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Grade Nines preparing to enter their final phase of schooling next year will in coming months be expected to select the subjects that will see them through to matric. But that decision is too important to shelve away until the time comes, an expert says, and it should already be top of mind for learners who want to give themselves the best chance for success in Grade 12 and beyond.

“Towards the end of the year, Grade 9-learners will be given the opportunity to select which subjects they will take in their last three years of school and be tested on during the National Senior Certificate Exams in 2019,” notes Nola Payne, Head of Faculty: Information and Communications Technology at The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s largest and most accredited private higher education institution.

“It is an exceptionally hard choice to make, and many factors need to be taken into consideration,” says Payne, adding that these choices will have a profound impact on the qualifications to which learners will have access and, as a result, the careers they will be able to follow.“Choosing subjects should not be based on a gut feel or a kneejerk towards easier subjects. They must be chosen very carefully, and only after proper research about the implications of choosing certain subjects and not others. The best way to go about making subject choices later this year, is to immediately start considering one’s options constantly, and refining them in the coming months.

“This is one of the first opportunities learners of this age will have to practice strategic decision-making that will have a major impact on their lives. It should be looked at as an exciting first step into their future as adults, and also a valuable learning tool.”

Payne says the process can be made much less intimidating by sticking to the following guidelines:


If you are clear about what you want to do, check out the websites of both public and private higher education institutions to verify their requirements, and let that guide your subject choices. Very importantly, look at a range of different institutions and courses within your field to allow yourself some choice and a Plan B after matric.


Those who are not yet sure about their future direction should choose subject combinations that will leave them with options and room to manoeuvre later, including Maths and Science. Learners who struggle with precisely these subjects, should consider keeping only one of them to focus their efforts. And Maths Literacy should only be considered as a last resort, Payne says.


As you spend time at your desk every day, going from class to class, and completing your homework, be alert to which subjects make you come alive a little more than others. Determine which subjects mirror your interests and career dreams, and include them. And carefully research how your favourite subjects manifest in the working world, as you may potentially have more – and more interesting – options than you are currently aware of.


Choose at least two subjects in which you can do really well. 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.


You may think you won’t stand a chance of getting good sufficient grades to enter higher education post matric. But remember that the South African National Senior Certificate has four levels of pass. While one of them is the degree pass, you could also qualify for diploma or higher certificate study. These two qualifications, which are normally vocationally or career-focused, could give you access straight to the world of work and even degree study if you wanted to do it later. There are also options in public and private FET Colleges, or you may even be entrepreneurial and want to start your own business.

“The key to making the best 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. Don’t leave it until the end of the year, when you might be tempted to just tick the same boxes your friends are ticking, and in the process set yourself up for frustration and disappointment,” says Payne.

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