Avoid risky choices fol­low­ing sub­ject change

The Witness - - FEATURES -

IN com­ing months, Grade 9s will choose which sub­jects to pur­sue dur­ing their fi­nal school years, on which they will be tested when they sit for their fi­nal ma­tric ex­ams. And while the Depart­ment of Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion re­cently an­nounced the with­drawal of the “des­ig­nated sub­ject” list — the list of sub­jects from which pupils who want to pur­sue a de­gree af­ter school have had to se­lect their sub­jects — there are some se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tions not to be ig­nored.

“Some may ar­gue that the with­drawal of the de­signed sub­ject list gives young peo­ple more choices, but we urge schools and pupils not to make risky and un­in­formed changes,” said Dr Felic­ity Cough­lan, di­rec­tor of The In­de­pen­dent In­sti­tute of Ed­u­ca­tion.

She said that the orig­i­nal list con­tained many of the tra­di­tional sub­jects used to gain ac­cess to univer­sity, and that many of these sub­jects re­quired pupils to mas­ter skills that will be im­por­tant when seek­ing en­try into a pub­lic univer­sity or pri­vate higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tion.

“These skills in­clude ar­gu­men­ta­tion and rea­son­ing, found in sub­jects such as his­tory, logic and math­e­mat­ics, and ev­i­dence and sci­en­tific rea­son­ing skills, as found in phys­i­cal sci­ence and life sciences.

“Ad­di­tion­ally, the two-lan­guage re­quire­ment also en­sured a well-rounded ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ence for pupils liv­ing in a mul­ti­lin­gual coun­try. The rea­son­ing be­hind the orig­i­nal in­clu­sion of these sub­jects should be re­mem­bered, and pupils are en­cour­aged not to put to­gether a col­lec­tion of sub­jects that are all of one type which will re­sult in them de­vel­op­ing less holis­tic aca­demic skills. The im­pact on their stud­ies later in life will be real,” said Cough­lan.

In ad­di­tion, pupils con­sid­er­ing their sub­ject choices should re­mem­ber that de­spite the change of re­quire­ments at school, uni­ver­si­ties were not at the same time re­quired to change their ad­mis­sion re­quire­ments.

“Higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions need not change en­try re­quire­ments if they don’t want to, and one can be sure that many, if not most, won’t. Def­i­nitely not in the short term, and par­tic­u­larly not for those qual­i­fi­ca­tions that re­quire math­e­mat­ics or life sciences. I there­fore en­cour­age pupils to do their home­work be­fore opt­ing out of these tra­di­tion­ally re­quired sub­jects.”

The third con­sid­er­a­tion fol­lows from the first two, said Cough­lan.

“Some sub­jects, such as de­sign, were omit­ted from the orig­i­nal list but have been ac­cepted by some in­sti­tu­tions for sev­eral years now as part of con­di­tional ad­mis­sion re­quire­ments for cer­tain qual­i­fi­ca­tions. De­sign think­ing is a strong and nec­es­sary skill for mod­ern liv­ing and it is likely that it will be­come more and more ac­cept­able for ad­mis­sion to higher ed­u­ca­tion.”

De­sign there­fore is one of the ex­am­ples that should be con­sid­ered as part of a port­fo­lio of cre­ative sub­jects af­ter pupils have checked its ac­cept­abil­ity to the higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tion of their choice, Cough­lan said.

“In light of these changes in sub­ject choice re­quire­ments, and given the risk of pupils opt­ing for per­ceived eas­ier sub­jects, or sub­jects that are too sim­i­lar in na­ture, I urge pupils to in­ves­ti­gate their op­tions care­fully, and schools to sup­port them in mak­ing in­formed de­ci­sions,” said Cough­lan.

“The pub­lic higher ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor is not likely to change quickly to ac­cept sub­jects they cur­rently do not ac­cept, and while the pri­vate higher ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor may be more pro­gres­sive, my ad­vice re­mains the same as it has al­ways been: se­lect sub­jects that keep your study op­tions open. This means pupils should in­clude at least one sub­ject in which they know they can ex­cel, and then oth­ers that will teach them a range of dif­fer­ent skills.

“In to­day’s volatile and un­cer­tain world, it is more im­por­tant than be­fore to cul­ti­vate an ex­tended base of skills from which you can draw, to im­prove your chances of suc­ceed­ing.”

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