Before Selecting a Course
Read this advice carefully:
Begin by thinking about why you're in school at all: we educate most young people up to the age of 18 and beyond, and we didn't always do this.
So why do we do it?
It's because we want young people to enjoy rich and rewarding lives. And because we want people to make the world a better place for everyone to live in. Education is not designed to prepare you for a particular job, or simply to help you earn money: it is to make you think about who you are, about your place in the world, and about how you can enrich others' lives as well as your own. It is also to give you the skills to succeed in the world - but the nature of that success will be determined by the lives you lead rather than by the subjects you study.
Now think about three big questions:
What do you enjoy?
- You should try to take subjects that you enjoy, find interesting or even find a little bit challenging. Some choices are made for you - you have to study English, for example, until you finish Year 12 - but if a subject is optional, you should think first about whether or not you find the lessons engaging and interesting.
- And you need to think a little bit about yourself when you decide what you enjoy doing. What matters to you? What do you think about outside school? What do you choose to do when you have free time? What kind of reading do you do? Let's say you enjoy travelling: well, do you enjoy subjects that show you how people in other parts of the world live? If you do, perhaps Geography or Languages may be good options for you? Perhaps you're fascinated about how people used to live in different parts of the world, and it's the history of other countries that grabs you? Maybe History is a good choice. Or maybe it's the financial systems that operate in other places that is interesting? Well, how about Economics?
- Think hard as well about the subjects you have taken so far in school. Sometimes it's too easy to discard a subject you have taken in the junior years to take something new and different.
- There are lots of ways to think about this. Do you enjoy working out how things work? A Technology or a Science subject may be a good option. Are you interested in the way things work at a more molecular level - is it the fundamental principles that really get you thinking? Chemistry or Physics may be for you. Perhaps it's the way nature works? Okay: perhaps Biology.
- These are simple questions, and the answers here are just starting points, suggestions.
- The most important thing is that you spend time really, really thinking about who you are, what you enjoy, and how different subjects can tap into your interests.
How can I make sure that I have a balanced education?
This is a very important question too. The school has made some decisions for you:
It may seem that we are giving you more and more choice as you get older - and we are to an extent - but your choices in the senior years are often determined by the choices you have made in the junior years, so you need to think ahead at every step.
The school has a simple principle: we want you to study subjects from as many different areas of the curriculum as possible.
Why do we want you to do this?
We want you to do this for a number of reasons.
- The first, and most important, is that we want you to become a rounded human being with an interest in being an engaged, reflective member of the human race! None of us knows what's in store for you, but we do know that if you are widely educated you will have a better chance of making the right decisions for yourself and for others in the future.
- The second is that we want you to have as rich and rewarding a life as possible. That means that we want you to understand how the world works - in every possible way - and to have an appreciation of the things that make life worth living. That includes literature, art, music, sport, technology - some of these things are described by some people as 'extras'. We don't think that: we think that being able to enjoy the finer things in life is essential.
- We also think that languages are important. We don't mind what languages you study, because we think the study of all languages is valuable. But we do think that they are an important part of a balanced education, and that they are an important part of being a citizen of the world. In most countries, students study at least one foreign language until they leave school.
- The third is that we want you to have as many choices as possible for your own future. We will not let you restrict your options too much, because our job is not to prepare you for a particular career. It is to give you as many options as you can for the future.
- So when you make your choices, think: have I got a balance that will make me engaged and reflective about the world? Will my choices help me enjoy my life in the future? Will they let me keep my options open?
Do my choices leave my future career options as open as possible?
- Let's start with universities. We are very lucky in New Zealand that we have universities that understand that many young people are not sure what they will be doing in their futures. The first year in most courses involves a range of subjects - this is even true for something like Medicine. What this means is that universities are good at saying: we want to know that you have done well at school and are able to cope with our courses, but the subjects that you have taken are only part of the story. There are some exceptions - Maths and Physics are essential for Engineering, for example - but what they really want is breadth.
- Let's look at Medicine. The first year is Biomedical Science. At the end of the first year, there are exams that are difficult to pass - and they have interviews! Taking Chemistry and Biology seems like a sensible choice, but some people will tell you that, because there is a simple Physics paper in the first year, this means that you should take Physics as a subject. But the people at the university tell us that they're interested in people who will make good doctors, not people who simply know everything about Science. There are many other subjects that may end up being more relevant than you think they are.
- For those of you not going to university, try to keep your options as open as possible, because you do not know what you will end up doing in the future. You can pretty much guarantee that some kind of study will be involved, whether it's at a college or 'on the job', so building up your ability to study in different ways is really important.
Think hard about these three questions, then talk to other people, and try to make the decisions that will make you happy, develop a broad range of skills, and keep your options open for the future!