‘Subject choices affect academic success’

Nola Payne is head of the Information and Communications Technology faculty at The Independent Institute of Education.

Making the correct subject choices in Grade 9 is paramount to the academic success of pupils later in life.

This is according to Nola Payne, education expert at The Independent Institute of Education.

In the coming months, Grade 9s 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.

Time really is a pupils’ friend at this stage, and it is important that the subject choice conversations should start between them, their parents, guardians, teachers and friends, she said.

Ms Payne said “subject choice season” requires some serious soul searching and big decisions, which are too important to leave until the day when pupils are presented with a checklist to indicate their choices.

“It should already be top of mind now for pupils who want to give themselves the best chance for success in Grade 12 and beyond.”

Rocklands High School principal Nigel Pelston said the school identifies as a maths and science school and that preparations are already under way to ensure that pupils make the correct subject choices.

“I look at the pupils’ raw scores obtained from the assessments that they complete. For instance, if a pupil does not receive between 60 to 70 percent for financial accounting in Grade 9, it’s a clear indication that they will struggle when they enter Grade 10 and opt to do accounting.”

Mr Pelston said a student who is completing her honours in educational psychology conducted aptitude tests with Grade 9 pupils in the last week of the first term.

“We are yet to receive the results of the test. We also plan to get the matrics to do a similar aptitude test to gauge their strengths and weaknesses.

“We are living in the technological age so we also look at how well they perform in computer studies,” he said.

He said the school takes a holistic approach to helping pupils make their subject choices.

“We host extra classes for them and we work with them and their parents to make the right subject choices. South Africa is experiencing a brain-drain when it comes to skilled mathematics and science practitioners. Many young professional are leaving the country for the Middle East and that has had a knock-on effect on the economy.”

Mr Pelston said it is important for the school to provide pupils with a solid academic foundation for the future.

Ms Payne said pupils could consult an educational psychologist or institutional advisers to figure out which career would make them happy; determine their strengths and 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,” she said.