Parents, be warned! The second semester of the school year is where many students take a hit and start to slide. Returning for the spring term after Chinese New Year break can be a tricky time for teens. In particular, some find it difficult to maintain the same degree of focus they started the year with. A strong start that declines at this time is common, but don’t worry – there are ways to help students maintain momentum in the last half of the school year.
First, why do so many students experience a slump in spring? JEROME BARTY-TAYLOR, Managing Director of Barty Education and Development Ltd, pinpoints the many and varied holidays during this period as one cause. “With Chinese New Year, experience weeks, Easter, half-terms and other public holidays, sometimes it seems like students don’t have a sustained week in school through spring. This adds an extra challenge for those who are still learning independent study habits.”
IB student struggles and advice
Jerome is one of our favourite tutors in Hong Kong. He helps international school students achieve incredible IB results. Jerome shares that many Diploma students experience similar struggles in spring term: “Most of them haven’t yet realised the exacting standard to which the IB examiners will hold them. Students often get an unwarranted boost of confidence from their predicted grades. This means they don’t start putting in the hard work early enough,” he warns. He has some practical advice, too: “In IB English, for example, students should start writing practise essays at this time of year and actively seek feedback from experienced teachers and tutors.”
Why is this practice so imperative to IBDP success? “It’s no surprise that English and Humanities subjects at IBDP level are assessed through timed exam essays. Yet, I see students from leading international schools who have not written a single essay assessment in the two years of their IB program. This is farcical.”
Advice for A-Level students
According to Jerome, A-level students struggle with the depth of the content. Why? He explains, “Because students usually only do three A-levels, they are expected to have a highly sophisticated understanding of the content.”
He continues, “In History or Philosophy & Religion, for example, subjects commonly taken at A-level in HK, I encourage students to read beyond the textbook and pace of their class. Only by putting in the time to understand the arguments and perspectives themselves can they learn to think and write in an evaluative fashion, which has long been the aim of A-level courses.”
Chinese language learning
JANE MO, one of Barty Education’s lead Chinese tutors in Hong Kong, sees the same slump in students studying Chinese. Holidays and events that disrupt regular school schedules have a significant impact on language learning. Jane says, “In terms of study habits, students don’t realise that learning a language is similar to learning music. Ten minutes of practise each weekday is more effective than an hour once per week.”
She gives an example: “This is true of revising vocabulary or specific exam skills. Take, for example, IB Chinese B, where students must present fluently on an unseen photo prompt. This is a skill that’s easy to refine with careful instruction and regular practice.”
Jane uses the same approach to Chinese language studies that BartyED’s team of tutors use in other subjects. This rigorous approach sees great success for students of all backgrounds.
How to help students get back on track
Jerome explains that post-CNY is the ideal time for students to regroup and set a focus to ensure a strong finish. In fact, he notes CNY break as a great time for parents to connect with students and set a plan for the coming term. “Holiday breaks and vacations offer an opportunity for parents to connect with students. We aren’t as time-poor, and we can relax into the conversation over a meal or in the pool.”
He recommends, “Ask the student what they’re doing well in and what they need more support with. Then, have a realistic conversation about the intensity of Spring term and set some goals together.”
Support from tutors in Hong Kong on HK Island and Kowloon-side
Students that identify as needing support may benefit from group or private sessions from tutors in Hong Kong. Families both on Hong Kong Island-side and Kowloon-side can now be supported by a tutors at BartyED centres. Alternatively, these tutors can visit them in their own home. The newly-opened Causeway Bay centre offers group sessions and one-to-one tutoring, with support available on weekdays and weekends.
“Currently, we offer group classes for IB Diploma level English Literature, Language and Literature, History and Theory of Knowledge.” Jerome explains that additional group tuition becomes available to reflect student demand. “Our group sessions are highly-effective and focused. This is because our students want to be there. They recognise the short-fall in their knowledge.” He continues, “This year, in English, we’ve run sessions on Conrad, Keats, Ibsen and Shakespeare to name a few! Students commonly tell us they learn more in our 90 minutes sessions than in the previous term at school.”
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