Grade 9, The Watershed Year - Business Media MAGS

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Grade 9, The Watershed Year

Anél Lewis finds out why Grade 9 subject choices are so important.

Subject choice in Grade 9 is “like an onramp that leads to your future career path,” says Lubabalo Magcoba, team leader for education planners at Optimi College. Subject choice is crucial if you are considering studying further, and it will determine the type of job you can do in future.

Choices, choices

Many Grade 9s are uncertain about which subject will point them in the right direction for the future. Michelle Duraan, a registered counsellor with a special interest in career counselling and assessments, says there are two key considerations. Firstly, what are you naturally good at and interested in doing? “Knowing yourself, and working with your strengths, is the best starting point in making subject choice decisions,” she says. Secondly, do you know the entrance requirements of the tertiary programmes in your chosen field? Magcoba cautions against choosing subjects just because they seem easy. “It’s about identifying what you want to ultimately do, and working out how to get there.” This may mean taking some subjects you don’t particularly enjoy.

Expert advice

Jocelyn Logan-Friend, high school design and implementation strategist at SPARK, says learners should ideally start by consulting the people who know them best. “They should also reach out to community members and their extended networks to gain knowledge from professionals in relevant fields.” Magcoba says that many learners in SA are unfortunately left to make this decision on their own, with no guidance from teachers or parents. “Ideally, every school should have a career guidance expert on hand when it comes to subject choices, but this is not a reality yet.”

“A career counsellor will help uncover true strengths, in terms of ability or aptitude, and personality strengths,” says Duraan.

Career counsellors use standardised career-based psychometric tests to match learners with suitable career options. These “valid and reliable” measures gauge more about a learner, beyond their academic performance, adds Duraan. Grant Allen, an independent psychometrist offering career guidance, explains that he exposes the learner to careers they may not have heard of, but that are in line with their values, aptitudes, interests and personalities. A full career assessment is complex, he adds, as each factor cannot be measured in isolation. Someone may have an interest in medicine, but will not necessarily have the aptitude to become a doctor. “Many testees have a general idea of where their interests lie, but they want to see what other options are available before deciding on a career.”

A qualification by another name

The National Senior Certificate (NSC) is delivered by two different examining boards: the Department of Education (DBE) and the Independent Examinations Board (IEB), explains Jocelyn Logan-Friend, spokesperson for SPARK Schools. All South Africans cover the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) curriculum whether they sit the IEB NSC exam or the NSC exam,” adds Rebecca Pretorius, country manager at Crimson Education. “What is significant and differs between schools when parents are considering school choices is the depth, pace and sequence of curriculum coverage.”


Umalusi verifies certificates issued for the NSC. Umalusi also accredits IEB assessments in all the NSC recognised subjects, says Pretorius. “Umalusi essentially provides the quality assurance for these and other qualifications and examinations in South Africa,” she adds.

A levels

Other internationally recognised curricula and qualifications offered at schools instead of, or alongside, the national curriculum include Advanced level (A level) qualifications says Pretorius. Accredited by either Cambridge Assessment (CIE) or Pearson Edexcel, these are equivalent to the UK GSC and A levels, and are for students aged 16 to 18.

The overall A-level qualification consists of an AS level – a standalone qualification – as well as the A level, says Pretorius. Both need to be completed to obtain a full A level – the AS level contributes 50 per cent towards the final exam. The IEB and NSC matric qualifications are the equivalent of this AS level.


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