There have been many developments in the higher education sector in past decades, notably a rise in the number of institutions from which prospective students can choose when considering their further education. Along with the increase in public universities, there has also been substantial growth in the private higher education sector.
Faced with this increase in choice, it is natural for young people to be anxious about their decision – should I go to a public university, or should I opt for a private higher education institution? A massive part of this concern, is whether the qualification you receive after 3 or 4 years of study, will be respected in the world of work, whether it will position you well to land your first job, and whether it will help you build the career of your dreams.
"It is so important that future students don't base their decision on their gut feel or vague perceptions," says Dr Felicity Coughlan, Director of The Independent Institute of Education and Group Academic Director at ADvTECH, Africa's largest private education provider.
She says there is a concrete checklist that prospective students should measure their chosen institution against and, if all the boxes are checked, they can rest assured that their choice of institution can help them achieve their dreams.
"Ultimately, you have to make an informed choice based on your personal vision and circumstances, and you should not blindly follow a direction just because everyone else is going that route, or because you think that's the way to go," Coughlan says.
She advises prospective students, and their parents or guardians, to look at the following when considering or reviewing higher education institutions:
Most importantly, your institution must be registered and accredited. South Africa has a single quality assurance system and one National Qualifications Framework, which means that any institution offering a registered and accredited qualification – whether public university or private – is offering a qualification of equal standing. So if your institution is listed on the Department of Higher Education and Training's list* of registered higher education institutions and colleges, you don't need to be concerned about whether the institution is called a university, a college, or a private higher education institution.
This is because the only difference between public (University) institutions and private higher education institutions – which purely as a result of regulations may not refer to themselves as private universities - is that the public institutions get some subsidy from the government while the private institutions don't.
The world of work has changed dramatically over the past decade, and the economic climate is tough. That means prospective students should make sure that their qualification and their choice of institution is well respected by employers and in the market. Generic 3-year degrees with no practical experience do not provide a strong competitive advantage after graduation.
This means that young people should interrogate their institution about the following: curriculum, industry relationships, lecturer activity in the industry, and practical experience that form part of the studies.
The strongest qualifications today are the ones that are closely linked to specific careers and fields, and whose curricula are based on the competencies required to be work-ready from day one.
One way of determining industry recognition of your institution, is to ask about its career fairs, when the country's top companies visit campuses to meet students. If employers are lining up to meet the leaders of tomorrow at your institution, you can be assured that you are signing up for a quality education that is respected in the workplace.
Many students want to know that their qualifications will be internationally recognised. If this is important for you, you should ask your institution about international links and accreditation. Does your institution have links with international exchange programmes, or is it accredited by an independent international accreditation council? All good institutions should be able to provide satisfactory answers to your questions about your potential international opportunities.
CLASS SIZES & STUDENT SUPPORT
Class sizes and student support are crucial for ensuring student success and successful transition into the world of work. Individual attention, and being more than a number, can dramatically influence student outcomes. But an institution's involvement should go further than quality lectures and success at exam time. Good institutions will have career centres which assist students and alumni beyond academics.
"The higher education landscape looks entirely different today from the way things were even a decade ago. These days, prospective students have a lot more choice in terms of institution and qualification," says Coughlan.
"To really make the right choice in terms of the best grounding for your career dreams, you have to look beyond historical perceptions and gut feelings about which way is 'the best' way, and make sure your choice is based on the facts about what makes one institution and qualification stand out from the next one," she says.
In senior high school, the Mathematics syllabus becomes more challenging than ever, and many learners may be tempted to ditch the subject in favour of something less taxing, particularly if they intend to pursue a career that ostensibly doesn't require Maths.
But an expert advises learners and parents to think very carefully before doing so, as a solid grounding in the subject can make a lifelong difference not only to one's career prospects, but also to those areas of life which seemingly have nothing to do with numbers.
"At school we are told regularly that if we do not keep Mathematics as a subject we will not gain access to a Commerce or Science degree of our choice. What we often do not hear is that apart from providing access to limited enrolment degrees, sticking with Maths provides important life skills and a competitive advantage you won't find anywhere else," says Aaron Koopman, Head of Programme: Faculty of Commerce at The Independent Institute of Education, SA's largest private higher education provider.
Koopman says that even those learners opting for Maths Literacy should continue to take the mathematical steps and processes seriously, as a solid grounding in Maths truly sets one up for life.
