School choices

Grade 9s: Let The 3 P’s Guide You When Choosing Your Subjects

Choosing the subjects they will sit for during the National Senior Certificate exam three years from now is an important and challenging task facing Grade Nines at the moment, because this combination of subjects will influence their choices down the line, and impact on performance and motivation over the next three years and beyond. Therefore Grade Nines should, with the help of their parents, guardians, teachers and outside experts, give careful consideration to the factors at play before settling on their final subject combination, an education expert says.

“Trying to cover all your bases taking into account all eventualities can become quite confusing, particularly if you don’t yet know what you want to do after school, so we advise Grade Nines to consider the holistic 3-P approach when weighing the pros and cons of various subject combinations,” says Dr Gillian Mooney, Dean: Academic Development and Support at The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s largest and most accredited private higher education provider.

She says Grade Nines are required to select at least seven subjects on which they will be tested in Matric, four of which are compulsory: Home Language, Second Language, Maths or Maths Literacy, and Life Orientation. The balance then, are elective subjects, and should be chosen after careful consideration.

“When considering your options for this balance of subjects, you should take into account your Passion, your Performance, as well as the Potential options available to you in future,” she says.


Dr Mooney says one of the benefits of the current situation, where much work is done independently at home by learners and therefore without peers or teachers influencing perceptions, is that learners will be able to get a better idea of which subjects they are passionate about.

“If you find yourself drawn to a particular subject, or that you have a natural feel for it, that’s a definite sign that you should consider it as part of your subject choice bundle. Of course it may be that you are good at something but have no idea how that can translate into a possible career down the line.

“In that case, it would be a great idea to approach career centres and student counsellors – online for now of course – at higher education institutions, and discuss with them potential fields in which this subject may play a role. That will have the double benefit of revealing careers you may not have been aware of, as well as providing a boost of motivation to commit to doing even better because now you know where your passion might take you in future.”

Tween student


Even if you already have an idea of what you want to study after school, you should still leave as many doors as possible open to allow for a change of heart later, and that is where so-called ‘gateway’ subjects enter the picture.

“Certain subjects such as Maths and Science allow you to keep your options open, as many areas of further study require them. If you are one of the many who struggle with precisely these subjects, it may be worth keeping only one of them so that you can focus your efforts,” says Mooney.

“The aim is to ensure that your choice positions you well to pursue as wide a range of qualifications as possible, that will allow you to demonstrate a well-rounded foundation when you leave school.”

Mooney adds that learners struggling with a particular subject now because of the changed circumstances of lockdown should not just give up and walk away from it.

“Things may be harder now, but it is worth persevering and getting additional help if necessary,” she says.


It is important to also include subjects that will boost your Matric aggregate, Dr Mooney says.

“Because of the greater academic demands at higher education level, and the limited space at public universities and private higher education institutions, admission to higher education is performance-based – meaning simply that those with better marks stand a better chance of landing a space.

“So it makes sense to choose one or two subjects which will boost your aggregate and improve your chances of being accepted into the higher education institution and qualification of your choice,” she says.

Mooney says although our current environment is challenging due to Covid-19 and the resultant lockdowns, Grade Nines should still look to the future and focus on what they can do now to broaden their options in future.

“We don’t know what the future will look like, not in the short term nor the long term. Yes, we are facing unprecedented challenges, but with that, we will also be facing new opportunities and different ways of doing in future. Where in the past the road after school was pretty standard for many, who opted to pursue historically prestigious degrees without giving it much thought, the world of work has been changing and will change dramatically.

“So be sure you are aware of emerging careers, and that you position yourself in such a way that you’ll be prepared for the workplace of the future, not the workplace of the past.

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  1. Amelia-Amy Japhtha

    My Twin daughters Gr.9 would love this! They are both hard working but struggle at times, so this will be very helpful. Thank you.

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