You are here: Home High School High School News Helping the Grade 9s make the right subject choices

Helping the Grade 9s make the right subject choices

In Grade 9, high school students make their final subject choice – choosing which subjects they will retain and which they will continue to study through to Matric. The choice has far-reaching implications, since many tertiary degree courses require candidates to have studied a particular subject at school to gain admission to their programme (e.g. a student applying for dentistry at Wits University requires Life Sciences, Physical Sciences and core Mathematics).

For many Grade 9 students, this decision is daunting, most especially because they are usually not certain of the career path they would ultimately like to pursue. “The Grade 9s are confident with the process of choosing their subjects, but not so much with deciding what it is they want to do after school. I think it is a big ask for 15-year old children to make a decision on something that will influence their future and so they are very often conflicted,” explains Lynne Ryan, the Head of Life Orientation.

Here’s how Dainfern College facilitates the process, so students feel more empowered and more supported throughout:

1. Life Orientation discussions

During Life Orientation (LO), students and teachers discuss the different subjects on offer in Grade 10-12.

2. Career Indaba outing

Each Grade 9 student completes a task in which they state which subjects are their favourite (with reasons why). This helps them to begin conceptualising what it is they enjoy doing and also what it is they’re good at.

The Grade 9s attend the Career Indaba, where they are introduced to different tertiary institutions and different career options.

3. Job shadowing

Each Grade 9 must complete a day of job shadowing, to get a better understanding of the vocation that interests them. They complete set tasks in and around the job-shadowing day.

4. Comprehensive assessment with an educational psychologist

An educational psychologist (Mary Bothma) spends a day with the Grade 9s, conducting comprehensive assessments that yield more information about their aptitudes, interests etc. Students and their parents are also asked to complete questionnaires about the students’ strengths, weaknesses and interests. Each student then gets a personalised profile, which offers guidance based on the results of the tests. Ms Bothma chats with each student, talking through the document, interpreting the results and offering further guidance. The aptitude tests that form part of this process go a long way to guiding students toward a particular area of interest (i.e. sciences, humanities, finances, etc).

5. Making tentative choices

During an LO lesson (around the middle of the school year), the Grade 9s visit the computer labs to input their tentative subject choices. This gives the school an indication of numbers per subject, and also an understanding of student preferences. Students are also reassured, says Ms Ryan, by the fact that they can change subjects up to the end of the first term of their Grade 11 year.

6. Education Expo

The College hosted the inaugural Educational Expo in July, where students had access to representatives from various tertiary educational institutions, as well as from a range of industries. Students were able to get more information on their study and career options to help them refine their choices.

7. Subject Choice evening

The College High School teachers then hold an information evening where they give the Grade 9s and their parents more information about their subjects (and also a comprehensive booklet which they can work through). The LO teachers also use this opportunity to remind parents NOT to push their children in any particular direction. “Parental influence is a big thing - many of the children are pushed into something because their parents believe they should be doing it,” says Ms Ryan.

By the time the Grade 9s come back to school for the third school term, they are expected to have made their decision. They complete a document (signed by their parents) confirming their choice.

Throughout the process, the LO teachers (and Ms Bothma, the educational psychologist) are available to students, offering guidance and advice.

What’s more, the teachers (especially maths, science, IT and EGD staff) examine students’ individual selections; they assess whether the student who has elected their subject has historically achieved the marks that will support the rigour of the subject going forward. In cases where teachers are concerned, they send letters to the students’ parents, raising their concerns.

All of this means that Dainfern College Grade 9s make choices that are in line with their strengths as well as their vision for their future. They enter their Grade 10 year with excitement and anticipation for their school studies. And that’s a really good reason to celebrate Dainfern College!

Dainfern College

ISASA logo 50px white border    Ieb logo 50px white    ProudlySA Member Logo 50px    round square logo 50px

Dainfern College, 96 Broadacres Drive, Dainfern

PO Box 3199, Dainfern, 2055

Tel: +27 (0)11 469 0635; Email:

You are here: Home High School High School News Helping the Grade 9s make the right subject choices