Grade 9 subject selection: how to help guide your child


In coming months, Grade 9’s will have to select the subjects they want to pursue from next year until they write their final Matric exams. While making the call is an exciting exercise for some, others struggle with the commitment, especially when they are not yet sure what they want to study after school.

Start early

"Subject choice season requires some serious soul searching and big decisions, which are too important to leave until the day when you are presented with a checklist to indicate your choices," says Nola Payne, Head of Faculty Information and Communications Technology at The Independent Institute of Education. "It should already be top of mind now for learners who want to give themselves the best chance for success in Grade 12 and beyond." 
Payne says time really is a learners’ friend at this stage, and it is important that the subject choice conversations should start between them, their parents, guardians, teachers and friends.

Claudia Swartzberg, CEO of Top Dog Education, agrees. "Instead of thinking about subjects at the last minute and adding even more pressure, start considering choices from the beginning of Grade 9, and even better, from Grade 8."

Ask the career experts

It is also important to not try and make decisions based on crystal-ball gazing, but to use the various resources available to assist with this choice - particularly when learners are unsure about their vision (or lack thereof) for their future, she says.

1. Educational psychologists

“An educational psychologist associated with a higher education institution, whether public university or private, or even a professional in private practice, can be approached to do an aptitude test,” says Nola.
“These professionals are trained to use reliable assessments to gauge where the learner’s talents, interests and strengths lie, and can be used as a strong indicator of the career directions and options the learner should consider.”      

"An educational psychologist can also explain what the work world expects and how to make informed decisions based on what will be expected of them one day," says Claudia.    

2. Institutional advisors

By spending time speaking to advisors at higher education institutions, learners will get a good idea of the range of potential qualifications they can pursue, and what the entrance requirements are.

“Your first stop is to visit the websites of various institutions of higher learning, and thereafter, you can further discuss your options with an advisor at the university or private higher education institution’s careers centre,” says Nola.

Things to remember when choosing subjects for Grade 10

Your subjects must fit your gifts, your passions and your own career development. Be careful of going along with what your friends or peers are doing, and don't just choose the easiest subjects so you can score the best marks, warns Nola. 

Instead, the following factors need to be taken into consideration:

If you already know what you want to study

  • Look at a range of different institutions and courses within your field of interest to allow yourself some choice and a Plan B after matric.
  • Always consider a second option to avoid disappointment should you not be successful in your application for your first choice of a qualification.

If you don't know what you want to do after matric

  • Choose subject combinations that will leave you with options and room to manoeuvre.
  • If you struggle with Maths and Science, consider keeping only one of them so that you can focus your efforts and achieve good results.
  • Maths Literacy should only be considered as a last resort, as many courses require Maths and you could be rejected based on the choice you made in Grade 9.

Claudia explains: "Since your interests and what you want to study may change over the years, it’s important to ensure your choices don’t limit your options in future or close any doors. Maths specifically is a requirement for many popular courses such as commerce, engineering and science degrees, and would be a good choice to ensure you have these opportunities available to you in future."

Other subjects such as Computer Science will not only provide you with real-world skills you can use in the workplace, but also expose you to other career avenues you may not have considered, she adds.

Figure out what makes you happy

As you spend time at your desk every day, going from class to class and completing your homework, be alert to which subjects you feel most comfortable with. Do your research and find out how your favourite subjects manifest in the working world, because they might be relevant to a field that you are not yet even aware of.

"While choosing subjects based on a future career is important, so too is studying what makes learners happy, which can ultimately lead in a career choice that is sustainable and brings joy," says Claudia.

Determine your strengths

Choose at least two subjects that will boost your average. Admission to higher education is performance-based, so it makes sense to do very well in some subjects rather than badly in all of them because you chose only gateway subjects in an effort to keep your options as open as possible.

Don't let a bad teacher put you off

"Learners shouldn’t choose subjects based on who is teaching them, as teachers come and go, and might not be teaching your child in grade 11 or 12," says Claudia.

Understand the different routes to success

You may think you won’t stand a chance of getting good enough grades to enter higher education after matric, but there are now many options for further study. The South African National Senior Certificate and the Independent Examinations Board (IEB) have four levels of pass, so even if you do not get a degree pass, you could still qualify for diploma or higher certificate study. Diplomas and higher certificates are normally vocationally or career-focused, and give you access straight to the world of work and even degree study.

Stay calm and do your research

Try to stay calm and approach the decision making as level-headed as possible, advises Claudia. 

“The key to making the best matric subject choices for your future self is to ensure you do your research thoroughly, and at a comfortable pace so you don’t have to rush the decision,” says Nola.

“These choices will have a profound impact on access to preferred qualifications and the career possibilities thereafter. This is one of the first opportunities teenage learners will have to practise strategic decision-making that will have a lasting effect on their lives, and it should be looked at as an exciting first step into their future as adults, and also a valuable learning and problem-solving lesson.”

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How is your child tackling subject selection? Do they know what they want to do yet? Do they want your help? Let us know! Send to and we may publish it.

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