The change of educational stage generates concern in students, families and the educational community. Probably, this uncertainty suggests that the odd courses are more difficult, especially in secondary and high school.
Curiously, this idea is not equally widespread with respect to odd-numbered grades in primary school. What is it that makes us think like this about the odd courses of secondary school and high school? Are they really more complex? What challenges are presented in these courses?
To understand the possible difficulties that students face in these courses, it is necessary to pay attention to the students in this period. Because perhaps the difficulty is not in the odd courses, but in a combination of internal and external circumstances, among which we can highlight the following:
First of ESO and first adolescence
First of all, the most prominent internal factor is the beginning of adolescence . It is a particularly complex phase of human development and affects behavior in the classroom and in the family context. It is essential to understand the obstacles faced by students going through adolescence as they move through the educational system.
At this time, young people prioritize relationships with friends and colleagues over family relationships. They focus their efforts on differentiating themselves from their parents and distancing themselves from the family group.
Adolescents seek independence and question positions they previously accepted. Interest in couple relationships and concern for academic and employment orientation are aroused. It is not surprising that adolescence and the conflicts associated with it affect academic performance and attitude in the classroom.
It is a time of changes, especially psychological and social, which are added to the demands posed by the educational system. Conflicts around identity and group membership are frequent. These generate difficulties for the individual and tensions to be faced on a daily basis.
Change of pedagogical model
Secondly, the most relevant external factor has to do with the organization of the educational system and the Secondary Education curriculum . The beginning of this stage implies the need to adapt to different pedagogical models. In many cases, this is coupled with a change of center that generates concern for students and families. This concern leads many to experience the first year of Secondary as a difficult course, especially at the beginning.
However, after the stage, the impression in our experience is that they remember the third course worse than the first. Considering the organization of the secondary curriculum, the high number of third-year subjects can be pointed out as a complexity inherent to this course, especially when it comes to organization. But from the point of view of curricular content, there is no more difficulty in odd-numbered courses than in even-numbered ones.
Baccalaureate: new concerns
The Baccalaureate is a step towards adult life. The change of stage does not necessarily imply a change of teachers or center. But new concerns appear: the average, the choice of itineraries, the professional future, etc.
Despite the added difficulties, our experience is that neither the students nor their families experience first as the most difficult course. In the case of the Baccalaureate, the difficulties are maintained or increase in second grade. There are added other challenges such as the university entrance exam and the pressure generated by the cut-off grades or not being clear about what to study next.
In short, it does not seem that the odd courses are more difficult than the even ones. At least not considering the courses themselves. The difficulties arise from the combination of factors associated with the educational system and many others linked to the vital moment of the students.
Maturing implies taking on challenges and facing responsibilities. On their journey, students will encounter difficulties that we cannot avoid. So, what can we do from the centers and the families to help the students?
The educational system must rethink the objectives of each educational stage and its contribution to the competences and abilities of the students, to establish the curricular contents. In Spain, Organic Law 3/2020 modifies the curriculum trying to meet the needs of students, but this change does not seem enough.
It is necessary to facilitate the transition between educational stages. It is necessary to create a support network between educational institutions, professionals and families to provide students with tools to face difficulties.
It is important to reinforce the role of the Guidance Department at all stages. The Tutorial Action Plan must respond to students, families and professionals. In addition, professionals must have specific training to care for adolescents.
The family structure is a basic pillar in the formation of the human being. For this reason, fluid communication with educational centers is essential, establishing participation and collaboration between both.
A good part of the difficulties that appear in the odd courses of ESO and Baccalaureate are due more to the changes experienced in adolescence. Adolescents need the support of adults to manage the changes and challenges that come their way. For this reason, the dialogue between the educational institution and the families is the best support strategy to face the changes at each stage.
Author Bios: Sarah Escobar is Professor Faculty of Education and Claudia Maria Costa Dias is a Teacher and Researcher. Prof. in Early Childhood Education and Master’s Degree in Psychopedagogy from the International University of La Rioja both at UNIR – International University of La Rioja