"Maths teaches you so much – from the memory and recall skills you gained from learning your times tables, to the focus and concentration that mental arithmetic calculations strengthen, through to the most important skills of all related logic, reason and problem-solving," he says.
"Sure, you may never have to solve a quadratic equation again if you pursue a career in communication, but you will be required to understand a problem and the correct sequence of steps required to solve it, and there is no better place to get that discipline and expertise than from Maths."
Koopman says Maths also enables you to understand sequencing and planning – starting at the right point and working methodically to get the right answer. And when it does not work out the way it should, it is one's mathematical and analytical skills that help you to work through each step and figure out why things did not turn out the way they should have.
"Furthermore, Mathematics is believed to encourage creativity. Not only does it teach clear and sensible thought, but it exposes learners to challenging concepts and unresolved problems. Through this experience, learners can apply themselves in resolving these problems, often in a creative manner."
It is also now well understood that nature follows many mathematical rules - and proportion, balance and pattern are all mathematical concepts, notes Koopman.
"That balance between creative freedom and leveraging the repetitive sequence of patterns that results in things humans see as beautiful is at the heart of much art that has continued to appeal over the centuries.
"Maths also helps you develop persistence as you apply and discard solutions while trying to make sense of a problem. Maths is the bridge between the world we live in – think of the 'story sums' we started in our early grades - and the creative and brilliant solutions that have lie behind the world's best inventions."
And very importantly, companies are increasingly looking for graduates with powerful thinking and troubleshooting capacity - just the competencies that are developed and nurtured through mathematics.
"A young person who is mathematically proficient and has honed these skills will find that the world of work is a flexible and engaging space where how you learn is recognised as so much more valuable than what you learned. From understanding numbers and statistics - the 'hard skills' that Maths gives you - to applying systematic and logical reasoning or solving a human resource problem, a mind that has been exercised by Maths will reach strong conclusions quickly and have the skills to test itself," Koopman says.
"The systematic nature of Mathematics develops clear and coherent thought of students. This results in the ability to understand how and why things work in a certain way. In a business environment that is characterised by constant change, the analysis of one's environment becomes fundamentally important and through Mathematics, analytical skills and critical thinking is promoted. Mathematics equips learners with the ability to be proactive, detect problems and to develop suitable solutions earlier, which provides a competitive advantage regardless of one's field."
As we move into the fourth industrial revolution, in which technological innovation is at the forefront, graduates who did not necessarily study Maths but retained an engagement and respect for it will be well positioned to propel their organisations and respective divisions in the right direction, says Koopman.
Additionally, anyone leading a team or department regardless of industry will need to be financially literate and able to manage sometimes substantial budgets.
"Therefore we encourage learners to persevere and if necessary get additional help to master Maths, even if they feel they may not 'need' Maths in future. Regardless of what you are planning to do career-wise, a solid grounding in Maths will empower you for the rest of your life," Koopman says.
Many Matrics considering their study options for next year are finding themselves in the difficult position of being at odds with their parents or guardians about their preferred direction. While this conundrum has always been around, it is even more pronounced today, given that there are a myriad qualifications and careers that didn't exist even a few years ago.
"Parents often have expectations of the potential careers they see their children pursuing, and it can be hard for them and their children to get on the same page when the parents are in favour of the more traditional qualifications, while the child would prefer to pursue a qualification the parents don't know much about," says Nola Payne, Head of Faculty: Information and Communications Technology at The Independent Institute of Education, SA's largest private higher education institution.
She says it is important for families to have a respectful dialogue based on facts and research when they find themselves in this position.
"If you are the young adult who would like to pursue a career in, for instance, digital marketing or game design and development, but your parents would rather you do a BCom at a public university, there are ways to get them to see your side of things," she says.
"And if you are the concerned parent, worried that your child's preferred qualification is lightyears away from what you think they should be doing, there are also a few ways you can set your mind at ease," says Payne.
She says it can be helpful for parents and future students finding themselves at loggerheads to approach the situation as follows:
DO THE RESEARCH AND UNDERSTAND THE OPTIONS
There are many more study options today than in the past. The range of qualifications on offer has grown exponentially, while the institutions offering them have also multiplied. All registered and accredited higher education institutions – whether they be public universities or private – are registered by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). They are only registered if they have been accredited by the Council on Higher Education (CHE) and registered by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).
