Singapore schools: preparation for secondary school

The dreaded Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE), one of high stakes examinations that a student in Singapore schools have to face is over for this year. Many students and parents and students heave a sigh of relief that the obstacle has been passed although they will still have to await the results of the examinations due to be released in the next few weeks. Many students will be looking forward to a fairly long holiday after the PSLE where textbooks, guidebooks and practice papers will be cast aside. Parents will leave their children alone at least until the school terms starts again in January.

scribblingIn January, the successful candidates of the PSLE, who will be mostly 13-year olds, will be moving along up a grade to what is known as secondary school to Secondary One next January. Most parents will then go through the usual routine of purchasing a new set of text books, uniforms and other necessities for school. They may even attend some form of orientation program by the schools. However, what many parents do not prepare their children for is life in Secondary One, and in a secondary school in general.

The main difference these students will face when they enter Secondary One is that they will experience sharp increase in the number of subjects from four to eight (or more, depending on the school and stream they will be in). This is a quantum jump for all students. The average student would do better if they are adequately prepared for this change in the number of academic subjects including subjects which will be new to them. While schools do try to help students make that adjustments through an orientation program of some sort, it is important that parents not rely on these programs alone. Furthermore, the preparation for the Secondary One students should begin before they report to their new schools.

The most important preparation that parents can provide is to prepare their children to cope with this sharp increase in the number of subjects. If parents have been sending their children for tuition for all four subjects that they had to sit for during the PSLE, are they expecting to send their children for more than four the moment they get into Secondary One? Bear in mind that the time taken up with private tuition in preparation for the PSLE already leaves the student with little time for anything else. Where is the child going to find the time for the extra subjects for private tuition? A different strategy is definitely required to help the child cope with the additional academic work load.

It is important therefore to think out of the “private tuition box”. Parents can help their children in the long run by equipping them with important skills. Parents should use the time between the PSLE and January the next year to equip their children with study skills that include note-taking, setting up a proper study and revision schedule, time management, goal setting, and learning self-motivation techniques.

In my next posting, I will be discussing what I believe is the proper way for students to take notes of their lessons, namely through the use of mind mapping techniques. The child will be an independent learner only if he has mastered effective note-taking skills. Mastery of note-taking is also a precondition for a truly active learner.

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