Subject choices

Subject choice is very important. It is also a challenging time for youngsters, but you can help by discussing the options and exploring how different choices could affect the scholar’s future.

As a first step, discuss which subjects he does or doesn’t enjoy, enjoy. Also, consider the subjects he is good or not good in. Certain subjects are compulsory, or necessary to qualify for their chosen tertiary course or career. Chat about his interests and talents outside school. Although you want your charges to look to the future and choose subjects that will help them towards a career, they should also consider their passions, as these are the subjects in which they are most likely to excel.

As an educator, you are only too aware of the importance of STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), particularly in industries and occupations that have emerged with the tremendous advances in technology and communications.

The importance of these skills to the wellbeing of the South African economy cannot be overestimated and there is increasing pressure on youngsters to matriculate with good maths and science marks to their credit.

STEM skills are prerequisites for entry into nursing and allied health, bioscience, aircraft engineering, digital technology, accountancy; for trades, such as electrical and plumbing and even for motor mechanics. But, they are an advantage whatever career is being considered.

Encourage the child to get a part-time job or volunteering position, as STEM skills will doubtlessly feature in the activity, besides which nothing beats real experience to prove that these skills are needed in the workplace. However, STEM subjects are no walk in the park. As they are more rigorously graded than other subjects and great emphasis is placed on test results, scholars may not be benefiting from the inspiring hands-on learning that leads to enduring interest. Instead, they may develop ‘maths anxiety’ and also quit science because they don’t think they’re smart.

Encourage the child to think it’s worth giving it a good enough try before it becomes hard, and to push through even if it’s challenging.

Stanford University research shows that people often praise the ability, the talent or the intelligence too much. The opposite is praise for the process the child engages in - his hard work, trying many strategies, focus, perseverance, learning through errors, improvement.

The goal is to foster a love for these subjects. If you force your child to solve maths problems before he can do a fun activity maths can become the villain.

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