The jump from primary to secondary school is a major transition for your 13-year-old. The good news? A whole new learning adventure awaits him or her.
Sure, we know what Secondary 1 might be like: there's a huge jump from primary school in the number of subjects and we imagine that students will end up having to spend more time on CCAs and other commitments.
But do we really know what new Secondary 1 students go through both intellectually and emotionally in an entirely new environment?
In this article, Shuli Sudderuddin, Academic Director for Secondary and Junior College Programmes, shares 5 things that may take parents and students by surprise as they navigate the uncharted waters of secondary school.
1. Secondary 1 Requires Some Emotional Adjustment
Many parents (and children alike) know that Secondary 1 is a big change in terms of the number of subjects and the amount of co-curricular commitment required.
But many of my students tell me they were caught unawares by how different secondary school “feels”.
“It was acknowledging the fact that we're all growing older and life is not just about playing catching every day,” one of my students told me, while another confessed that she struggled with leaving friends and adjusting to an environment where everything was tougher.
The emotional aspect of change can surprise 12-year-olds as students in secondary school are required to be more independent, self-motivated and capable of juggling their time. Because of this, it can be very helpful to have someone show them the ropes early on.
Related Article: Overcoming 3 Common Challenges Secondary Students Face
2. Each School Is Run A Little Differently
In the Integrated Programme (IP), schools are free to choose the resources and methods that they use to assess students, particularly in Secondary 1.
As an English teacher, I've seen these assessments come in the form of letter writing, book reviews, presentations and even photo essays! In mainstream schools, even though schools share the common goal of the 'O' levels, they also rearrange Science and Math topics in ways they best see fit.
Related Article: Integrated Programme (IP) Vs 'O' Level: What Parents Need To Know
To cope with these fluctuations and shifting schemes of work, it is important for Secondary 1 students to be alert, aware and mentally flexible.
Most importantly, rather than having tunnel vision and focusing only on the topics that are immediately presented to them, students will excel if they are taught the basic sets of skills needed for each subject.
If students can master these basic concepts along with critical thinking and analysis skills, no scheme of work will be too daunting for them.
3. Primary School Skills Are No Longer Sufficient
Secondary school is less about rote learning and more about critical thinking and the ability to apply skills. As such, the simple techniques learnt in primary school are sometimes not enough to guarantee success.
In English for example, the trusty primary school narrative composition takes a back seat to more complicated, open-ended personal recounts and expository essays.
Additionally, new and never-before-seen subjects like Literature and Geography make an appearance. For Math and Science, students move away from the tangible and truly encounter the abstract for the first time.
In fact, with the introduction of different models and increased rigour, some primary school methods may even prove fruitless. Parents may also find themselves at a loss to help their children with tougher questions and concepts.
Bonus tip for parents: Work as a team
It is important to help your child understand that he or she is not alone in his or her learning journey; you are your child's biggest motivator.
Be sure to constantly reassure him or her — let your child know that his or her well-being is important to you and that you take every one of his or her concerns seriously.
With the ever-evolving curriculum in the MOE syllabus, you may also find it difficult to offer your child the same help you once did in their primary years — this is where your child's teachers play an increasingly important role in coaching them academically.
Your child will be spending a considerable amount of time with his or her teacher(s) in school. Hence, establishing an open communication channel between you and your child's teacher(s) is going to be important in helping you better understand your child's learning needs.
4. Having A Strong Foundation Is Crucial
Many students may believe that Secondary 1 is a honeymoon year that they can coast through, and after conquering the PSLE, who could blame them for wanting a break?
It's important to note, however, that Secondary 1 is an important foundational year where many core concepts and skills must be learnt.
Students learn essential skills and formats that they will carry with them throughout secondary school and a good foundation makes for a good future.
Missing out on basic concepts and knowledge might mean that students end up playing a long game of catch up over the next few years.
5. Secondary School? It's A Lot Of Fun
When all is said and done, the Secondary 1 year can be a wonderful, eye-opening introduction to the academic world.
There is so much to be learnt and my students often find themselves in awe of what the world around them has to offer.
Children have the chance to grow quickly and learn everything from emotional maturity to critical reading skills.
The friendships forged in secondary school also remain with many throughout their lives. It's worthwhile to know that Secondary 1 can be a period of incredible discovery and development that students enjoy and remember with fondness.