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Do you remember what your life as a secondary school student was like?

The endless piles of homework, rushing for your Co-Curricular Activities after classes ended, having countless tests every week might not seem familiar to most parents nowadays as the academic rigor in the past was not as intense. However, with the education system rapidly shifting towards providing students with a more holistic and enriching schooling life, the abovementioned becomes only part of a students’ daily life. Find out about the LEAPS 2.0 Holistic Education for Secondary School Students here.

On top of the basic requirement that students’ do well academically, many universities and even employers are now focusing on students’ involvement in activities that are not academic related, for example, volunteering to give back to the society and leadership roles in their respective CCAs. It is important for students to be exposed to these activities to expand their horizons and gain understanding of the world outside of their textbooks. However, this places additional pressure on students to excel in all areas of their school life.

Below are 6 things parents need to know:

1. How many subjects does your child study in school?

For a typical secondary school student, taking up to 8 or 9 subjects is the norm. These subjects consist of languages that are mandatory such as English and Mother Tongue, Elementary Mathematics (or E Math) and Additional Mathematics (or A Math), Sciences such as Chemistry, Physics and Biology, and Humanities such as History, Geography, Literature and Social Studies. Does this seem like too much information? Imagine having to study these subjects in depth, sounds overwhelming?

It is indeed not easy for students to be able to excel in the various subjects. However, with the correct guidance, if a student is determined to do well and puts in effort, it is very possible to score well in their studies.

2. The importance of CCA for a secondary school student

It is compulsory for your child to take up at least one CCA in secondary school. Some schools might even require students to take up 2 CCAs.

CCA is very important as it contributes to “bonus points” when applying for polytechnics or junior colleges after secondary school. Without a good CCA record, it might be more difficult for your child to enter the course of his or her choice after secondary school especially if the course is widely popular. As CCA participation is also graded, two students with the same L1R4 might have differing results because of their CCA records. For example, if two students have the same L1R4 but one student has no CCA, he or she would not be able to take 2 points off their L1R4. These 2 points might cause that student a spot in his or her desired course.

CCAs occur twice to three times a week, at an average of 2 to 3 hours per session after lessons. Although CCA takes up a significant amount of time after school, it is still a vital part of a student’s life as it provides a platform for students to learn new skills and enables them to participate in something they enjoy. Involvement in CCAs will also require students to have good time management skills to ensure that they do not neglect either aspects of their school lives (academic and non-academic) which is an essential life skill as well.

3. Tests happen almost every day.

As there are 8 or 9 subjects your child must take concurrently, it is not surprising for your child to have tests for different subjects in a week, and some might even be on the same day. These tests can be mini class test or pop quizzes that teachers put in place to test their students’ understanding after each chapter.

Most students do not take these tests seriously as it does not contribute to their grades at the end of the term. However, these tests are important as it serves as a rough guide of how much your child really understands the concepts taught in class. Although it might be tough to study for every single test, it is important that your child takes these tests seriously and puts in effort into answering the questions. The test results will then be an accurate examination of how much your child has understood or how much more they need to know about each topic. This will help them as they work towards their major examinations as they would know exactly what to work on to achieve better grades.

Hence, as parents, it is important to be aware of your child’s tests schedules and ensure that they are putting in their best effort in preparing for these tests, no matter how insignificant these tests might seem.

4. "Should I do my homework first or study for my test?"

As mentioned above, tests happen every other day. Does it mean they have lesser homework? I guess not. Your child could be struggling to complete their homework every day. Homework is given by teachers to reinforce knowledge. However, when everything builds up, it is easy for them to lose focus and the purpose of doing homework. Are they completing their homework just for the sake of submitting it to their teacher? Are they struggling with time management? How can you guide and help your child?

5. There is a large emphasis placed on shaping leaders of tomorrow.

What I mean by this is that there are many leadership roles for secondary school students to prepare them for the next phase of life in tertiary education where independence and decision making is crucial.

These leadership roles can range from class committees, CCA executive committees, house leadership roles or even the student council. Students who take up these leadership roles have an additional responsibility other than studying and attending their CCAs. Sometimes, it can take up quite a large portion of the student's 'free time'. Hence, taking up these leadership roles comes with a huge responsibility of juggling these commitments with schoolwork.

It is easy for your child to forget about their studies when they are too absorbed in their leadership commitments, especially when the competition/performance period comes. Your child might be too focused into planning for their CCA that they might forget to finish up homework or even fall asleep during lessons as they stayed up late the previous night to plan for these events. This might affect their results and schoolwork may start to snowball. It is thus important to always ensure that your child does not neglect schoolwork and remind them to find a balance between the different activities they are involved in.

Although taking up these leadership roles is an additional commitment that may seem unnecessary, it is in fact very beneficial for your child if your child can manage. As mentioned that many universities and even employers are now focusing on students’ involvement in activities such as volunteering to give back to the society and leadership roles in their respective CCA. Hence, taking up leadership roles will increase their level attainment in LEAPS 2.0 and make your child's portfolio (testimonial) looks more appealing.

On top of that, your child would learn communication skills, teamwork and decision-making skills that will help them adapt to foreign situations well. These skills are not just beneficial to them during school hours but also when they participate in external activities or move on to their tertiary lives. As parents, it is important to let your child experience obstacles during their school life as things are not always smooth sailing and ideal. While facing these obstacles, they learn how to face problems and solve them without shying away in fear or doubt. This will build your child to be more resilient and tenacious in times of difficulty. Leadership roles will also help to train your child to be a confident speaker in front of crowds which would be beneficial when it comes to presentations they would have to do in the future.

6. Work hard, play hard?

With all these activities going on during the school term, it is important to ensure that your child has a good break to relax and recharge when necessary. Even the most well-oiled machines will break down if it is overworked. The same goes for your child; if they do not get a break, it might cause them to burn out before their major examinations and it is not a desirable situation. Although it is understandable that parents are afraid that they child will fall behind if they stop studying totally, it is also important to ensure that your child is able to last through the demanding school terms ahead.

7. The importance of parental encouragement.

If your child has been putting in a lot of effort of his or her studies but the results show otherwise, commend their effort put in instead of focusing on the results solely. The effects of these words of encouragement are intangible but felt very strongly. This will also help build a stronger relationship between you and your child. As school life might place a lot of stress on your child, it is comforting for them to know that you are a pillar of support for them even if they do not produce results, and it becomes a source of motivation to work harder so that they do not disappoint. It is important to constantly be a source of encouragement for your child.

As times change, lives of students change accordingly. Many parents did not realise that a secondary school student might even be busier than some working adults due to the number of commitments they have. Hence, parental support is extremely important as your child goes through this demanding period as your child might rely on you to be their shoulder to lie on when they are feeling dejected, or as a pillar of support during trying times. Through this, it builds your child up to be a stronger individual, and at the same time, fosters a strong relationship between you and your child. However, there are many parents who face resistance from their child as they do not understand the support that their child wants.

Are you one of them? Start reflecting today.

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