As the Matric Class of 2021 enters the final stretch of their school careers, having to focus on both their exams and what comes after, an education expert has advised parents to help their children move progressively forward every day by cutting out the noise and doing what needs to get done, regardless of concerns over what may come.
“The end is finally in sight for Matric learners, who now need to remain as focused as possible during exam time, to ensure they achieve the best possible marks to allow them to progress successfully beyond Grade 12,” says Peter Kriel, General Manager at The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s largest and most accredited private higher education provider.
But he says many students remain concerned about whether they will perform to the best of their ability, whether there might be more surprises coming this year in terms of unforeseen disruptions – whether related to exams or external events – or over what they are going to do next year… Should they register to study further or wait and first see what the environment looks like in February 2022?
All these thoughts can take away Matrics’ attention from what is most important now – focusing on their finals, says Kriel.
“Unfortunately, our children over the past two years have had more than the regular share of concerns senior high learners normally need to deal with, and this has had an impact on the way decisions about the future are made. In particular, forward planning has taken a hit, with many parents and students adopting a wait-and-see approach.
“This is because significant weight is being given, and allowances made, for future potentialities, which can lead to anxiety, loss of focus, and analysis paralysis. As parents, it remains important to provide guidance and a measure of certainty in this regard, so that children can go ahead and make plans for the future while keeping in mind that flexibility and resilience may still be needed,” says Kriel.
Some of the concerns that should be dispensed with to ensure Matrics can focus single-mindedly on their exams, include the following:
Concerns about performance and it’s impact on post-matric options
“Now is the time to put all your attention on doing as well as possible, until the very last paper. Don’t dilute your attention by worrying about what you will do if you do not perform as well as hoped,” says Kriel.
“Regardless of your performance, there are always paths toward achieving a degree. Of course, the better you perform, the more options you will have straight out of the gate; however it is important to know that if you do not perform as well as you wanted, there are always doors open,” he says.
These include – depending on results – the option of rewrites to improve results in specific subjects, opting for a different first qualification, or enrolling for a Diploma or Higher Certificate instead of a degree.
“There are many more routes toward a successful career on top of those listed above, however the key point is that you can set your mind at ease knowing that there are always options, and that you don’t have to expend precious mental energy on worrying about what ifs. Do your best, and know that you are covered.”
Concerns about whether the 2022 academic year may again be impacted
Many Matrics are uncertain about their future, and can’t decide whether they should pursue the studies they wanted to pursue next year or rather just wait and see what the new year holds before making a decision.
“If we say we need to start living with uncertainty, it means just that. Don’t wait for everything to be running more or less smoothly, because if anything, we have learned that we have to keep moving regardless of circumstances. Tens of thousands of Matrics across South Africa are doing just that, and have already registered to start their studies next year, committed to realising their dreams.
“So if you have not yet settled on whether you should further your education, make use of the time after examinations to investigate your options, talk to higher education institutions, and get yourself excited about your next steps. A good insurance policy is to make sure that you find an institution which is able to continue with the curriculum without interruption to ensure you’ll finish the academic year successfully even if unforeseen events arise,” says Kriel.
Concerns about results release dates
“No matter when your results come, keep your eye on the prize and do what needs to be done, regardless. Currently, dates are always in flux, so it is possible that results release dates may again be impacted,” says Kriel.
But he says parents should remind their children (and themselves) not to get distracted by external noise and logistics.
“Do what you know needs to be done, and keep going – progressively further every day. Don’t rely on others to tell you what to do and when. In the past two years, those focused on their personal and academic growth have really strengthened their self-direction skills. So don’t wait for the world to say you can go ahead to the next step now. Instead, face forward, and think about and plan for your future. No matter how uncertain you are feeling, planning for the future and moving forward provides an anchor in uncertain times.”
One way to get focused and feel less anxious, is for parents and students to act on the things they know will happen, even if they don’t know when they will happen, says Kriel.
“Wild speculation about what curveballs may arise is unhelpful and serves no positive purpose. By creating an ocean of calm and certainty about your purpose and direction, knowing that you will handle whatever may arise when it arises, you’ll be able to successfully continue on your road to academic and career success.”