Most students completing their education in Singapore have returned despite the COVID-19 scare. Even students from the worst affected countries like India have re-joined. Singapore reported significantly fewer cases, and even now, the daily numbers remain in two digits only. However, some students are still wary of taking the risk and are undergoing online classes.
However, a considerable proportion of students have come back to start a new academic year. The new semester which began on September 14, saw universities experimenting with different modules of teaching. Depending on the type, of course, a mixture of online and offline classes have been introduced. Large scale lectures are though still being conducted online as a precautionary measure.
Efforts from Universities
As per the latest reports, all prime universities like The National University of Singapore, The Singapore University of Technology Design, and Singapore University of Social sciences have all restarted their studies.
A spokesperson of The National University of Singapore said that apart from these students, they will support others too. They will guide them in the submission of forms and getting approvals from authorities.
In case a student is unable to arrive due to difficulties in getting tickets or flights, not servicing the University will provide support. Such students would be able to attend online classes from their homes.
Singapore University of Technology and design spokesperson said that all students who have arrived would serve 14-day notice before starting the campus classes.
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All four universities say that they are in touch with all those students who are facing problems. The NUS spokesperson said that they know online classes cannot replace the campus experience. However, they are hoping that these students would be able to join overcoming all difficulties very soon. The problems will be all tackled by that time.
SMU is also giving students the option to take leave of absence for a year in situations of them not being able to start.
Mihika Agarwal (19 years) is a first-year student at Nanyang Technological University. She reached the University on September 11 and is undergoing 14-day rest. She says that since she is a freshman student, she wants to enjoy every college aspect rather than just the studies. It is for this reason that Mihika decided to skip online classes for regular teaching.
Mihika feels that the ease you can probe your professors physically cannot do from Zoom classes. In online classes, the number of students vying for the teacher’s attention ensures that you do not get the freedom to express your ideas.
The decision to move to Singapore was a tough one for her. She got the offer from NTU on August 14 when already the first week of the semester was over. Though going to Singapore was her first preference, she did not know what to do in such circumstances.
Moreover, by that time, she had almost dropped her idea of studying in Singapore. The perception was that these universities would not accept any students from India. It was better if she remained in her country and pursued studies from her city itself.
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She was in two-minds and then she decided to take a long-term view of the situation. After five years, she hoped that COVID-19 would have gone, and that’s when her decision would be proved correct. Even at the campus, she attends some online and some offline classes, but the enjoyment of campus stay is there.
Some of her friends were supposed to pursue classes in the UK and the USA. Since travel there is closed, these students have had to opt for online classes. These kids have to wait for things to normalize before getting to enjoy campus life.
On the other hand, Shreya Sanganeria, a second-year student at NUS, is continuing her studies online from her resident country. She was evacuated in May and has been in India since then.
In June, she received communication about whether she would want to return and retain her room on campus. Since there were no flights from India to Singapore, Shreya did not have much choice. Though she decided against not going back, Shreya is unsure if she would like to have a full semester online.
All her lectures are recorded so students in different time zones can watch them at an appropriate time. Students can also pick tutorial slots and manage the time difference if they have any.
According to her, virtual classes are quite restricted as students are busy doing their tasks. Classes are finished early since not many students are responding to each other. Though the learning level is still the same as regular classes, the interaction with each other is not much. It is different when you face a person instead of watching him speak on the laptop.
COVID in Singapore
Last week Singapore reported only 18 new cases in six months on a particular day. This took the tally of people infected to 57532. The last such a number was on the day of March when they reported 17 patients.
According to the Ministry of Health of Singapore, the case of COVID reported was of a foreigner who had come on a work visa. Two more patients were asked to stay at home and had travelled from India in September beginning. They had to undergo the 14-day period, which is mandatory along with the treatment course.
The efforts being made by the Singapore Universities to get students back is commendable. By initiating such drastic steps, the authorities are trying to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on a student’s future. If other countries also start showing such compassion, many students would save on their academic year.
Since Singapore has curtailed its COVID-19 exposure, things seem rosy for the country. If all goes well very soon, colleges will see some normalcy, and students would be back. Online classes cannot replace the experience of being together, and even Universities understand the same. The efforts made to start campus classes is just the first step to initiate some normalcy.