But unlike previous years, factors that influence this decision have evolved post-pandemic, says education expert Philip Hlatshwayo, Head of Programme at The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s largest and most accredited private higher education provider.
THINK LIKE A PROJECT MANAGER
“Self-management is the one attribute or skill that has always been critical in a student’s academic journey. However, the need for this attribute intensified during the Covid-19 pandemic, sparked by the sudden need for increased independence in academic work. The skills you gained during that time can now be harnessed when choosing subjects,” Hlatshwayo says.
Similar to a company project, subject choice selection needs to be treated as a project, he notes.
“A project generally requires a project management plan to be drawn up in order to ensure the success of the project. The critical aspects considered in any project are skills required, the knowledge required and strategies/techniques.
“Subjects are no different and work in a similar model. That is, for each subject, a student needs to ask themself what skills am I required to have for this subject? The skills required for studying Physical Sciences will be different from the skills required for studying History. Self-introspection will therefore help you understand the skills you possess and can potentially develop.”
What prior knowledge is critical for this subject?
“There have been instances where students choose a subject such as Mathematics for which they lack basic knowledge and understanding that were supposed to be developed in the earlier phases. This leads to frustrations because of the requirements cast on the students once they get to Grade 10.
“A critical reflection of the past grades and how you have handled the demands of a subject similar to the one you are choosing will save you a lot of time and stressful moments. But it should also be remembered that there is still time to develop competency in a core subject – with focus and hard work – if you are determined.”
What studying strategies and techniques are necessary for this subject and do these strategies complement my learning capabilities?
Hlatshwayo says students must consider the strategies and techniques needed to be successful in studying a particular subject.
“For one student, thinking about various algebraic strategies in a Mathematics subject may come easy, for another, reading large quantities of History material may be preferred. There are areas in which we can excel and unleash our full potential if we think carefully about it.”
Answering the questions above will be the first step towards understanding your starting point in this project of choosing the right subjects to support your future dreams.
Academic support involves various stakeholders such as your teacher, peers, family members, mentors and student support services at higher education institutions, who can help you in your journey.
“As much as your teacher may help you with critical subject-related issues, you may at times need your mentor to help you establish the value of pursuing certain things in your academic journey and seeing the big picture,” says Hlatshwayo.
“Student advisors at higher education institutions can further help you match your prospective subject choices to fields of study and career prospects. They are also able to guide you in terms of how the world of work has changed, and which skills will be in high demand by the time you finish your qualification. Using that information, you can work your way back to see which subjects you have to select now.”
HIGH PERFORMANCE STRATEGY
Armed with the information and approach as above, students should choose subjects that will both 1) leave them with a wide range of options and 2) allow them to perform to the best of their ability in their Matric exams.
“Your subject choice should allow for gateway subjects such as core Maths and Science which will help you to keep your options open,” says Hlatshwayo.
“If you struggle in these subjects, at least retain one of them and focus your efforts. Even if you are not yet confident, remember that you have three years to work hard and get a solid grounding – it’s not too late to rise to the challenge.”
Students should also consider what makes them happy, he says.
“Select one or two subjects which interest you and throw yourself into the pursuit of mastery. If you are able to find your feet and enjoyment in a particular area, that bodes well for your future career and self-actualisation.”
And finally, students should choose some subjects that will help them boost their final results.
“Admission to higher education is performance-based, so having some subjects in the bag where you know you can shoot the lights out if you work hard, will very likely improve your chances of success when applying for further study after Matric.”