Commentary: Would a four-day school week work in Singapore?


If implemented, would a four-day school week mean one day of HBL each week for all students, or a complete day off?

As things stand, the majority of secondary schools and junior colleges have one HBL day each fortnight. Parental fears about the effect of a shorter school week are real, especially in the case of younger students, who might not be adept at monitoring their own learning during HBL.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to some parents flocking to private tutoring as a means of ensuring that their children’s academic learning would not be adversely affected by HBL. The last thing many harried working parents want is to have to supervise home-based learning on a regular weekly basis.

Such fears might be allayed by assurances that the total amount of instructional time will remain unchanged through the lengthening of the remaining four school days.

However, a lengthening of the school day would mean the adjustment of lunch schedules. Childcare arrangements would also be affected, especially on the fifth day of the week.

Another concern related to shortening the school week might be that not every student has a conducive study environment at home.

Furthermore, there are benefits associated with a five-day school week for students who need free school meals and for those who need a brief respite from troubled home environments. This is probably why the Ministry of Education has asked secondary schools and junior colleges to make provision for students who may struggle with HBL to return to school during HBL days.

The benefits of face-to-face teaching and learning have been made plain by the numerous COVID-19 disruptions. Would a four-day school week mean reduced interaction time, not only between teachers and students, but also among students?

It is of course highly likely that the fifth day of the week would not be left entirely free of school-related activities. Were Singapore to move towards a four-day school week, there would be a number of options to consider for the fifth day. These include dedicated time for staff development, HBL, co-curricular activities, in-school tutoring for students, and even out-of-school learning activities such as community service or educational trips.

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