Why is it important for learners to make informed subject choices?


Subject choice in Grade 9 is always a stressful time! Most learners (and their parents), find it difficult to choose subjects for Grade 10.Subject choice makes a huge impact on every learner’s future career and tertiary study options The reason being is because most students don’t know themselves, they don’t know the world of work (what different careers entail) and they don’t know university requirements. The subject choice at the end of Grade 9 could determine the field of study learners can follow once they complete school. In other words, if learners do not select the correct combination of subjects, they could find themselves unable to enter into certain higher or further education programmes. So when making this important subject choice, learners should consider their options for when they complete school.

For some career paths, a learner may need to complete a degree at a higher education institution or a certificate/diploma through a Further Education and Training College or a SETA. The first thing learners need to know is that in order to qualify for higher/further education and training studies they must make certain that they have the right subjects to meet the minimum entry requirements to study further. Of course, for a degree, diploma or certificate studies, it is important that the learner chooses subjects that are appropriate to the career he/she intends to follow and that they try to keep their options open as their plans may change as they go along.

The subjects selected by a learner can either make career options accessible or possible, or limited in some cases. It is therefore necessary to take subjects which will optimize possibilities, but are also in line with the learner’s interests, personality and aptitude.

There are so many questions:

  • Which subjects will keep my options open for further study after school?
  • Should I take Maths?
  • What about the other subjects?

Learners and parents need information about subject requirements and the entry requirements for tertiary study.

Advice and Suggestions

Choosing subjects is a very important aspect of a learner’s education.  The decisions taken are vitally important as it is very difficult to change subjects at a later date, although not impossible.

  1. Consider the learners suitability for further education and be realistic as to whether an academic course is in their best interests. Consider the suitability for the chosen subjects by thinking of the learner’s ability, skills, interest and motivation.
  2. Be realistic about the learner’s ability to cope with advanced work and content subjects. Do this by examining the learner’s results and involvement in the subjects thus far.
  3. Look ahead to the learner’s future plans, and/or future career. It is vital to seriously consider at this stage what career paths he/she may be interested in so that he/she can take suitable subjects.
  4. Guard against allowing the learner to choose subjects based on whether or not he/she likes the teacher or whether friends are taking that subject.
  5. Get learners to meet with the teachers to discuss their options and their ability to do particular subjects. Also get leaners to meet with Grade 10-12 subject to discuss what the particular subject they are thinking of taking entails.
  6. Subject selections must be made bearing in mind the job market and the changing world of work. Research indicates that initial career planning should ideally allow for a number of options for later career development.  While there is much encouragement for learners to enter scientific and technical fields, it is vital that parents remember learners have to follow a career that interests them and outside pressure should not detract them from following, at least in part, their career goals.
  7. Do not allow the leaner to make subject choices without having done independent research on career interests and having read up on the subjects.
  8. Every subject has relevance for today. – Each subject is important in its own right and has its own challenge and role to play in the development of knowledge and skills. We want our learners to leave school with the necessary academic qualifications for tertiary study and/or careers.
  9. We want our learners to be able to cope with each subject they take so that this will allow them to feel confident and in control. This will allow them to experience the joy of achievement and develop positive self-esteem and a positive self-image.
  10. We also want learners to have grown in character and personality. They must be given every opportunity to develop into independent young men and women who can take up their role in society with confidence.
  11. Great care must be exercised when choosing subjects. Once chosen and entered on, the Gauteng Department of Education regulations may allow a change only at the start of Grade 11 in some instances, providing that:
  • The school can implement the change in its timetable and staff structure, and
  • Permission is granted by the GED.

Subject Choices for Study at Stellenbosch University (Grade 9)

MEDICINE AND HEALTH SCIENCES  Medical doctor; dietician; physiotherapist; occupational therapist; speech-language therapist. Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Life Sciences.
ARGISCIENCES  Forest manager; food scientist; careers in animal and crop production; conservation ecologist; agricultural economist; winemaker; cellar manager; agronomist; careers in agri-tourism; general farming; consultant Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Life Sciences
ARTS & SOCIAL SCIENCES  Human resource manager, sport scientist; information specialist; politician; psychologist; social worker; actor; theatre scientist; graphic designer; artist; civil servant; language practitioner; musician; journalist (postgraduate programme); project planner; teacher. Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy (depends on choice of programme)
ECONOMIC & MANAGEMENT SCIENCES  Chartered accountant; management accountant; financial accountant; actuary; economist; entrepreneur; investment manager; financial manager; marketing manager; human resource manager; logistics manager; risk manager; computer scientist(IT); Industrial psychologist; Mathematics, Afrikaans and English (*Exception: BCom Management Sciences – Afrikaans or English)
EDUCATION  Teacher: foundation, intermediate or senior phase (R to 9); educational psychologist (to become a high-school teacher, you must first obtain a B degree with the subject(s) that you would like to teach and then the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy
ENGINEERING Chemical, civil, electric and electronic, mechanical, mechatronic or industrial engineer. Mathematics and Physical Sciences
LAW  Advocate; lawyer; legal advisor. Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy(depends on choice of programme)
SCIENCE Ecologist; physiologist; biochemist; microbiologist; Biokinetics; sport scientist; psychologist; physicist; geologist; GIS specialist; teacher; computer scientist(IT); mathematical statistician. Mathematics and Physical Sciences. Life Sciences strongly recommended if you wish to study a programme in Biological Sciences.
THEOLOGY Minister of religion; pastor; youth worker; pastoral therapist; careers in community development. Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy

Requirements for Passing

To do a DEGREE programme: You need a National Senior Certificate (NSC) with an achievement rating of 4 (50-59%) or better in four recognized 20-credit NSC subjects

Note that each university will have its own minimum entry requirements over and above these per faculty.

