Ever since the spread of Covid-19, many Singaporeans have asked the government to close schools. However, the Singapore authorities have refused to do so. This is despite the increase in the number of cases both in Singapore and outside Singapore. The Singapore government did state that the situation remains fluid and closing schools is one possible option. Is closing schools really the solution to stop the spread of Covid-19? Let us explore the reasons why we should or should not close schools.
We need schools closed
There is a big case for closing schools. Historical evidence shows that closing schools will stop the spread of diseases. In studies of the Spanish flu of 1918 and 1919, areas where schools were closed earlier and for a longer period saw fewer deaths. This also happened when Japan closed schools in response to the H1N1 flu in 2009. However, there is also evidence that shows it is not effective to close schools after a virus has spread widely. Unfortunately, nobody knows the ideal time.
Consequences of closing schools
There are real consequences of closing schools, especially for parents who have little or no support at home. There is a real economic cost as studies have shown that having schools closed means that around 20% of households will see an adult miss work. Another unintended consequence is that it may force a healthcare worker to stay at home to take care of their children, worsening the stress on the healthcare sector.
Moreover, evidence shows that closing school for long periods of time has led to overall dip in school results. This comes from case studies that examined the role played by school closure in grades, due to strikes in both Canada and Belgium.
Even though MOE has put in place an online system of learning, ensuring that classes can still go on at home, online learning, if not implemented well, is not as effective as traditional face-to-face learning. This worsens if the student ends up having extra duties as a result of staying at home (taking care of younger children, for example).
While there is a clamour by people for MOE to close schools in order to stop the spread of Covid-19, there is also evidence of the negative impacts. We believe that the Singapore government will weigh all pros and cons of school closure before making their decision.
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