Looking up a qualification on the NQF is as easy as going to the SAQA website and typing in a few words. An institution should also be able to give you the SAQA identity number immediately. This means that prospective students and their parents can be confident about the bona fides of any qualification they want to pursue, provided that the institution is recognised by DHET and the programme is listed on the NQF which can be found on the SAQA website.
The world of work looks a lot different today than it did a decade ago, with numerous new and emerging careers on offer, such as brand management, big data analysis, app development, and digital design, to name a few. The traditional, generic 3-year degree is no longer a golden ticket to landing a job.
Prospective students would do well to pursue a career-focused qualification which fits well with their talents and interests, and which will prepare them to step into the workplace with confidence. Career-focused qualifications will often also include work-integrated learning, which allows students to build a portfolio of work throughout their time at varsity. This puts them in a much stronger position after graduation when applying for a position.
UNDERSTAND THE MARKETPLACE
What can you do with your qualification after graduation? That is an important question to ask before committing to a programme. A great way to determine the demand for a qualification and your future earning potential, is to look at career sites and job ads, to see how much demand there is in marketplace. Speaking to an advisor at a higher education institution's career centre can also go a long way to clarifying your prospects post-graduation.
UNDERSTAND THE MOTIVATION FOR STUDYING
Pursuing a degree requires a substantial investment of time and money. And handling the demands of higher education and young adulthood is not a walk in the park. The dropout rate among first years is very high, in part because the reason for heading to university wasn't sound.
So if the motivation for further study is for the sake of status rather than to lay the foundations for a specific and successful career, or if a student is only studying to fulfil the wishes of their parents, it would be better to wait, investigate all the options, and only apply when they have found something that gets them really excited about your future.
"Parents need to understand that the best approach now is to study and prepare for a world that's changing, and that the traditional way and 'safe' careers may not be the best course of action," says Payne.
"And prospective students need to understand that while the difference in opinion may be frustrating, it is up to them to present their case calmly, clearly and respectfully, with the research to back up the viability and prospects of their choice."
Matrics from the Class of 2018 should now be deep into preparing for their upcoming mock exams – which are only a few weeks away – and ultimately the final exams of their school careers in two months' time.
With only a handful of weeks left to revise, they now need to up the ante to ensure they get the best marks possible on their prelims. Doing so will enable them firstly to see which areas need more work before they write their finals, and will also ensure that they get the very best marks to allow them access to the higher education institution and qualification of their choice.
"Learners now need to go beyond reading and re-reading their textbooks and notes, and employ a more holistic strategy which will position them to bring their very best to the exam room," says Wonga Ntshinga, Senior Head of Programme: Faculty of ICT at The Independent Institute of Education, SA's largest and most accredited private higher education institution.
Ntshinga says that at this stage of the game, the PROVES method is a great approach to follow, as it helps to cement the academic work in the learner's mind, while expanding understanding from different angles. Additionally, it gets learners in the right frame of mind, to withstand the anxiety and stress which can negatively impact performance.
The PROVES method can be broken down as follows:
- PRACTISE by writing past papers or example questions rather than just reading. Most schools should make past papers available to their learners, but it is also a good idea to get ones in addition to those provided by your school.
Good higher education institutions also help matric learners by providing past papers, so go visit a registered and accredited one in your area, and ask a student advisor to assist.
As a bonus, the student advisor might even be able to talk through some of your concerns about the exams and your post-matric options, which will further help to mitigate any anxiety you may have.
- REFRESH by making sure you are eating, sleeping and exercising enough. Cramming into the early hours of the morning before an exam will leave you stressed, exhausted and unable to focus. It is important now to look after your physical and mental health as well as throwing your weight behind your books. Learners still have enough time to cover what they need to cover ahead of the exams, but then the plan needs to be put into motion right away, to avoid last-minute panic and the resultant impact on their physical wellbeing.
- ORGANISE yourself, your time and your work. Having a neat working environment and a clear plan for what you need to do and study every day, as well as having the relevant materials sorted and on hand, will go a long way to reduce anxiety and optimise learning.
Follow the plan closely but avoid spending hours every day on the plan rather than the implementation of the plan. Don't allow yourself to feel overwhelmed, but focus on the small efforts – hour after hour, day after day – which, when compounded, will ultimately make a big impact.
