International schools in Singapore pride themselves for giving their students a truly diverse learning environment, which will help prepare the children to excel in an increasingly globalised World.
However, the onset of the COVID-19 crisis is a true test of whether the schools are able to uphold the values of embracing diversities and promoting tolerance and understanding in an increasingly divided World.
The Quandary and Challenges
At the onset of COVID-19 pandemic in January 2020, most of the reported cases were concentrated in China. At that time, parents who have school-going children in International schools are anxious that the Chinese students returning from their lunar holiday break would unknowingly bring back the virus, given that carriers can be asymptomatic for up to 21 days.
Such sentiments from parents would have put pressures on the schools to take measures to isolate the students, which thankfully, the Ministry of Education in Singapore had eventually mandated at the point of time. 1
However, as the virus continued to spread around the World, the ones who ended up bringing the virus to schools were parents and teachers2 who were unaware of the risks and their conditions.
It would have been tempting to start pointing fingers and blaming one another for the spread of the virus. The schools and teachers would have been caught in a very difficult position with conflicting sentiments from parents of different nationalities rapidly evolving each day.
How the schools managed and reacted to this pandemic would have left an indelible impression among the parents and, more importantly, the students.
How would more International Schools make the World a Better Place?
In the context of an International School which governs the interests of stakeholders ranging from 500 to 5,000 people, the differing expectations from parents would have posed a tough challenege for the school administrators to reach a middle ground and charter the way forward each day in the midst of the crisis.
When the numbers of stakeholders are multiplied a million fold on a national level, coming to a consensus to work together among countries would have been even more arduous, which explains the gridlock that countries are constantly embroiled in since time immemorial.
If children are able to understand about the complexities of making decisions amid a multitude of competing interests and opinions, would they grow up to become more discerning voters and leaders who are willing to listen and act in the interests of the masses?
Would having more schools which emulate the values and diverse composition of an International school help to foster this?
What can Schools do Post-COVID-19?
In a few weeks time, students will be returning back to their schools for the new semester year. This Summer break is probably unique for many students as most would be confined to their country where they are based instead of travelling home or exploring new continents, unlike the past. It would be a good time for the schools to get students to reflect on their experience post-COVID, which, I believe would be a good point of reference for the children down the road when they encounter conflicting and confusing situations similar in magnitude and impact to this pandemic.
References and Sources
- Channel News Asia Article, 27th Jan 2020, Compulsory leave of absence for students, teachers returning from China: MOE
- The Straits Time Article, 24th Mar 2020, Coronavirus: 6 parents of international school students test positive; schools switch to remote learning