As your son or daughter settles into secondary school, they will soon be faced with the first big decision- which co-curricular activity or CCA to choose. CCA in secondary schools are an integral part of students’ secondary school life. Participation in CCAs helps develop interpersonal skills and resiliency. For some students, they discover their interests and talents in the course of their participation in their CCAs in secondary school. Different schools offer different ranges of CCAs and they can be grouped into 4 main broad categories: (i) Physical Sports; (ii) Uniformed Groups; (iii) Clubs and Societies; and (iv) Visual and Performing Arts. The choices available at secondary schools can be quite mind-boggling especially when you compare the variety of options available to what were previously available to the students in primary school.
Most secondary one orientation programmes will involve a CCA orientation component where the various CCA groups will showcase their activities. These CCAs set up booths and exhibitions during or after the secondary one orientation programme and they often try to give prospective secondary one students a demonstration of their activities so as to give them an idea of what participation in a CCA in secondary schools involves. For example a robotics club may showcase the machines that they build, or a scouts group may build pioneering structures (structures built through the art of using ropes and wooden spars joined by lashings and knots) or the modern dance group may showcase a choreographed piece. The aim is to impress the new students so that they will want to join their CCA.
Trials & Auditions
Sports CCA in secondary schools will often conduct a sports fitness or aptitude test to assess if students have the aptitude and ability to do well in the sport. Some schools may give a week or two for the students to try out certain CCAs by allowing the students to attend the CCA trainings, auditions or trials.
After the CCA orientation period, students are then required to select a CCA of their choice. Usually students will have to fill in a form indicating their CCA choices in rank order. Many schools do require students to place at least one CCA from each of the 4 main broad categories (physical sports, uniformed groups, clubs and societies, and visual and performing arts). This is to ensure that at the end of the day, there is a good distribution of students across the various CCA groups.
It is important to note that each CCA in secondary schools has a fixed quota of students that it is able to take in each year. This quota is usually fixed by the school so that the entire secondary one cohort is distributed according to each CCA’s cohort requirements across the various CCAs. This is to ensure that each CCA has the required minimum number of students to be able to function effectively. However, this will also mean that a popular CCA will resort to turning down students and consequently resulting in some students becoming disappointed with not being able to get into the CCA of their choice.
How Schools Allocate CCAs: Process and Priority
The eventual CCA allocation process is a laborious matching of the selections made by the various CCAs during their trials (this pertains more to the sports CCAs) and the choices made by the students.
Schools usually allocate CCAs based upon (i) the needs of the school; (ii) the student’s aptitude and ability and, finally, (iii) the student’s interest, in this order of priority. Schools will often ensure that their niche CCAs have the first priority in their selection of students. For example, a school with a good track record in basketball may channel their most athletic or sport-inclined students into the basketball CCA ahead of the rest. Hence, in such a school, the basketball team may get the first cut of students before any other CCAs do in the school.
The Importance of the CCA Choice
The student’s choice of CCA in a secondary school is an important one as it will be an activity that he or she has to commit to for the next 4 or 5 years. It is important that the student makes an informed decision and chooses a CCA that he can imagine himself participating in, and contributing to, for his/her entire secondary school life.
How to Choose CCA in Secondary Schools (or How Not to Choose a CCA)
The first consideration is the child’s aptitude and interest. The best case scenario is one where the child is interested and has the natural aptitude for the CCA. The other two possible scenarios are a little more troublesome: the first being the student having an interest in the CCA but has little aptitude. In this case, one has to be objective in assessing if he is able to hone his skills in that area. It is a terrible feeling to be part of, say, a sport CCA and subsequently, one is never chosen to participate in competitions as one is not good enough. The other scenario is where one has the aptitude but has no interest. In this case, the student has to honestly ask himself if his interest can be developed. If not, it is better to look for an alternative CCA. There is nothing worse than being part of an activity that one does not enjoy.
Make An Informed Decision
Often students will choose a CCA just to be with their friends. Then the choice of CCA is based upon what his friends are interested in, or good at, rather than what his own interests are. Another mistake students make is that they are persuaded by what the seniors in the CCA tell them (which is often only the good stuff). For example, Uniformed Group cadets often focus on the exciting parts of their training like going to the rifle range to practise shooting, or the fun they had in their annual camps. Often, the more mundane parts of training like the long hours of foot drills or tedious uniform inspections are conveniently left out. Therefore it is important that students get an accurate picture of what the CCA entails. The best way is to speak to seniors who were their former classmates or schoolmates in their primary school who will be willing to give them a true picture of what being part of the CCA in secondary schools is really like.
How to Convince The School to Assign You the CCA of Your Choice
Put your best foot forward during CCA trials. It is also important to show enthusiasm in, and willingness to try, the activity. Positive energy is infectious and the assessor or coach will pick up your positive vibes.
You can also submit evidence of your aptitude in the CCA if you have them. For example, certificates or awards testifying your achievements or participation in the area concerned could be used to convince the teacher-in-charge of your interest and commitment.
What Happens When You Are Assigned a CCA You Do Not Like
The student can appeal to the Head of CCA in the school. However this should be done soonest possible as there may be students in that particular CCA which your child would like to join who want to transfer to another CCA as well. Therefore, a swap is possible if the CCA teacher-in-charge is willing to accept the respective student.
Alternatively, if your child’s secondary school is receptive, your child can submit a proposal to request the school to consider opening up the proposed new CCA. The proposal must delineate the objectives, allocated time and costs (if any) of running the CCA. More importantly, the proposal must explain how the proposed CCA is able to contribute to the school community, especially if there is a large number of students who are keen to participate in the proposed CCA as well.
Seize The Day
If all of the above are not an option, make the best of what has been assigned to you. With a positive attitude, venturing into a new realm out of one’s comfort zone could present you with lots of learning opportunities and new friends. Unless the CCA involves activities that cause you physical pain due to physiological reasons, or negative socio-emotional experiences beyond your control, you might want to reconsider your decision.
In all, besides the fact that involvement in CCA in secondary schools is compulsory, student participation in a CCA aids in developing a sense of discipline, resiliency, collaboration and camaraderie. Students learn life skills outside of their classrooms, and these skills they take away and the friendships they forge will stand them in good stead.