A JC Student Reflects on How Studying for A-Level During COVID-19 Pandemic Was Like

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With A-Level results coming out on 19 February, hordes of JC students are probably mulling over this coming fateful Friday right at this very moment (or perhaps that’s just this writer projecting her own anxieties).

So how about we take a trip down the memory lane and relive the tumultuous year of 2020 through the eyes of a JC student? (Because doing so will totally alleviate that anxiety.)

JC is, in itself, already a massive challenge. Two years of being intimately acquainted with the letters “S” and “U”, barely functioning on miserly amounts of sleep, and running the manic rat race that ultimately determines the next academic institution to which these hapless students will sell their souls.

On top of that, the graduating cohort of 2020 had to contend with a raging pandemic that threatened to cut them off entirely from the few silver linings that made JC bearable. 

Here’s a look back on the heroic batch of 2020 that had to battle a terrifying pandemic and perhaps an even more terrifying national exam. 

The First Signs Of Infiltration 

Within the month of February 2020, COVID-19 had come knocking on the doors of two junior colleges: Victoria Junior College and Raffles Institution, causing ripples of unease among students and staff of the respective schools.

This discomfort was readily shared by some members of the general public as well, as seen from the students of VJC being outwardly shunned by some, who took social distancing to mean social exclusion.

Thankfully, the schools reacted quickly with thorough disinfection processes and contact tracing, helping to prevent clusters within these schools. 

Home-based Learning: A Dream Come True or a Nightmare? 

With the rapid rise in community cases in Singapore, full home-based learning (HBL) was introduced in April 2020 to contain the spread of the virus. While learning from the comfort of our very own homes (and for some, beds) may sound like a dream to some, to others, being separated from friends was an unthinkable torment.

Teachers addressing a sea of black screens became the norm, along with students waking up just a few minutes before class started and eating breakfast throughout the first period in pajamas (NOT from personal experience, in case any of my JC teachers are reading this). 

At the very least, there was no need to rush from homeroom to homeroom anymore between lessons; with a few clicks, one could go from Literature to Math, and then to GP, all the while never once having to leave the seat.

But the drastic change left many students feeling rather disoriented, and interactive discussions, which are a vital part of the classroom experience, were severely limited. The personal touch brought by face-to-face lessons, and the covert, knowing looks shared between students during lessons simply could not be replicated by HBL. 

To top it all off, the historic bringing forward of the June holidays to May elicited both delight and despair from students. Naturally, a long and dreary Term 3 was promised to make up for it. 

Back To School, But Wait… 

At long last, the ivory gates of all junior colleges across Singapore swung open after HBL and the school holidays. Unfortunately, as expected, things were far from normal. Mass lectures were still not allowed, so students had to watch broadcasted lectures from their respective homerooms (which of course, led innovative students to come up with ingenious life hacks like playing pre-recorded lectures at x2 speed).

CCAs and competitions remained suspended for the most part, taking away students’ most beloved excuse for not completing tutorials. Social distancing rules were implemented, preventing loving couples from canoodling in the canteen. 

Believe it or not, it is likely universally agreed upon by all JC students that the hardest thing about returning to school was the mandatory wearing of masks. Not only did a full-day of mask wearing cut off the supply of oxygen to our already-battered brains, resulting in intense drowsiness that had nothing to do with our dysfunctional sleep schedules, we were unable to silently communicate with our teachers with the much-needed language of facial expressions during lessons. The most popular one, confusion, was concealed, giving the misguided illusion of perfect understanding. (Eventually, though, we adapted by furrowing our eyebrows much more intensely). 


In all seriousness, most students were happy to finally be back in their territory, to see familiar (half-masked) faces and to return to a semblance of normalcy. Though students had to keep their distance and adhere to new rules, it seemed a small price to pay for being able to keep going to school in the midst of a highly infectious pandemic. 

The Final Lap

Having adapted to the new normal, the A-Levels loomed over everyone’s heads (alas, even COVID-19 couldn’t kill the good old A’s). Hasty online consultations had to be scheduled, and in the weeks leading up to the A-Levels, students took extra care not to fall sick (heaven forbid having to rely on the traditionally pitiable prelim grades in the unfortunate event of a COVID-19 infection). 

Temperature checks before papers and disinfecting desks after papers became routine, and most importantly, like the adaptable humans we are, we got used to the masks. We have come a long way from being unable to wear a mask while climbing a flight of stairs when school first reopened to being able to sit through 3-hour long papers fully masked; the character development is truly commendable. 

And as December came and we earned our freedom, the long-awaited prom was either cancelled or moved online for most JCs, so we missed the rare opportunity to see our batchmates in all their post-A’s glory. 

Additionally, the beloved way of celebrating with an overseas trip with friends and family was sadly forbidden as the pandemic worsened around the world. Instead, armed with SingapoRediscovers Vouchers, students set out on explorations of their very own homeland, a nice conclusion to wrap up twelve years of National Education lessons. 

A Tribute to the Class of 2020 

There’s no sugarcoating it; it has to be said that the class of 2020 has been rudely robbed of the full JC experience. What was supposed to be a year of exciting events, CCA glory and vibrant opportunities reserved only for seniors was dulled down to something much more bland.

How much can you earn from delivering food with foodpanda in Singapore? We tried it out for you, and the amount is apparently not what we’ve expected:

But still, we sat for a major national exam in the midst of a deadly global pandemic, showing unforgettable resilience beyond words. And that’s already really commendable in itself. 

This trip down the memory lane is a tribute to the valiant JC students of 2020 who have conquered both a lethal virus and a deadly national exam, and emerged stronger from it. 

All the best to the class of 2020 for the release of their A-Level results coming soon on 19  February!


Featured Image: Anuchit kamsongmueang / Shutterstock.com (Image is for illustration purpose only)

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