development in schools.”

Coupled with a high vaccination rate amongst staff and students, he wrote that it is timely to take a “small yet significant step” to further support specific groups of students in their education journey.

The phased mask-off roll out

For Phase 1, which will start from Mar 29, 2022, the following small groups of students and their teachers may remove their masks during appropriate times during language and literacy lessons:

  • Students in MOE Kindergartens, mainstream primary schools and Special Education (SPED) schools who have hearing or speech-related developmental needs, up to Primary 4 or equivalent; and
  • Students in mainstream primary schools who are in the Learning Support Programme, Mother Tongue Support Programme, and Reading Remediation Programme.

The second phase will expand to allow all teachers teaching language and literacy for young children up to Primary 1 and 2 levels. This will cover all pre-schools, as well as national schools, madrasahs, and SPED schools.

You can find out more here.

Safe Management Measures remain in place

Minister Chan added that SMMs will be in place to ensure the safety of our staff and students – these include wipe down routines, safe distancing when masks are off, and ensuring that masks are worn beyond these class hours.

According to the Ministry of Education, lessons should be conducted in well-ventilated venues, such as non-air-conditioned classrooms with fans switched on and windows opened, where possible.

In closing, Minister Chan wrote that the schooling years are crucial and the ministry will continue to look out for our students.

“Beyond academic learning, we will continue to look out for our students’ physical and socio-emotional well-being, and provide opportunities for them to connect and interact with one another, and peers from overseas.The schooling years are critical for the growth of our students. Let us support their holistic development, while working together to mitigate the risks from the pandemic.”

Cover photo credit: Chan Chun Sing Facebook page