Bridging the Gap between Grade 8 and 9
It is notable that the grade 8 students entering a Private institution like Abbotts College, or a Public School for the first time, experience difficulty in adjusting to the culture of High School. This is evident in the marks that they obtain in the first half of the year.
The question that needs to be answered is: if the students are in their second year of the senior phase, why the decline in performance?
Is it possible that it is a generational challenge? Literature differs on the dates that these Millennials were born and argue that the timeframe is between 1996 and 2004. The individuals that grace the grade 8 spaces in our schools at the moment were born in 2002, making them the last born of the millennial generation.
The Millennials grew up in an electronic era filled with social media networks. They have been raised under the mantra, “follow your dreams”. They are being told that they are special and tend to be confident. However, it has been argued that the confidence of the Millennials has spilled over into the realm of entitlement and narcissism.
The fact that entitlement is a common denominator here can have an influence on the performance of the students. Our curriculum made it clear in the past that learners can only fail a phase once. The motivation to perform was taken from them and replaced by society with an expectation or “entitlement” to pass.
The current CAPS document makes provision for nine compulsory subjects in the senior phase. This demanding curriculum places a high emphasis on the performance and promotion criteria for Home Language, Maths and the First Additional Language.
The question is: if the students know they can only be failed once in a phase, will that motivate them to study and pass? The answer has to be no. Motivation to perform can only be taught through a set of values. Values taught at Abbotts College include quality, respect, caring, personal responsibility, transparency, honesty, individuality and accountability.
How do we bridge the gap between grade 7 and 8 using these values? The students’ contractual obligation to achieve excellence in all aspects of their academic performance is measured with the 8 Mark Reading reports that are issued together with the effort ratings. If a student is on late homework for the fourth time due to low effort ratings, the student faces the possibility of being asked to leave the College.
This contractual obligation, therefore, ensures that students who wish to remain part of the excellent academic experience offered by the College will forfeit their entitlement and embrace the values taught by the college.
To bridge this unseen gap, the College has an obligation to mentor the students; provide support classes through the Homework Periods and monitor the student progress. Support in the form of communication with parents is essential.
It is the duty of the College to monitor areas of need with the students once identified support measures has been implemented. Study skills and extra classes for subjects in need thereof have to be performed in order for the student to excel.
Personal responsibility is the most important value and has to be taught. Students have to understand this value. Personal responsibility is frequently misunderstood as a value less important. In Primary School students are dependent on the educator, however, in High School students are not being “spoon fed” and have to take responsibility for their own actions. The College does not announce the end of day or end of break by the ring of a bell. Students have to be responsible enough to manage their own time. Assessment programmes are given to each individual at the beginning of the term and it is expected that they follow this programme without fail.
Mentoring, as mentioned before, plays an integral part of College life and the transition from Primary School, grade 7, to High school, grade 8. This mentorship has to deal with all facets of student life. The students are now entering the all familiar teenager stage.
The “gap” that therefore exists can only be overcome with combined efforts from the College, students and parental support. Knowing the individual students and understanding their needs will ensure positive participation in learning the Abbotts values and thereby enhancing their academic performance and adaptation to College life.
By: Willem van Zyl
Principal at Abbotts College JHB South