Sunday, November 16, 2014

Secondary 3 subject combinations (2014)

This year we faced another milestone in Kelvin's education. At the end of his Secondary 2 year we had to choose his subject combinations for Secondary 3. This decision would mainly depend on his academic performance for the whole year and on his interest in certain subject combinations. This would also help determine what possible path he could take after his secondary education so it was such a big decision to make.

In preparation for the Sec 3 subject combination choices, I advised Kelvin to do the best in his revisions and during his exams because the exams determine which subject combinations he could opt for. I emphasized that once the exams are over he couldn't go back and say "I should have done this or that" because it's already a done deal. He was happy with some of his results and a bit sad with others. Of course, there's always the "I should have done better" moments but there was really no point in looking into what has happened, more on what should we do to prepare for the next stage.

Since we both don't have any idea of what the implications of the subject combination choice were, I had to ask his form teacher as well as fellow parents for some of their personal experiences and advice. I even got good words of wisdom from his former primary school teacher. I consider myself, and my son, lucky for having these people around to get info and sound advice from. These proved to be very helpful in our decision-making.

Here were some of the useful info I got from them and how I applied it to our discussion of subject combinations:
  • Sec 3 subject combination exercise is not a first-come-first-serve basis. Don't rush into the selection process. If the course happens to be over-subscribed, the overall results will be considered. With this in mind, I discussed with Kelvin first what subjects he thinks he will be more interested in (therefore, will be able to learn and study better) and we worked our choices from there also considering which subject he did well in.
  • In the 6-subject vs 7-subject option, the latter was recommended. For Junior College admission (provided your child intends to go for JC) they look at L1R5 (1 language, 5 relevant subjects) which means 6 subjects will be needed. Students who choose 6 subjects will be at a disadvantage if they don't do well in 1 of the subjects. But for selected students (those who may be struggling with academics), a 6-subject combination will allow them to focus more of their time in those subjects alone. Those who choose 7-subject combination but struggle in Sec 3 may approach their teachers for advice if they can drop 1 subject when they go up to Sec 4.
  • If the student is interested to pursue a career in the medical field, then subject combination with pure sciences is the choice (provided the student scores well in sciences). Those who go for other interests like business or accounting or engineering can opt for other subject combinations. 
Our main concern when making our decision was the probability of acceptance in JC then university. After all, that's what will pave the way for a brighter future - better paying jobs, better opportunities (or so we believe). My husband and I both graduated with a university degree and we also hope our boys will have their uni degrees when the time comes.

When faced with the question of what he wants to pursue in university, Kelvin gave me a very honest answer which brought me back to my high school years - "I don't know yet", "How do I know?". True enough how could he know as early as now what he wants to study in university (when he gets to that point in his life) or what he wants to do in the future? Not everyone has a clear cut idea about what they want in life at this stage. They are still exploring possibilities after all. And choices and preferences change over time. I was already in my 3rd year in university when I finally realized I was in the "wrong" course. But when I did make the shift I succeeded and did very well. 

So from experience, the word of advice I shared with Kelvin was to follow his interests and his passion. Whatever he thinks he will be more interested in learning, we go for that. Because if a student is interested in what he is studying then he will learn well and he will perform well. We, as parents, will be there to support him in his decision whatever it may be. We won't be the type of parents who tend to force subjects or courses to their children because that's what they think will make their kids earn more in the future or because that's the "in" course. That just wouldn't end well.

For now, Kelvin has already made his choice of subject combinations for Sec 3 and has a battle plan. I am comfortable with what he has chosen because he based it on his academic performance and the subject he is interested in learning. He has been responsible enough to make important considerations in his decision-making and I am happy with that.

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