Making the right decision when choosing subjects in Grade 9 can be daunting. Naretha Pretorius, Campus Head at IIE-Vega School, offers a guideline along with expert advice from a career counsellor Prof Zak Nel.
Subject choice is just a starting point, the beginning of a lifelong journey. Few people know exactly what they want to do – most discover it along the way, while some make radical career shifts far removed from what they originally studied. We can however approach this starting point in a better way, ensuring a more meaningful, enjoyable, and fulfilling journey for our children. The answer sits in the cliché “love what you do, and you will never work a day in your life”.
Parents may feel anxious and uncertain, especially when facing current challenges, our fears and prejudices. Our attitude has a great impact on how our child will feel about their choices. Rather approach the process with excitement and inspiration. How then, do you achieve an enjoyable experience in selecting subjects? As a Higher Education manager, I have witnessed the subject and study choice process parents and learners go through. And as a parent myself, I can relate.
Recognising this need, the IIE-Vega School collaborated with Prof Zak Nel, Career Counsellor and Counselling Phycologist with over 40 years’ experience. Here is a guideline combining my experience and his advice.
Notice who they are
Be a curious observer, ask and listen. There is no need for psychometric assessments if you can notice it yourself – often the answer and direction is right in front of you. Observe these two telling factors: their personality and mode of thinking. Their personality is their way of being and what they love doing. It is who they are. Their mode of thinking on the other hand is the way they are “wired”. We naturally perform at our best if we get to utilise this. The aim is to identify and name their preferred way of thinking. For example; creative thinkers are makers and play with creative ideas, analytical thinkers enjoy numerical challenges and feel safe in facts or information – they carefully think before they make decisions, language thinkers enjoy expression through stories or words, kinetic thinkers express through movement or performance, technical thinkers build mechanical things, digital technical thinkers enjoy information technology like coding, empathetic thinkers connect with the world around them (people, animals or nature), and versatile thinkers are diverse in various thinking styles. Subjects must complement the person.
Create a subject scorecard
Identify which they enjoy most, are most confident in or find most interesting, the subjects they perform in best and then the ones they dislike or find the hardest. Finally, ask them to select, from the school’s available electives, what they would prefer, and why.
Create a study and career options guide
Making subject choices in grade 9 is the starting point for their study and career choices. To study a degree requires a bachelors pass in matric and to meet the entry criteria for their preferred degree. With information on websites from private and public higher education institutions, Prof Nel advises you should explore with your child and create a table to compare the following:
- The degrees available and their entry criteria (the subjects and marks they ask for)
- The degree modules (to get an idea of the content)
- The career opportunities (and then google what that means)
The full picture: Selecting the Subjects
Once done, ask them to show you where they see themselves in that table. Highlight the “must have subjects” from the entry criteria, then consider which subject combination will support them best – the first indicator is the entry criteria (the “must have” subjects), while the elective subjects support their interest or the field they wish to consider (the “want to” subjects). If math core is not a requirement, then opt for math literacy.
Use these indicators to consider the subjects they should select or avoid. By choosing the subjects it means they make a commitment and will want to do well.
The ideal outcome of this process is a happy child feeling inspired and capable; having something to look forward to while feeling empowered in having a choice in their future. And as Prof Nel would state, the ideal outcome is also to end the process by having a stronger relationship with your child.
IIE-Vega School invites teachers, parents and Grade 9 learners to join a webinar with Prof Nel on 31 August 2022, advising on subject, study and career choices.