A recent South China Morning Post panel discussion moderated by Ben Young, Content Executive at South China Morning Post , covered topics surrounding the exciting and sometimes challenging switch to a secondary school curriculum. The speakers on this panel include Dr. James Smith, Principal of ESF Discovery College , Mr. Mark Williams, Head of Secondary (International Stream) at the French International School , and Mr. Nicholas Forde, Principal of Secondary School at The ISF Academy . Differences Between Primary and Secondary School In addition to the changing curricula, which is discussed below, there are many other changes children go through during this period of transition. They will be in new surroundings, making new friends, and taking on more responsibility and independence. In other words, the transition to secondary school is about more than just the changing subjects and overall curriculum. Mr. James Smith shared that the key to securing an effective transition is “schools building in really clear well-being programs and social-emotional learning, alongside academic learning in those middle years.” Supporting the students’ well-being outside of academic performance helps them handle the more rigorous and broad curriculum in secondary school. Why Curriculum Matters Of course, the change in curriculum is at the forefront of this transition as well. Mr. Mark Williams explained that children “come from a very structured environment in the primary sector … into something where it's not quite as structured,” which can be difficult for some children to navigate without the proper guidance from teachers. The curriculum in place at a particular school has a significant impact on whether or not a child’s needs are met. The goal of many secondary programs, at least in the early stages, should be to assess students’ capabilities in order to adapt the learning as needed. In later years, the curriculum of schools that offer IB DP programs naturally gets more rigorous to prepare students for the next stage in their journey. As Mr. Smith said, “[the curriculum] basically starts broad and gets narrower.” Many schools with IB DP curricula focus on international-mindedness and subjects such as maths and languages. Understanding the Balance Mr. Nicholas Forde advised parents not to start “building a child’s academic portfolio” in these earlier years of childhood. As 11 and 12-year-old children go through the transition to secondary school, they are still just that—children. The academic side of schooling is, of course, of the utmost importance, but a curriculum should also foster students’ well-being, social-emotional skills, cognitive development, and critical thinking. A good curriculum will be lauded for both its academic merit and the intentionality of its design. In other words, children and parents should be able to understand not only what the curriculum is, but why it is being utilized. This article is published by SCMP Events as post-event insights from the Secondary School Education Forum 2022 for the benefit of our attendees and the wider SCMP readership.