Grade 9s: How to choose subjects

By Drum Digital
28 April 2014

It’s that time of year when Grade 9s have to make subject choices and it can be a pretty stressful experience. Find out how to alleviate some of that stress.

Your Grade 9 daughter is doing well at school and is usually quite dedicated. But the past week she seems a little off, spending more time on Facebook than on her maths homework. When you ask her what’s up, she says, “Subject choices.”

“This time of year young people have to make big decisions that have long-term effects on their lives and they are often not really equipped to do this,” says Dr Felicity Coughlan, director of The Independent Institute of Education.

Dr Coughlan says the best way to deal with decisions that carry long-term effects is not to panic. Calm down, stay focused and get as much information as possible about the available options.

Take time to visit the websites of public and private tertiary institutions to find out what type of courses they offer and what subjects are important for applications.

“It is important to look at more than what you already know. Even if you are sure about what you want to do after school, it won’t hurt to look at other options,” says Dr Coughlan.

Be realistic about your goals. “There is a big difference between a dream and a goal. We all dream of being a veterinarian or rocket scientist, but it is only a realistic goal if you know what it takes to get there,” she warns. If you can put down clear goals for how to reach that dream it becomes feasible.

Elmarie Oosthuizen, a teacher, agrees, “All matric subjects take a lot of work – there are no ‘easy’ subjects. Career guidance and aptitude tests can help, but they can also create unrealistic expectations. The student must be willing to work hard consistently.”

Oosthuizen believes parents can help by motivating and supporting their children in the three years the student has to take those subjects he or she chose (Grades 10 to 12).

Teachers on YOU’s Teachers for Change Facebook page had the following advice to give Grade 9s:

  • Choose subjects that can open doors for your future career.
  • Hold on as long as you can with maths, but don’t run the risk of not passing matric because of one subject.
  • Choose subjects that challenge you, and choose at least one that you like or that you know you’re good at.
  • Ask more than one person for advice, but keep your goals in mind.
  • Don’t choose a subject (or not choose it) according to which teacher is teaching it. Teachers come and go, but your choices will stay!
  • Don’t choose subjects according to your parents’ or friends’ choices – look at your own success and/or interest in subjects.
  • Do proper research into the criteria for admission into the courses you’re interested in doing.
  • Search for opportunities to go to work with someone who does something you’re interested in.  
  • If you can take an extra subject, do it!

Subject choices can be a traumatic experience for Grade 9 students, but if you have a goal in mind it’s much easier, says Dr Coughlan. “Make sure you know what your goal is!”

- Shané Barnard

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