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Maximizing the Benefits of Home-Based Learning in Vietnam

While in-person classes remain temporarily on hold in order to protect the health of students, teachers and communities, home-based learning offers a multitude of benefits for students. Over the last 18 months, schools around the world have discovered ways to effectively utilize virtual arrangements to ensure that students haven’t fallen behind when they return to classroom-based learning.

A Focus on Returning to the Classroom

Returning to the classroom without disruption is not only the goal of teachers, students and parents, but a driving force in how effectively home-based learning is implemented. While it requires some creativity, a student should be able to resume in-person learning at exactly the place he or she would have been academically, socially and emotionally had they never left.

To get a better understanding of how this uninterrupted progress is possible, Saigoneer spoke with some local educators who are currently leading home-based learning models and who also had the opportunity to witness the transition back to in-person classes last year. 

Students engaged in art activities.

Lester Stephens, Head of School of  International School Saigon Pearl (ISSP), explained that one of the keys is to already have specific pacing guides for learning and development standards in place. By understanding where a student should be in their development in terms of knowledge, conceptual understanding, skills, and dispositions, a curriculum can be developed that doesn’t change regardless of where it takes place. “The learning is still happening, it’s just in a virtual context…when children come back to school they’ll still do those same things, just in a face-to-face context.” 

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Home-based learning at ISSP.

Trying to re-design a curriculum or fundamentally change teaching methods would not only be disruptive but mean that students return to the classroom behind in their normal development. Thus, many schools opt to keep in place their regular coursework, timelines and assessments. At ISSP, for example, this means students continue their normal study of subjects such as reading, writing, mathematics, social studies and science as well subjects across disciplines such as music, art, library time and counseling sessions. When they eventually return to in-person learning, the only thing that will change is the setting.

Beyond consistency of curriculum, home-based learning is most effective when there is little disruption in the daily schedule. Experts agree on the importance of maintaining regular routines when transitioning beyond the classroom. It keeps students comfortable and reduces stress so they can most effectively learn. Thus, schools like ISSP have continued regular schedules with the same start and finish time; instruction blocks; breaks for lunch; nap time and unstructured playtime while factoring in a balance of on-screen and off-screen time. For example, students will have 30 minutes in front of a screen followed by 15-minute blocks away from the screen, as well as recess and lunch breaks.

Maintaining Social and Emotional Bonds

Beyond academic growth, the development of social skills is of course one of the most important benefits of school. It is also what parents most fear will be lost during home-based learning. But institutions like Harvard have devised strategies for ensuring students still have opportunities for social interaction and peer bonding when virtually distanced. 

Activities extend beyond traditional classroom work. 

Group work, communal lessons, the use of games and play-based learning as well as informal times to socialize all help strengthen friendships that allow for a smooth transition to classroom-based learning. “We saw children who were engaged came back and connected again quickly with their friends. We saw that in social settings: playground, recess. They were catching up as though they had never been apart,” explains Lester regarding the time last year when ISSP resumed on-campus instruction after a period away. 

During home-based learning, teachers have found themselves paying extra attention to the emotional needs of students with the help of personalized interactions. At ISSP, for example, teachers’ assistants occasionally lead the class so teachers can have one-on-one sessions with students and small group time to check on them as well as work with them on personalized activities such as guided reading. 

Students reading books in the library.

Ms. Kristin Wegner, an ISSP School Counselor, is available to support students and families during home-based learning. If children and families would like to speak with her or if they have any questions or need support, the community is invited to book an appointment. 15-minute appointments can be made during breaks and lunch hours. If parents and students would like to request a different appointment time, they are able to email the ISSP counselor directly.

The Necessary Role of Parents

A recent study found that students have better attitudes towards learning and thus a greater potential for success when “parents encourage their children to be confident and when they support their children’s educational efforts and achievements.” Moreover, active parents can “help address the main challenges posed by online learning, spurring their active and autonomous learning.”

In some ways, home-based learning has given parents greater intimacy with their children’s education. Because parents are often present in the home during classwork, they can more closely observe what their children are learning and thus take an active role in the learning process. Children consistently perform better when a parent is aware and encouraging of their work, and home-based learning actually makes this easier.

Sometimes, however, parents must be given help from the school for technical matters, as well as to be shown the value of home-based learning. Schools like ISSP make great efforts to connect with families to explain how home-based learning functions and to make sure they are able to effectively use the technology required. Teachers also reach out via formal conferences and informal opportunities for discussions to get to know families better. “We have set up one-to-one conferences with parents, with families, to get to know them, so they can ask questions. We are in constant contact, supporting what they can do to help,” explains Ms. Tiffany Proctor, the Deputy Head of School of ISSP.

Breaks for exercise between classes.

Beyond getting to know the parents, which helps reassure them of the benefits of home-based learning, a strong connection between teachers and families improves students’ educations. “We have to be responsive and proactive to support them…we are open to their feedback and we welcome and try to address it as best we can,” Lester says regarding the important role parents play in improving home-based learning.

Home-based learning is certainly a temporary situation, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important for students’ development, nor does it have to have a negative impact on a child’s educational trajectory. By being mindful of maintaining normal schedules and curriculums, fostering social bonds and having close relationships between teachers and families, schools like International School Saigon Pearl prove home-based learning is filled with benefits for students of all ages.

International School Saigon Pearl's website

+84 (028) 2222 7788

92 Đ. Nguyễn Hữu Cảnh, Phường 22, Bình Thạnh, TPHCMC