Transition to Secondary School: Changes Your Child Should Expect

Transition to Secondary School

The transition from primary to secondary school is truly an exciting time for both students and parents. It is the beginning of a new chapter for the child. However, often students and parents enter into the secondary school phase with the same mindset which they had in primary school. When that happens, they may be in for a surprise. This article will elaborate on some of the key differences between the two phases so that both students and parents can better prepare themselves for the transition to secondary school.

Bigger and More in Transition to Secondary School

The first difference in the transition to secondary school is the size of the school. Most secondary schools have bigger campuses due to bigger cohort size. There will be more Science laboratories, dedicated music rooms, art rooms, Design and Technology rooms and even classrooms equipped with cooking facilities in schools that offer Food and Consumer Education as a subject. Depending on which primary school the student was from, he or she may find that the number of students in his or her level has increased. Hence there may be more classes per level in the secondary school compared to his or her primary school.

More On the Plate

Another key change in the transition to secondary school is the increase in workload. There are more subjects at the secondary level. In a primary school, the students’ academic subjects are English, Mother Tongue, Math and Science. At the secondary level, however, students will have to take up additional academic subjects like Literature, Geography and History. Some schools also break up the General Science subject into the individual components consisting of Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Therefore, some students might be overwhelmed by the number of subjects that they will have to study for at the secondary level.

Outside the Classroom

Co-curricular activities (CCAs) are also compulsory at the secondary level. Unlike in primary schools where CCAs are not mandatory, students in secondary schools have to take up at least one CCA. This is because of the Ministry of Education’s focus on holistic education. Also, a few schools have a dual CCA policy as well. CCAs are important as there is a scoring system known as LEAPS that tracks and awards points for the student’s CCA participation. Students will be assessed in the criteria of leadership, enrichment, achievement, participation and service (hence the acronym LEAPS). They will be given a grade at the end of their four or five years of CCA participation. The quality of the CCA grade contributes to the scoring system used at the end of secondary 4 or 5 for admission into junior colleges and polytechnics.

As shown by the increased number of subjects taken by students as well as the greater CCA commitment, students have to be prepared for a greater workload ahead. They often have to spend more time studying and preparing for their various subjects. They will also be expected to spend more time physically in school as school days tend to be longer due to the increased curriculum and CCA commitments.


Apart from workload, another big difference that students and parents can expect is the student’s subject grades. In the secondary school level, the mark range for most subjects generally ranges from 60-69 per cent, which is a B3 to a B4 grade. This may come as a shock to students and parents who are used to seeing a score that is above 80 marks or even high 90s. This is because the demands of the various subject tests and exams are higher at the secondary level. Thus, it is harder to achieve the high scores which were achieved in the primary school days. Students and parents also need to bear in mind that the top grade at secondary school is an A1, which is 75% and above. In this perspective, a score of 60 plus is considered good . For more information on the grading system for the ‘O’ Level, please follow this link.


Finally, the transition to secondary school marks the beginning of life as a young adult. One big difference that both parents and students may experience would be the fact that students will be given more autonomy at secondary school. Students are expected to take care of themselves, solve their own problems, and be responsible to monitor their own school work, and CCA commitments. Teachers and CCA student leaders tend to liaise directly with the students themselves in contrast to the primary school setting where parents are more involved in their child’s school life. This is to reflect the fact that the students are starting their journey to becoming young adults and so they need to take on ownership and responsibility for themselves. Of course, parental consent for any activity is required by the school but, apart from that, the students are expected to step up and take charge of their own day-to-day management.

These are some of the main differences that one can expect in the transition from primary to secondary school. It is a new journey and certainly a brand new chapter for the students involved as they learn to be more responsible and to take on challenges on their own. On the same note, parents have to learn to slowly let go of their children who are now slowly growing up to be young adults.

Wishing you and your child a rewarding and fulfilling journey ahead!

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