Starting at a new school generates both excitement and anxiety for students and parents alike. Students worry about fitting into established peer groups, and parents wonder if their children are prepared to meet new challenges. Students may also feel disappointed about leaving home, so the worry of ‘starting again’ can detract from the positives of an exciting new move.
If there was a recent relocation, the fears could run even deeper. Transitioning students into school midway into the academic year can compound those natural feelings of anxiety. They may worry that they will not be able to catch up with their new peers or that the topics they are studying are unusual. It is important to ensure that all of these worries are discussed and that students feel confident and excited about their new school.
At One World International School (OWIS), we accept students anytime during the academic year and always ensure the transition is smooth. Singapore’s cosmopolitan makeup means a lot of parents relocate to our country during the school year. This may be for a range of reasons relating to careers or family circumstances. As an international school in Singapore, we have the opportunity to be flexible enough to meet our families’ unique needs. So if this is your family’s reality, you are not alone. We ensure that all of our new families feel instantly welcomed into the community and provide any support wherever needed.
Why Students Join OWIS Mid-Year
Somewhere in the world, learners are diligently studying right now, and students come to OWIS from all over the world. We currently have students from over 60 different nationalities. We welcome Australians, whose school year runs from late January through mid-December, along with Indian, Japanese and Korean students, whose schools follow an April-to-March calendar. Students from the UK have a school term from September to July, so there is always the chance that new students are at a different point in their educational year.
No matter when a family relocates, it seems that someone is bound to start at their new school in Singapore part-way through the academic year. Even families who live in Singapore already may send their children to another school. Public and Private schools in Singapore have different term dates and holiday schedules as well.
In a fast-paced, ever-changing cultural landscape like Singapore, transitions are part-and-parcel of everyone’s life. Preparation is the key to navigating these transitions well. Ensuring that the students feel ready for their new school, know they have the support of their families and teachers, and are encouraged to get involved with their new community straight away makes the transition easier.
Concerns About Mid-Year Transitions
Joining a school mid-academic year raises a lot of concerns for parents and students. Parents ask questions such as:
● Will my child be able to close the curriculum gap?
● Can my child make friends quickly and easily since other students have already formed their friendship groups?
● What will happen if teachers assess my child on topics he or she has not been taught?
● Will they be offered support if there are areas where they need to further their skills or knowledge?
● Will there be any language or cultural barriers?
While adult concerns revolve mainly around academics and self-esteem issues, it is often more practical matters that jangle students’ nerves. Questions like:
● Will the other students accept me? Will I fit in?
● What will happen if I don’t know how to get into my locker?
● What do these teachers expect? Will it be different from my last school?
● What will my daily routine look like?
● Can I still carry on attending the sports and hobbies that I love?
Some anxiety is normal, but much of it is hyped up by movies and television shows that portray a new student making a social faux pas on the first day and thus being an outcast forever. Real life, however, is much more accepting than that. Students are often excited to have a new classmate, as they get to find out about their background and where they are from. Children are inquisitive and often extremely kind and caring. It is often the case that many other children within the class will have had the same experience of having to integrate into a new school.
In fact, changing schools offers a great opportunity for young children to develop resilience and adaptability, two characteristics that go a long way toward success in adult life. Success depends on attitude, after all. When parents exude confidence that their child will make friends and thrive in classwork and sports, the child tends to believe it. This mindset also tends to mean that the situation is discussed in a positive way, and the move is made into an exciting opportunity, rather than something to worry about. Consequently, that belief helps create a positive new reality for the family.
How OWIS Helps Smooth This Transition
Our teachers and staff are seasoned educators with long experience in helping students make mid-year transitions. They will have helped support numerous other students into the school, and some may even have transitioned during the year themselves. We recognise the environment is changing for the parent as well as the student, so we stay well prepared to help everyone in the family enjoy a short, smooth transition to OWIS. We offer support for our families from the moment they enquire about OWIS, and we strive to make them feel confident throughout the process. We continue to support the students and their family for the duration of their time at OWIS.
We individualise our teaching and learning so we can build on prior knowledge instead of just assuming a new child is on the same track as his or her peers. That way, students and parents don’t have to worry too much about closing the curriculum gap. Moreover, we track each child’s progress, an evaluation method we find far more helpful and effective than just recording raw test scores. This means that if students start the year with little knowledge on a topic, they will be seen to make huge progress in the acquisition of new skills and knowledge as time goes on. It also takes away the pressure of potentially having to sit tests or exams early on.
Plus, OWIS teachers ensure that they get to know each new student quickly and pair them with an appropriate buddy for the first few days to help him or her settle in. These buddies provide a portal for the new student to enter a variety of peer groups along with an easy way to ask questions or solve problems about lockers, locations, or student interests — without having to turn to an adult. We also make sure that parents get plenty of helpful information about the curriculum and logistics, such as the bus and the canteen before the first day. And we make it a priority to introduce new families to all their children’s teachers. Finally, we do periodic check-ins with each child and family so we can be aware of any problems early on.
While no transition feels easy at the time, moving to a new school doesn’t have to be fraught with fears. We can help your child make a smooth, simple and productive mid-year adjustment to OWIS. We can ensure that they are happy with their move, and we aim to make them feel like they’re welcomed from the first day at school.
This blog was originally written in collaboration with Jasween Gill, former Admissions and Communications Director, OWIS Nanyang and Suntec.