Do not attend online lessons at home in your pyjamas, Hong Kong pupils taking an extended break because of the coronavirus crisis have been told.
While some local and international schools have not gone as far as to order students to don uniform while sitting in front of their computers, they have told them to dress properly for live-streamed lessons.
The Education Bureau on Thursday extended the closure of all Hong Kong schools, which have been shut since the Lunar New Year holiday, until at least March 16 as the city tackles the disease, now named Covid-19.
All 22 international schools operated by the English Schools Foundation (ESF), which has about 17,800 students in total, run live-streamed online lessons where pupils can be seen and heard by their teachers and classmates.
“We’ve not asked our students to be in uniform during this period of home learning, but we have made it clear to them that they should be up and ready for the start of the school day and dressed appropriately,” an ESF spokeswoman said.
“Our students are taking part in live, online lessons – where they can be seen and heard by their teachers and classmates. Much as we are sure that students would find it funny to see their friends in their pyjamas during class, being dressed properly really does matter.”
Samantha Carrington, of education consultancy Top Schools and mother of two girls studying at the ESF’s King George V School, said it was not necessary to be strict on uniforms.
“If the children are motivated, I don’t think it matters how they are dressed. But for me, if my child’s going online and they are going to be seen, and not just heard, I think they need to be appropriately dressed … [out of] respect for the learning environment,” she said.
Not all teachers required students to be seen on screen and sometimes audio conferencing was used, said Russell Scott, who teaches at the ESF’s Island School.
“[Some] students are not comfortable with their screens on,” he said.
At Harrow International School Hong Kong, where live-streamed lessons are conducted for Year 5 and upwards, students were also asked to dress appropriately, though school uniform was not compulsory.
A Harrow spokeswoman said: “We expect all pupils, as well as staff, to be dressed smartly for their lessons, in order to set an appropriate tone for an academic learning environment.”
Online teaching at Fanling Kau Yan College, a North district secondary school which has about 800 students, started last Wednesday, with a timetable of five lessons between 8am and 1.30pm from Monday to Friday.
Students are encouraged to revise and prepare for exams in the afternoon.
Principal Veronica Yau Kit-ying said she hoped pupils would get into a regular learning habit.
“I can foresee that class suspension may last for a long duration… Lessons should therefore be more practical. We hope that through live-streamed online learning, our students can catch up [with our teaching schedule],” Yau said.
Students were advised to wear neat and tidy attire during classes at home, she added.
“At first, because students began their online classes right after waking up, some were dressed more casually, some even in pyjamas,” she said.
“I think it is part of social etiquette education [on correct attire], which will in turn be beneficial for students’ career development as well,” she said.
Dr Esther Ho Yuk-fan, principal of Carmel Alison Lam Foundation Secondary School in Kwai Chung, said teachers could set a few rules at the start, including reminding students to avoid conduct that would affect lessons or participation, such as eating during a lesson.
But Ho, whose school introduced regular online classes in late January, believed it was not necessary to impose strict regulations on attire.
“Self learning is just like revising at home,” said Ho, who is trained in education psychology. “Why should students be regulated on how they dress?”
Provided that students did not display offensive behaviour such as attending class naked, Ho said common sense etiquette respecting the occasion would be sufficient.
“The primary and ultimate goal is to keep students motivated to learn,” she added.
Alexa Chow Yee-ping, managing director of AMAC Human Resources Consultants, similarly found it not necessary to require employees to dress up or wear make up for home office, unless they had to meet others or attend videoconferencing.
“It really depends on the individual,” she said. “The same goes for students: they don’t need uniforms to study, they don’t wear them for revision at home. Can they study or finish their homework [without their uniforms]? It makes no difference.”
Chow said it was more important to maintain discipline and time management, which could be achieved by tidying the workstation, with checklists and a clock to help keep track of progress.
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This article was first published in the South China Morning Post.