- VISUALISE by using colour and mind maps and other strategies rather than just words, so that you can use more of your brain.
- EXPLAIN by answering questions or telling friends or relatives about your work. It is not until you have tried to explain what you know that you can assess if you know enough to answer the questions.
- SOCIAL MEDIA can be used as an academic tool to expand your understanding and grasp of your work. This can best be done by getting together a study group of equally dedicated and committed peers, and using the various platforms for specific purposes. Being part of a study group helps you track your progress, can quickly help you clarify your understanding of issues or set you on the right track if you have misunderstood something, and it also acts as an early warning system if you are falling behind.
The various channels and apps can be used as follows:
GOOGLE to find a wealth of online resources. From how to handle exam stress, to self-marking mock papers, study timetable templates and content/concept lists. Do a search for "Matric Exams 2018" which will provide many excellent results which can assist you in your preparation and motivation.
A dedicated WHATSAPP study group enables discussion, last minute clarifications and sharing of notes. It is best to align study breaks within the group, and put your mobile on airplane mode while you're hitting the books. When taking a break, connect with your peers via WhatsApp to share your understanding, successes and concerns.
FACEBOOK groups for specific subjects is a great way to share materials and visuals, while enabling group discussions.
When it's time to take a break from the written word, go to YOUTUBE to find videos related to the content you are studying. Sometimes seeing something explained in video format will clarify things you just weren't able to pin down while going through your textbooks.
"The next few weeks and months are going to be taxing for learners preparing for their final exams, but by following a strict study strategy and doing what needs to be done every day – without allowing panic and procrastination to set in – there is still sufficient time even for learners who aren't quite where they should be at the moment," Ntshinga says.
"And by incorporating this strategy into their approach right now, many learners will also find a new feeling of empowerment to take on the additional burden that higher education will bring."
Matrics who are tempted to take a year off after their school careers – whether it is because they feel they just need a break, or because they don't yet know if or what they want to study – should think twice about their decision, an education expert says.
"There are significant implications to taking a so-called gap year instead of directly entering studies," says Peter Kriel, General Manager at The Independent Institute of Education, SA's largest private higher education provider.
Chief among these, is the fact that graduates who went to study straight after school, and who completed their qualification within the required timeframe, are significantly better off than matriculants who elected to enter the workplace right away or who opted for a gap year, particularly if that gap year is unproductive.
"A gap year doesn't necessarily mean that you take off a year to travel the world and pretty much do nothing as the term was understood in the past. The concept has evolved to include other activities, such as getting a job after Matric to earn some money or gain work experience, or volunteering or even undergoing a structured programme," says Kriel.
However, while these options are still better than just relaxing for a year before entering studies, they may still put you behind your peers in terms of studying and earning potential, he says.
Another risk with taking a gap year, is that one loses one's "study muscles", says Kriel.
"It is completely understandable that the idea of getting away from the books after the demands of one's final year at school is a very attractive idea for many. However after that year, getting back into the habit of studying and focusing on academics are major challenges which are best avoided."
But Kriel adds that there are ways to make a gap year work, which will lessen its impact on a person's long-term success in the workplace. And obviously, where a young person is really not sure what they want to study, a gap year as long as it is productive is a better investment than a failed year of post-school study.
"If you do decide to take a gap year, it is crucial that you at least do something to improve your skills and competencies during that time. A great option in this instance, is to do some distance or part-time courses."
This is a particularly attractive option for those Matriculants who are hesitant to sign up for a full degree straight away because they are still uncertain of what they want to do with their life.
"Doing some short or distance courses allows you to investigate your options and interests without the financial and time commitments required of full-time degree study," notes Kriel.
"This means that you can get a better idea of where your passion and talents lie, while at the same time earning some certification that will make your gap year less of a 'hole' in your CV.
"And finally, staying with the books, even without the commitment of having to study full-time and the ability to study at your own pace, means that you keep your brain working and geared for when you do sign up for full qualification study later."
It is important to also note that some higher education institutions will not keep your "offer" warm for you, so if you get in to the qualification of your dreams it is rarely prudent to delay taking up the place, says Kriel.
"But for those who have legitimate reasons for not going straight into further studies, our advice is definitely to ensure that you don't lose sight of the long game, and that you keep learning even if you are already earning."
Kriel says the time should also be used to actively investigate future study options to limit time-wasting later.