To do a DIPLOMA programme You need a National Senior Certificate (NSC) with an achievement rating of 3 (40-49%) or better in four recognised NSC 20-credit subjects.
To do a CERTIFICATE programme You need a National Senior Certificate.

Learners are required to take: 2 Languages (home and first additional language), Life Orientation, Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy and three other subjects (chosen according to the categories set out by the school based on its timetabling of subjects). Life Orientation is a compulsory subject at Grade 10 –12 level. The subject is now a fully-fledged subject with portfolio and examination requirements giving learners life skills.

NSC 20-credit subjects: Accounting, Agricultural Sciences, Business Studies, Dramatic Arts, Economics, Engineering Graphics and Design, Geography, History, Consumer Studies, Information Technology, Languages (refer to institution websites for their language entry requirements), Life Sciences, Mathematics, Mathematical Literacy, Music, Physical Sciences, Religion studies and Visual Arts. This is dependent on what the school offers.

Subjects Minimum requirements
Home Language (English) Obtain at least 40% in the Home Language.
First Additional Language (Afrikaans) Obtain at least 30% in the other required language.
Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy Obtain at least 30%
Life Orientation Obtain at least 40%
3 Additional choice subjects Obtain at least 40% in one of the subjects

Obtain at least 30% in the other two subjects

 Learners are encouraged to obtain the best possible results for their NSC so that they have best possible chance of getting into their chosen course or degree. A mere pass should never be their goal!

Qualification Minimum Entry Requirement
Bachelor’s Degree 4 subjects from the designated list passed with at least 50%

2 subjects at 30%

(plus requirements of specific institution)

Diploma 4 subjects passed with at least 40% including Home language

2 subjects at 30%

(plus requirements of specific institution)

Higher Certificate At least 40% is achieved in Home language and Life orientation and ONE other subject

at least 30% is obtained in 3 other subjects

(plus requirements of specific institution)

National Senior Certificate (Matric) 3 subjects at 40% including Home language

3 subjects at 30%

In order to do a degree or diploma course at a University or an Institute of Technology, you will require,  in  addition  to  your  National  Senior  Certificate,  specific  requirements  stipulated  by  the programme you wish to pursue.

 A National Senior Certificate does not guarantee automatic entry to a university or Institute of Technology.

Owing to the large numbers of matriculants wanting to go to university/institute of technology, a rigorous selection process is applied.  National Benchmark Testing scores are also used by tertiary institutions to assist in the selection and placement of students. These benchmark tests are used together with Grade 11 and 12 marks to decide on placements.

The following factors need to be taken into consideration when making a choice of subjects:

  1. Ability
  • A learner and their parents should look at their Grade 8 examination results and the June Grade 9 results, in particular. Compare that with the average percentage of the class. We have wonderful aspirations and future dreams for our children, but we have to be realistic about their abilities. These will give an indication of his/her ability in each subject.
  • They should also refer to the subject descriptions and information, which mention the requirements of each subject.
  • Some subjects have a minimum entrance requirement for Grade 10 level.
  • Teachers are available to give guidance regarding the suitability of subjects for particular learners. Consult with teachers because they can provide insight into learner’s individual capabilities and interest.
  1. Interests
  • If at all possible, the subjects chosen should fall within the learner’s range of interest or should be necessary auxiliaries to those subjects which are important to them.
  • They can also complete the Career Questionnaire found on the Department of Education’s website. This is a free tool. http://ncap.careerhelp.org.za/questionnaire
  • If unsure, a general course would be most advisable.
  1. Influence on Careers
  • Please note that compulsory subject requirements differ from one tertiary institution to another.
  • The only subjects where choices made now will seriously affect future studies and careers are Mathematics and Physical Science.
  • However, if Mathematics and Physical Science are weak, careers that demand these will not be an option in the future. No matter how valuable it is to have the subject, lack of achievement would preclude him/her from being accepted for a course of study which requires Mathematics or Physical Science as a prerequisite.
  • It is important to be REALISTIC with regard to future careers.
  • Ultimately, ability will influence career choice as well. It is, for example, not advisable to select Mathematics when the learner concerned lacks numerical ability and cannot cope with the subject.
  1. Who Will Have To Cope?
  • The learner is the one who will have to fulfill the requirements and demands of the subject and not the parents. The learner must therefore be the center of the decision-making process. Decisions making needs to be informed meaning that a leaner can not a proper decision without doing research into the requirements of a course/degree, knowing the world of work as well as having self-insight.
  • The work gets more difficult in the higher grades.
  • The double science package (Physical Science and Life Science) is demanding and pupils need to qualify to be admitted to that package. To be considered, pupils should be achieving marks in excess of 60% in Physical Science and Mathematics
  • Parents should not force their sons/daughters to do subjects which they consider important or “better” than others. The best choice will always be the subjects with which your son/daughter feels they can cope, and those that interest them the most.
  1. Inadvisable Reasons For Choosing A Particular Subject
  • Preference for a particular teacher – staff changes do occur from time to time.
  • Choosing a subject because a friend has chosen it.
  • Following “advice” from pupils in higher Grades.
  • Using just a single set of test results – a single test could give a false impression

Making decisions about your career does not have to be difficult. Learners should know what they enjoy doing and what careers appeal to them.

In summary, each direction or field of study will have its own set of entry requirements, which means that you will have to achieve at a certain level in certain subjects. Many qualifications for example, require you to achieve well in mathematics. But each course of study will require you to achieve at a certain level. Make sure that you begin to work very hard in all your subjects from the beginning of the year.