How to make good subject choices

2018-10-31 06:00
From left: George Fisher, Ruth Fisher, Scott Fisher and Sarah Fisher.Howick High School pupil Scott Fisher received his academic honours, the Bruce Summerfield Trophy for engineering, graphics and design, the mathematics prize and trophy, the physical science prize, the Dr Marshall prize for science and the Dux Proximae Accessit Award. ‘When choosing subjects for matric in Grade 9 it is important to match interest with academic ability, which may require brutal honesty from both yourself and your teen.’

From left: George Fisher, Ruth Fisher, Scott Fisher and Sarah Fisher.Howick High School pupil Scott Fisher received his academic honours, the Bruce Summerfield Trophy for engineering, graphics and design, the mathematics prize and trophy, the physical science prize, the Dr Marshall prize for science and the Dux Proximae Accessit Award. ‘When choosing subjects for matric in Grade 9 it is important to match interest with academic ability, which may require brutal honesty from both yourself and your teen.’

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THE stress levels that accompany subject selection in Grade 9 are enough to send any parent into a mild obsessive panic.

We know that our children understand how important it is, but do they really?

It is an adult-level decision, after all; the first of many your teen will have to make. And the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Weighty decisions like these tend to be put off until the last minute, so before you get into the heavy practical steps, why not throw these thought-provoking questions at your Grade 8 or Grade 9 to get the ball rolling?

Juan Visser, regional director at Cambridge Assessment International Education, suggests the questions below.

• WHAT LESSON DO YOU MOST LOOK FORWARD TO ATTENDING EVERY DAY?

By this stage, your teens should know which subjects they enjoy most. It’ll be your job to help them figure out why because getting them to think about what attracts them to a particular subject will be key to what other subjects they select. “Understanding that pupils enjoy maths because they enjoy problem-solving could guide them to take a business studies subject in addition to maths,” said Visser, highlighting the findings of a University of Wisconsin study which found that enjoyment of a topic is of the utmost importance to mastering it. He advises parents not to push their children into certain subjects which might lead to careers with higher paychecks, but will mean poor performance and lower grades.

This same thinking should be applied at university level as well. “Study from school to university should be a continuum. “This will set them up for an enjoyable and successful university career and beyond,” said Visser.

• WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS?

This question is important for matching interest

with academic ability, which Visser says may require brutal honesty from both yourself and your teen.

“If pupils enjoy physics, for example, but struggle with the learning material and fall short on marks despite putting a lot of effort into the course, this may not be a good fit for a career in engineering — or for their future beyond school,” said Visser.

• HOW WILL YOUR SUBJECT CHOICE TRANSLATE INTO YOUR UNIVERSITY PLANS?

Once you’ve identified your children’s interests and abilities you can talk to them about their career options, where they’d like to study and the entry requirements for their chosen degree, diploma or certificate.

“This is particularly important if they have a specific career path in mind such as medicine, engineering or law, which have specific subject requirements,” said Visser.

A good place to start their search would be the admissions section on university websites where they’ll find the subjects they need to study at school and the required grades to get into university.

• HOW IS THE WORLD OF WORK CHANGING?

Given the fast pace at which technology seems to be advancing these days, Visser recommends that you encourage your teen to do some Internet research and to get in touch with industry professionals.

“The Internet is a readily available source of information on specific careers or what new careers may be looming.

It can also be helpful to speak to someone already working in an industry in which the pupil might like to work in the future. “They can offer insights into the nature of the work, what subjects will help prepare them to enter the workplace and the skills that are required, he said.” — Parent24.

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