In the coming months, Gr. 9 learners will choose which subjects to pursue during their final years in school, on which they will be tested when they sit for their final matric exams. The Department of Basic Education recently announced the withdrawal of the “designated subject” list, the list of subjects from which students who want to pursue a degree after school had to select their subjects. According to Dr Felicity Coughlan, director of the Independent Institute of Education, there are some serious considerations not to be ignored. “Some may argue that the withdrawal of the designated subject list gives young people more choices, but we urge schools and learners not to make risky and uninformed changes.” She notes that the original list contained many of the traditional subjects used to gain access to university, and that many of these subjects required learners to master skills that will be important when seeking entry into a public university or private institution of higher education. “These skills include argumentation and reasoning found in subjects such as History, and logic as found in Accounting, Maths and Maths Literacy. Physical Science and Life Science also develop scientific reasoning skills,” Coughlan says.“Additionally, the two language requirement also ensured a well-rounded educational experience for students living in a multilingual country. “The reasoning behind the original inclusion of these subjects should be remembered, and students are encouraged not to put together a collection of similar subjects which will result in them developing less holistic academic skills. “The impact on their studies later in life will be real.”In addition, learners considering their subject choices should remember that, despite the change of requirements at school, universities were not required to change their admission requirements. “Institutions of higher education need not change entry requirements if they do not want to, and one can be sure that many – if not most – will not. Not in the short term, and particularly not for those qualifications that currently require Mathematics or Life Science. “We therefore encourage learners to do their homework before opting out of these traditionally required subjects.”The third consideration follows from the first two, says Coughlan. “Some subjects, such as Design, were omitted from the original list, but have been accepted by some institutions as part of the conditional admission requirements for certain qualifications. “Design is a strong and necessary skill for modern living and it is likely that it will become more and more acceptable for admission to higher education. “In light of these changes in subject choice requirements, and given the risk of learners opting for perceiving easier subjects or subjects that are too similar in nature, we urge learners to investigate their options carefully. Schools must support them in making informed decisions,” she says.“The public higher education sector is not likely to change quickly. The chances of them accepting subjects they do not currently accept, are slim.“While the private higher education sector may be more progressive, our advice remains the same: Select subjects that keep your study options open.”Learners should include at least one subject in which they know they can excel, and then others that will teach them a range of different skills.