"Look at all the higher education institutions, whether it be a public university or private, and their offerings. Find a qualification that will make you employable - one that is recognised by employers and has a curriculum that is relevant in the workplace of today.
"You must also choose an institution whose curricula and learning processes enable you to master work-ready skills so that you have a competitive 'hit the ground running' advantage. Having a portfolio of work at graduation, for example, allows you to instantly showcase what you have learnt and what makes you an attractive prospect to potential employers.
"Finally, you must choose an institution that will give you the best possible chance of succeeding and completing your qualification in the minimum time. Every additional year of study leaves a long-term financial impact, so consider things such as student support, class sizes, and the quality of lecturing and facilities."
With the holidays almost over and preliminary exams on the horizon, Grade 12s are on the cusp of entering one of the most stressful periods in their school careers. The relatively calm few weeks they still have ahead of them should therefore be used to plan their post-school options, which will free up their physical and emotional energy so that they can wholly focus on doing their best in their final exams.
"Deciding what to study and where to study can be hugely stressful, particularly when you don't have a clear idea of what you want to do with your life, which is the case for many thousands of learners," says Natasha Madhav, Senior Head of Programme: Faculty of ICT at The Independent Institute of Education, SA's largest private higher education provider.
"It is therefore important that learners don't add this burden of anxiety when trying to prepare for exams. This can be avoided by taking the time right now to investigate their options and, ideally, already submitting their applications for the qualifications and institutions of their choice," she says.
She says the most important advice she has for prospective students, given the difficult economic climate and associated challenges of finding suitable employment after graduation, is to look at qualifications and institutions that will prepare them for a specific career and the world of work.
Additionally, they should ideally line up at least one or two additional options, as they may find their circumstances and preferences having changed by the end of the year.
"The worst courses of action, are to sign up for an arbitrary qualification with no real understanding of how you can leverage it post-graduation, spending valuable time and money on something that may not lead to a career, or following your friends' lead because you are not clear on your own aspirations," she says.
Madhav says learners who don't know what to study, should consider what kind of work they would find interesting, and then work backwards to determine a suitable qualification.
"It is also worth remembering that there are literally new fields and careers opening up every year – things that your teachers, parents and friends may not even have heard about," she says.
"So don't settle on a university and then only investigate what they offer in terms of qualifications. Do it the other way around – determine what you would like to do, determine what qualification would enable you to do that, and then find out which institutions offer that."
If, for instance, a learner is interested in Game Design, it makes sense to find an institution that offers that qualification rather than doing a generic 3-year degree and then attempting to break into the industry thereafter.
Or if they are interested in brand management, to determine the best place where they can study this, rather than doing a general business undergraduate degree.
The same principle goes for a host of other career-focused fields, such as copywriting and communications, digital design and marketing, IT and networking qualifications, and business qualifications.
"The world of work is rapidly evolving, and to be competitive in the job market, candidates must try and match their qualification as closely as possible to the work they would want to do one day," says Madhav.
"Making that determination takes time and clarity of thought in the face of all the options out there, which is why Matrics should make the best of the few weeks of grace they have left and get their future plans sorted now."
The private higher education sector has been waiting for almost two decades for a fair playing field alongside public universities, and the time has come for the amendments to the Higher Education Act – widely welcomed when announced last year – to be implemented, an expert says.
"The Act now makes it explicitly possible for a private higher education institution that meets the stipulated standards to take its rightful place beside public universities, in line with how private universities are positioned internationally," says Dr Felicity Coughlan, Director of The Independent Institute of Education, SA's largest private higher education provider.
"Deeply hidden in the old version of The Act was the possibility for private institutions to become private universities if they met the criteria set by the Department. Yet the Department did not set those criteria and thus kept private institutions from exercising their right to be called Universities if they met the criteria."
Coughlan notes that the new version of The Act defined three future institutional types for all Higher Education institutions: Universities, University Colleges and Higher Education Colleges.
"The problem is that it all stopped there, potentially because implementation requires drafting and applying criteria that have the potential consequence for some public Universities of stripping them of University status. It has been suggested that the Department would need to start with the public Universities and this is where the negotiation and engagement must happen first. It does not take much imagination to understand why this is not a course of action likely to be followed soon.
"And therefore, the process has not started and does not appear to be on anyone's agenda anytime soon."
