For the November 2020 exam session, the first Diploma Programme (DP)/Career-related Programme (CP) exam session to offer a dual route examination pathway due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus), the Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) began to put emphasis on preparing students to sit exams early in the academic year. Of utmost importance for the school was the well-being of students together with reducing the disruptions to students’ learning. For this reason, teachers and school staff joined forces to cultivate a mutual understanding between the school community and the students.
In April 2020, the school put in place a home-based learning (HBL) plan, to ensure a smooth transition from in-person classes to online learning. The school made special arrangements for the students, who had no access to suitable devices by setting aside safe and dedicated facilities for them to use. Once the HBL plan was in place, teachers had to familiarize their community with online learning and the use of different platforms, such as Microsoft Teams to conduct lessons. At the time, the use of video conferencing tools for teaching was a relatively new method. ACS(I) teachers teamed up to support each other and to help other teachers who were less familiar with the technology. “It was a steep learning curve”, said Deputy Principal/ACS(I) Ms Chock Siew Hwa. “Teachers not only had to transform into filmmakers of sorts, they also had to learn how to keep the content engaging through a screen”.
After students and teachers were settled into HBL, ACS(I) moved towards a “blended learning” approach making use of both synchronous and asynchronous learning. Teachers created “live” synchronous sessions with their students, and at the same time, they implemented asynchronous lessons–where students made use of pre-recorded lessons and physical worksheets. This helped students to maintain a balance between their work and screen time and to cultivate a sense of independence as they managed their own “free study” time.
To unite the school community and to further support students and parents, ACS(I) initiated a series of online events and activities. The school held virtual parent sessions, to surface any concerns there might be. To preserve the communication, ‘Parents Gateway’, a mobile app was used to update parents with the latest school information. As for students, Pastoral Care Tutors checked in with them weekly and facilitated conversations at both class and individual level. These online conversations also helped teachers to monitor and support students who were facing difficulties.
“It was a steep learning curve,” said Deputy Principal/ACS(I) Ms Chock Siew Hwa. “Teachers not only had to transform into filmmakers of sorts, they also had to learn how to keep the content engaging through a screen”.
In this framework, teachers held the Home-Based Lunch Challenge—known as “HBLC”—where students and teachers were encouraged to have lunch together as a class. During the HBLC, students had to take photos of themselves with their food and the whole class would then create collages from them, with the most interesting collages winning prizes. Other activities included school-wide exercise programmes, online concerts, and showcases by students.
Despite the disruptions to learning and teaching caused by COVID-19, a collaborative culture was created among the school staff and students, which enabled the school to run the November 2020 examinations without any complications. The strong ties that were forged within the school community is a result of the school’s endeavours to prioritize the safety and wellbeing of students.