Remote Learning: Schools at Crossroads

Remote Learning: Schools at Crossroads

As schools in Singapore rapidly shifted to remote learning at the start of COVID-19, 69 per cent of Singaporean parents believed their child’s primary or secondary schools were partly prepared or not prepared at all to facilitate remote learning, according to a global survey by intelligent workspace provider Citrix.

The global Education during COVID-19 survey commissioned by Citrix, explores parent and student perceptions about the response of the education system to school closures and a shift to remote learning during COVID-19 disruptions in seven countries.

By international comparison, Singapore’s transition to remote learning was the most ‘frictionless’ compared to the other countries surveyed, with 30 percent of the parents report a frictionless transition to remote learning, followed by Australia (25 percent) and Mexico (19 percent).

Only six per cent of parents reported their children had persistent technical problems in remote classes. More than half (55 per cent) of the parents said accessing e-learning offerings initially created a challenge but became routine after a while. 

Primary and secondary schools pain points: Lack of instructions and communications

Hardware to access the courses and materials also wasn’t a struggle in Singapore with 55 per cent of children already owning a device. Further 32 per cent of parents bought a device for their children and 12 per cent were using a shared family device. This amount of access to hardware is – in global comparison – the best and shows that the country’s focus on digitalising its education sector, such as a national digital literacy programme to issue personal learning devices to all Secondary 1 students by 2024, is going in the right direction.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created the biggest remote learning experiment in history. While it is encouraging that Singaporean institutions have already taken an approach to provide devices, much more can be done to provide students with the flexibility to use their preferred apps and platforms to collaborate with their peers and teachers. Faced with the ongoing threat of secondary waves, we need to ensure students are given opportunities to have the best remote learning experiences, from a productive and safe remote environment of their choosing,” said Leanne Taylor, Chief Operating Officer Asia Pacific & Japan, Citrix.

Parents view technology as a critical factor for online class success, with 88 per cent of survey respondents stating it contributes to a good learning experience. 44 per cent are also convinced that remote teaching can only be successful with the right tools and good instructions. The constant engagement with technology in class has tangible consequences; with 83 per cent of parents polled stating that their children’s computer skills have improved due to online classes.

Beyond the technological aspects, the sudden switch to online teaching has also put a spotlight on obvious potential for improvement. At the very top of the wish list of parents surveyed: better organisation of remote teaching (59 percent), more direct interaction with teachers via video (57 percent) and improving teachers’ remote teaching skills (45 percent). In spite of all difficulties, there are also positive things to report: Less than 10 percent of parents think that online classes are worse off for students in general.

Universities: A mix of on-site and online teaching is preferred

Singaporean university students’ sentiment regarding online classes is more positive compared to parents’. For the future, the largest share of those surveyed (57 per cent) prefer a hybrid model of on-site and online lectures, and 23 per cent would even like to continue their entire studies online, even after social distancing measures are relaxed.

Among university students though, the switch to online classes was less confronting with only 9 per cent of students having no access to online lectures before the crisis. It seems that universities were better prepared for remote teaching than schools, with 83 per cent of university students confirming their institution adjusted to the challenges of COVID-19 to continue delivering an appropriate learning experience.

“Today’s educational institutions need to establish a unified online environment that is secure and easy to use for students, teachers and parents,” said Leanne Taylor. “More can be done to improve the overall learning experiences given that remote offerings will continue to complement schooling and academic education for the near term.”


Methodology

Commissioned by Citrix, One Poll surveyed 3,500 parents with children between the ages of 6 and 18, and 3,500 university students, in July and August 2020. The survey took place simultaneously in Australia, Germany, UK, Italy, Canada, Mexico, and Singapore. 500 students and 500 parents from each country participated.

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