Coughlan says that the growth in private higher education in the last decade is evidence that the general public has realised the distinction between public and private higher education does not lie in the naming rules (due to regulations, private higher education institutions may not call themselves private universities, even though they are subject to the same oversight and regulations).
"The broader public now knows and understands that South Africa has a progressive and unitary quality assurance system in which the degrees and other qualifications of public and private institutions are subject to the same accreditation and registration process, and that students therefore can choose where they study based on personal needs and preferences rather than on having to select an institutional type on the basis of whether or not it gets subsidy from the state," she says.
"Progressive professions such as engineering, accountancy, teaching, nursing and psychology have also taken this unitary quality assurance system and the right of students to choose where to study on board. The professional associations connected to these professions apply the same rules for further accreditation of institutions and registration of professionals to the public and private institutions, and graduates from the private institutions are equally able to write the exams to become registered professionals alongside the graduates of public institutions.
Coughlan says that is the correct approach in a democratic society where quality and mastery of a body of knowledge and values achieved through what you studied rather than technocratic exclusionary rules about where you studied determine if you are fit and proper to be member of a profession.
"The current hiatus serves some interests and simply put, the failure to implement the 2017 changes in the Act gives ammunition for those still trying to keep the private sector at bay. In an ideal situation, the work would begin, and the process would unfold. Private institutions are even arguing that perhaps the Department should be expedient and begin the process with private institutions. If the criteria are developed and implemented for private institutions first, then those public institutions which potentially no longer meet the criteria for the category they wish to be recognised as, would have several years to attend to the gaps."
As the private sector has been waiting for almost two decades for a fair playing field, beginning the process with them would not only redress that inequity but it would also avoid the political hot potato of having to change the designation of any public universities in the short term.
"This would be a just and fair outcome," says Coughlan.
"it is difficult not to be concerned that the amendments to the Act were not made to resolve the impasse of the past 15 years but rather just to buy more time. Time will tell, but in the interim the public is learning to appreciate the range of choices open to young people who want to study, and that tide will in any case not be stemmed."
Despite their best efforts, many learners and students currently writing their mid-year exams are having to face up to the fact that their performance on papers written thus far isn't what they hoped it would be. There is however still time to get back on track, and they should guard against catastrophizing their current situation, an education expert says.
"It can be hugely disappointing when you've put in the hours, did all you can to prepare, and then still find yourself sitting in the exam room awash with anxiety because you can't recall and reflect what you've learned," says Dr Gillian Mooney, Dean: Academic Development and Support at The Independent Institute of Education, SA's largest private higher education institution.
She says learners and students who find themselves in this position should avoid panic and regain perspective so that they are able to do their best on their remaining papers.
"Firstly, you should recognise and acknowledge what is happening. Mid-exam meltdowns are not unusual, and can happen to anyone, even to usually high-performing candidates," she says.
"By facing the situation head-on, you can take back control and ensure you do better on upcoming subjects, which will go some way towards normalising your aggregate marks."
Dr Mooney says there are a number of reasons why students and learners may experience mid-exam meltdowns, including the general anxiety and stress related to writing exams, lack of sleep, burnout, and of course inadequate preparation.
At this stage, it is important to take a step back and take stock of the situation, put things into perspective, and devise a strategy for the remaining tests and future ones, she says.
LOOK FORWARD, DON'T LOOK BACK
What's done is done, and it serves no purpose to fret about papers you have already written. Put it behind you, and focus on what still lies ahead. Undertake to do whatever you can to ensure you do as well as possible on your remaining tests, and let go of the disappointment of previous papers which will only negatively impact your future efforts.
PUT THINGS INTO PERSPECTIVE
Your academic career is a marathon, not a race. Each day provides a new opportunity to do better, and in the long run a few papers on which you didn't do well won't spell the end of your dreams and aspirations.
REVIEW YOUR EXPECTATIONS
If you are consistently not performing in certain areas, you may need to review your approach. Perhaps you require a certain subject to gain admission to a specific institution or course, which is why you continue with it despite repeated setbacks. If this is the case, it would be a good idea to consider whether you are on the right track in terms of your plans for your future and career. Chances are good that there are other options out there for which you will qualify, and which may in fact be a better fit for you.
PLAN YOUR STRATEGY AND LOOK TO THE FUTURE
Resolve that, from today, you are taking back control. Ensure you stick to a schedule of eating healthy, getting enough sleep and exercise, and upping the ante on your preparation, for instance by putting in an extra hour or two to complete a past exam paper.
