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While it may appear as possible duplicate The difference between "follow" using についていく、「あと?」をつける、「あと?」をついていく , the specificity here is a school/training context which was not discussed previously

Is the current use in the sentences (to be able to keep with the studies) an extension of the original meaning (to follow) ?

And what is the difference between 付いてくる and 付いていく ? (If there is)

The first sentence describes a group of friends that help children thar dropped out:

課題のボランティア活動にはいくつか選択肢があり、学校の通常の授業についていけない小学生(多くは不登校児童だ)を集めたアフタースクールの手伝いをするというのも、そのひとつだった

Second sentence: if you cannot keep up, you'll be punished !

ついてこられなかったらお仕置きだからね‌

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Is the current use in the sentences (to be able to keep with the studies) an extension of the original meaning (to follow)?

Yes, of course. English speakers also say "I'm following you" meaning "I understand what you are saying so far", so I don't think this usage is tricky. Note that simple words like つく have dozens of meanings, and many of them are related to one another.

what is the difference between 付いてくる and 付いていく?

It's explained in this question: Difference between -ていく and -てくる This is a basic topic, so please review your textbook, too. It may take time to digest it because English has no direct equivalent of this construction.

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