Many Year 10 students are starting to think seriously about what subjects they might choose for Years 11 and 12.
These are important decisions – not just because they can form the basis for further university studies and career paths. They will also be the focus of the final years of education and can become the skills students take into adult life.
Read more: Choosing your high school subjects doesn’t have to be scary. Here are 6 things to keep in mind
This reminds me of a school awards ceremony I once attended. The keynote speaker was a former student who now works as an emergency trauma surgeon. In Year 12 he studied typical pre-medical school subjects such as Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry. But he also did drama – a choice that was questioned by the school at the time.
The doctor told us how drama turned out to be the most useful subject for him. It had given him the ability to work well with a diverse team in a very busy space, whether it was a stage or an emergency room.
This shows the importance of making informed choices and the value of encouraging children to think outside the box.
What Happens to Teenagers’ Brains When They Decide?
These decisions are made as teen brains undergo significant changes. This includes “pruneof the teen brain where it gets rid of gray matter it doesn’t use.
In addition, new nerve pathways and connections are created. This means that information processing becomes more efficient.
All this pruning, developing and strengthening varies from person to person and means their interests and passions can change significantly during this time.
What are the rules?
There are heaps of them options to study, from academic subjects that contribute to your ATAR, to vocational education and training.
Students and families should familiarize themselves with the basic requirements (for example, all students must study English). Also note few degrees you must have studied certain subjects or acquired knowledge before you start the study.
Read more: What is an ATAR anyway? First of all, it’s a rank, not a score
How can parents help?
Here are some ideas for parents and carers who want to help their children navigate what’s best for them in the final years of school:
Talk to your child about their interests and passions: it’s understandably challenging for a 15-year-old to chart his life too far ahead. A good place to start is a comprehensive site like Your career. This can be a constructive way to look together at disciplines that fall within their area of interest and then discuss them
Let us inform you about the possibilities: Attend all parent information sessions held by the school to ensure you are aware of the choices the school offers. Be prepared to advocate for your child if necessary to allow them to study subjects they enjoy or show interest in. Remember there is a lot more flexibility with pathways these days and just because someone says your child “must” do a subject doesn’t mean it has to be done now
See the big picture: what does your child want from the last years of school? Is it the highest possible college admission grade? Do they want to start developing workplace or trade skills? Understand that there are plenty of options outside of school – whether it’s vocational training, an internship, college through an ATAR, or going to college through a non-ATAR track
Get input from others: Career counselors at school can provide excellent advice. If your school has one, encourage your child to make an individual appointment. See if your child can talk to people who work in fields they might be interested in.
Read more: ‘Thinking about my future is really scary’ – school leavers are not getting the career support they need
- Be flexible and patient: It is very likely that your child will change his mind with his subject choices. This is completely normal and it is important for you to listen to them and support them in navigating these challenges. If we are meant to go down five to seven career changes during our lifetime, then we need to make it safe for our children to do this from the start.
One more thing
Our children are unique and will have their own dreams and ambitions. So their topic choices may not reflect what we’ve done or want them to do and it’s important to take a breather and step back from imposing our views on them.
We can indicate things like: “If you really want to do technology, it might be wise to study mathematics now, then you don’t have to do a bridging course”. Or: “you seem really into design and technology and visual arts”. But in the end, the choice is theirs.
And by fostering a sense of responsibility for these choices in our children, we contribute to their capacity for lifelong learning.