You can also add in some fun, alternative ways of studying. For instance if you're unsure about a section of work, find some YouTube videos on the topic. As an example, if you search for "isiZulu past papers" or just "isiZulu", you will find a multitude of past papers and memos as well as tutorials to assist with vocabulary and grammar. The same can be done for pretty much any other subject or topic.
BAG SOME WINS TO GET YOUR CONFIDENCE BACK
Find something every day that will boost your confidence, and allow you to prove to yourself that you are able to work hard and improve on past performance.
"Bad results are not the end of the road, and you still have ample opportunity to improve your performance if you take control right now," says Dr Mooney.
"The most important thing is that you don't allow panic to set in. Face your situation in a calm and pragmatic way, and take all the concrete steps you can to take back control. Staying calm is your most important weapon in the exam room, as is keeping a sense of perspective at all times, and endeavouring only to do your best in whichever situation you find yourself."
As thousands of South African learners enter their June exams, an expert says that there are a few ways to optimise limited study time without resorting to cramming.
"Revision time is over, and learners must ensure they use the time they have between exams in the most effective way. While cramming may seem the most natural thing to do at this stage, it is actually counter-productive and likely to increase anxiety and fatigue," says Nola Payne, Head of Faculty: Information and Communications Technology at The Independent Institute of Education, SA's largest private higher education institution.
She says there are creative – and entertaining - ways in which learners can utilise their time between papers, which will also ensure they maintain a good work-life balance during this taxing time.
"The most important thing to do at this stage, is to take stock of where you are at, and then draw up a detailed roster for the next few weeks, which clearly shows how much time you have available between subjects. Then you need to decide how you are best going to use that time to ensure your preparation goes beyond reading textbooks over and over again."
Payne says there are 3 great ways to study while exams are in full swing, which go beyond repetitive and rote learning.
- GET SOCIAL
"By getting social, we don't mean diving into facebook or Instagram," she says.
Instead, learners should form study groups for individual subjects, which will allow them to take their understanding beyond the books.
"Set up a WhatsApp challenge with your friends, where you can send each other questions about a subject. This facilitates valuable discussions, deepening insight and highlighting areas you may have missed. Keep it fun but focused, and see if you can 'trip up' your friends with your questions. While it might not be so much fun finding out that there is something your friends know that you don't, this method helps you identify areas need work before it is too late."
- GET ACTIVE
It is very important to exercise during exams, to give your body and mind a break. If you share a study timetable with your friends, you can optimise your time by, for instance, going for a run together during which time you can talk over upcoming papers, points you don't understand, and questions you believe are likely to arise.
"It is important that you and your friends synchronise your timetables, so that your breaks coincide for the most part. By ensuring your downtime is scheduled at the same time as theirs, you avoid a situation where you want to have a chat when they are focused on their work and vice versa," says Payne.
She adds that, by having the same breaks, learners can also act as a conscience for each other to check that everyone is working when they should be, as having to account to them may give one that extra bit of motivation to keep going.
"Then, when taking breaks together, you can talk over issues in a low-pressure environment such as while exercising. Your friends may have valuable insights and support to provide, just as you may be able to help them with your own unique insights.
"Getting active together while not losing focus of the task at hand means you benefit from the feel-good chemicals released in your brain as a result of exercising and socialising, while at the same time increasing your depth of understanding of a subject," says Payne.
- GET WRITING
One of the best ways to cement your preparation with limited time on hand, is to write past exam papers, Payne says.
"Get your friends together and hold a mock exam, imitating the exam conditions with set times and no peeking in textbooks. Afterwards, switch papers with each person marking another's paper. This approach has the dual benefit of making you more comfortable with exam conditions, while also solidifying your knowledge in a low-pressure environment."
"It is very important to spread your time between all your subjects, and to not go down the rabbit hole of getting lost in only one subject, for instance Mathematics," says Payne.
"At this stage of the game, balance is key, and goes a long way towards countering the negative impact of stress and anxiety.
"If you are serious about achieving the best marks to enable you access to the post-school opportunities you desire, introducing creative study methods such as the above will go a long way toward not only improving your performance, but also to cultivate a love of learning for its own sake, which is vitally important in a rapidly changing world of work," says Payne.