Subject Choices: Do They Still Matter In The Long Run?

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It is not uncommon that high school learners are uncertain about their careers and subject choices. If one were to ask Grade 1 learners what they would aspire to become when they grow up, you will be met by an enthusiastic choir shouting: pilot, astronaut, police officer, and so forth. Many will instantly express a career choice. By contrast, many high school students will have little or no response to the same question, as the reality of life after school hits home.

In my experience, the most common answer is “I’m not sure” or even “I have no idea”. This is not completely surprising, because there are so many career paths and jobs to choose from. We are often training students for careers that are still emerging and do not even exist yet.

We must also be mindful that the majority of people change their minds about a career several times. It is also not uncommon that people change jobs, but it has also become more common for people to move between careers and industries. The days of 20 year services awards at companies are a thing of the past, with many businesses only awarding 5 years (and even 3 years) long service incentives these days.

Subject choices – assisting your child to make the best choices now

Within this milieu of uncertainty, subject choices remain important as they are linked to tertiary admission requirements and ultimately careers. We are reaching that point in the Grade 9 academic year where learners will have to make their subject choices. These subject choices are generally locked in for the 3 years in the Further Education and Training phase (Grade 10 to 12). Most schools do not allow subject changes beyond Grade 10, adding to the weight of getting the choice right.

However, a learner has the right to change subjects in Grade 10 (generally a maximum of 2) and even change 1 subject in Grade 11.

Parents have to consider a number of things in helping their children to select subjects for the Further Education and Training phase:

The aptitude and interest or passion of your child. Let’s play to the strength of our children.
Career choice and admission requirements from tertiary institutions. Do your research.
Listen to your child’s desire.

Consult with the school if clarity is required.

Parents and students are encouraged to consult with their school’s Life Orientation teachers, the Academic Head (usually the deputy principal), School counsellors and other teachers with regards to subject choice. Most schools invite Grade 9 parents and their students to school for subject choice discussions prior to the selection. Tertiary institutions also have student consultants who can offer helpful advice and guidance with regards to subjects aligned to the various qualifications students may be interested in pursuing.

Unfortunately, too many students still do not align their subject choices with their strengths, which means there is little return on investment for the time spent in those subjects that do not come naturally to them. This makes them unhappy and erode their confidence and self-esteem. Conversely, those who have selected subjects that they are passionate about, enjoy their studies – they excel and are happy.

This is why it is important to consider a school with a wide subject choice. Most schools may limit students to streams like Art, Science or Commerce. However, at Abbotts College students can choose electives across various streams giving them more options for the future.