Columnists Features

Easing transition to the next level

FOR both those of our children who are moving from primary to secondary school and those from junior to senior secondary school level, the transition is a major milestone. It is a time of great changes in their development, education and life.
In general, secondary education offers opportunities to challenge learners and to prepare the ground for acquiring valuable skills that will take them into adulthood. Therefore, as parents, guardians and teachers, the more informed and involved we are in our children’s preparation, the more likely it is that the transition will be positive.
As grade eights and grade 10s are preparing to go to school on Monday, it is important to have them psychologically prepared for the many changes that they will experience. Each of the changes they will encounter will definitely bring questions and several new things to them. They must know that, whereas at primary they learnt six subjects taught by one teacher, from grade eight to 12 there will be eight or nine subjects, with each one of them handled by a different teacher. And adaptation to different teaching styles is crucial at both junior and senior secondary levels.
The way the subjects are allocated and the manner in which lessons are imparted to learners at secondary school shows that there is more emphasis on critical thinking skills and greater independence on the part of the pupils, especially with regard to how one must go about their academic work in terms of studying and ‘research’, among other things. Longer school hours at this stage of the education system entail more commitment and time required for both academic and extra-curricular activities, such as debate and anti-AIDS clubs, theatre groups and sports teams which require pupils to be in school.
The work at the current stage of their education builds on what they learnt at the previous level. This will give them advanced knowledge of several academic subjects. More work makes secondary pupils feel less bored compared to the usual routine that they have left behind. In most cases, children are happy when they master something really tough. It’s great for them especially when they find a new appreciation for geography, civic education, biology or when they discover a passion for literature or history, among others.
Besides more challenging schoolwork than there was at primary school (for grade eights) or than the work which they were subjected to while at junior level (for grade 10s), there will be more homework. Children must know that they will have to be personally responsible to ensure they get to classes in different rooms on time, carrying appropriate exercise books and textbooks between classes, and they will have to manage themselves, their learning and the different equipment at their disposal, for example apparatus in the laboratories.
Those who are going to boarding schools, must not only be encouraged to stay focused in their studies for the good of their future, in spite of the fact that they will be home-sick in the early days at school, but also that they should effectively make use of their property in the lockers in the dormitories.
At secondary school, which is a platform where learners begin to discover themselves that they are teenagers after all, greater peer influence (peer pressure) rears its ugly head. When parents and teachers understand how to deal with behaviours exhibited by children at this stage of development, life will prove to be less difficult for the young learners. Parental guidance helps to counter that inevitable peer pressure once adults become friends of their children.
It is therefore important to realise that yelling and ranting at your child would simply prove to be counter-productive. This may actually serve to dampen his or her confidence and, in turn, lead to undesirable consequences. A friendlier, reassuring parental approach tends to ease the crucial transition periods in the young people’s educational journey.
A little encouragement, understanding and affection will surely go a long way in helping children to get the best from their secondary education. It all begins with supporting them through encouraging independent thinking and making them confident of their own decision-making. Besides talking to them about schoolwork, we should engage them on matters to do with their interests, the kind of friends they are supposed to be with, both at home and in school, and other general experiences.
Then it remains for the school authorities to orient their new pupils. Orientation is helpful not only because learners get to know the institution’s buildings and meet their teachers, but they get to meet their fellow pupils, too. This helps them build new friendships that should consolidate their learning for the whole period that they will stay at a particular school.
Parents and guardians must know this: teachers always have their children’s progress in mind and they strive to help the learners under their charge. So we all must work hand in hand.

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