Post-secondary education means a tougher curriculum and greater responsibility. Josianne Facchetti meets two students who are making the leap from secondary school to higher education.
The transition from secondary to post-secondary school is also a transition from childhood to young adulthood. The five years of secondary school life come to an end as one by one each student puts down their pen and hands in the papers of the last Matsec O-level exam and make their way out of the examination hall. For them, it is a closed chapter which they will not want to revisit. Instead a new one of further education is laid down before those who want to take up the challenge.
Leanne Abela talks about her experience during her O-levels.
“I was so anxious during the exams that as soon as I would look at a paper, I would feel like giving up because my mind would go blank. Then I would start to slowly calm down and remember what I had studied. I cried when I received my results. I didn’t realise that it would be so stressful. The stress was really in my head – I would worry that I had not studied enough and that I wouldn’t do well. The thing is that for me, everything depended on the results of these exams. Everything would have been put on hold had I even failed one subject, and this caused me a lot of anxiety.”
Both Leanne and Georvin Bugeja say they had a lot of help in choosing the subjects they wanted to continue studying. During their last year at secondary school, they could visit post-secondary schools and stands organised by the various schools where the subjects they considered choosing were explained. They attended a meeting where they learned all they needed to know about Junior College and were given a booklet called Look Before You Leap, which helps students learn about the subjects offered. They could also speak to subject co-ordinators and their guidance teachers. MCAST (Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology), ITS (Institute of Tourism Studies) and Higher Secondary offer similar information.
Leanne is already anticipating her first day at Junior College.
“On the first day, everyone will be as lost as me so hopefully we will all start getting to know each other at the same time,” says Leanne. “Teachers used to spoon-feed us at secondary school but things will be harder at Junior College. In fact we were told this at the meeting when we applied. However, now I will be studying the subjects which I enjoy and which I will need for my future career – that will make all the difference.
“I will miss my old school, friends and teachers but I won’t miss wearing a uniform even though it gave me a sense of belonging. We used to be told to always give our school a good name because when we wear our school uniform we are representing the school. I will now be able to express my own identity through the clothes I choose to wear.”
The sense of freedom that comes from not having to wear a uniform, not having consecutive lessons throughout the day, only studying the subjects chosen, receiving co-education and a stipend come at the price of more responsibility where students have to fend more for themselves. The subjects become harder as they are studied in more depth and work of a higher standard is expected. Students have to find what motivates them to keep them going even when things get harder.
Georvin thinks each person is born with drive and motivation.
“It’s like a flame. Some have the support of their family but if someone has low self-esteem or is afraid or has had bad experiences because of bullying, then that flame starts to diminish. However, everyone has that flame to start with. I have always felt a strong determination that pushes me forward. I don’t want to waste time at school but to use it in the right way. I set myself goals and achieve what I aim for. My goal now is to pass my A-levels and get the best results I can possibly get.
“Although Junior College is big it isn’t daunting. I am looking forward to October even though I know that a challenging two years lie ahead. I know that if I want to advance in life O-levels are not enough to get a good job, not even A-levels for that matter. So I will continue studying to have a good career.”
Georvin sees the positive aspects of studying at a mixed-gender school. “I will learn from both male and female peers because there will be a combination of ideas. At primary school we also had co-education and that helped us to compare and learn from each other.
“We will have an orientation week when we start. We will also have to check the notice boards and school website every day to know if there are any changes in classes. This means that we’ll have to be more responsible from now on.”
Leanne and Georvin say that at their new school they can be part of the students’ council. They can also use the gym and learn drama. Every post-secondary school in fact offers various extra curriculum subjects and activities such as astronomy, reading clubs, sports and music.
Students at post-secondary schools do not only learn academic subjects or skills, but they are also encouraged to take up other activities to further develop their personalities. They learn the importance of networking, communication and social skills, sports and more. Additionally co-education helps them mature both personally and socially as they learn by understanding both male and female perspectives.
Education means ‘leading forth’ – a preparation to being led forth into society. The institutions, tools and opportunities are there for students who wish to take them. So it is up to each young individual to make the most of them.