Helping Your Child Decide on the Right School Subjects

Around grade 9, children are confronted with choices regarding subjects which might affect their future career path positively or negatively.  It is our role as parents to guide our children as best as possible through this maze. Take into consideration all the different factors affecting the decision making process.

Yes, it is a daunting process which should not be undertaken in isolation.  Luckily there are qualified people around to provide assistance in the decision making process.  First, of course, is your child who has to commit to the subject choice and possible career field – he is the expert on his own motivation, likes, dislikes, ambition, ability and eagerness.  Secondly, you as parent, probably know your child very well and see him objectively in a type of career and know what his interests are (except for girls and cars…)

The role of a guidance counselor

The school should have a guidance counselor on staff who would be able to inform you of the different subject requirements for tertiary courses and careers.  He should also be able to point out general trends in the market place. He will be able to make it clear where the market will be saturated and where there will be a shortage of manpower.

The guidance counselor will have a record of previously conducted interest questionnaires and intelligence questionnaires completed by your child.  This will be reviewed with you to marry your child’s interests with his abilities.

Other people who might be consulted in this process are:

  • subject teachers at the school,
  • other parents in certain positions,
  • knowledgeable friends,
  • lecturers at the local university in a particular field of interest,
  • placement organizations,
  • training providers,
  • role models, or
  • successful people in the field of interest.

When the decision is being made it is important to keep in mind the child’s academic or practical strengths – seeing that this would normally be where his interest would also be centered.  The subjects chosen should not just be the easiest subjects, but rather those that pose a challenge to the child.  It is important the chosen subject would be a building block in his future career path.  This subject should be enjoyable for the student to study and not bore him to tears or cause excessive procrastination.  The combination of the subjects selected should still be manageable to master at exam time.  Lastly it is very important that the choice at the end of the day can be owned by the child and not be seen as forced down by the parents or teachers.  A sense of ownership leads to a sense of responsibility.

There are three groups of subjects:

  • Compulsory :  These subjects cover essential information, knowledge and skills that we all require.  They do differ from country to country, but mostly include:  English, Maths and Science.
  • Other subjects you have to study, but no exams are set on the information :  For example:  Career education, Citizenship, Information and Communication Technology, Physical Education, Religious Studies, Sex and Relationship Education, Work-related Learning.  In a manner of speaking, these subjects are therefore also compulsory.
  • Optional : These are the subjects students make their choices between.  They vary from school to school, but have to include at least 4 of the following: (Their names may differ)  Arts,  Engineering, Health and Social Care,  Leisure and Tourism, Skills for Working Life and Life Skills, Manufacturing, Social Sciences.

As mentioned before,  this can be a very daunting task for parent and child.  Help build your child’s self-confidence by working together to find the right subjects that will be challenging, but also within his range of abilities in order to provide a sense of achievement.