Subject selection: How to choose?

Textbook: Students are encouraged to look at their skills and interests when choosing elective subjects.Deciding which electives to study in Years 9 and 10 and for the HSC years can be a challenge. For some it is a chance to hone the skills they have naturally, while others are guided by future career and study pathways.

Sydney Catholic Schools’ Head of Secondary Curriculum Paul Cahill said good elective choices were ones that held an appropriate level of challenge for students.

“One of the things that should be a hallmark of subject selection is the idea of academic optimism and expectation: that students take subjects that are appropriately challenging for them,” he said. “It’s not simply a functional thing that becomes a pathway into university or the workforce, but something that gives them a good level of stretch – a challenge – and a sense of satisfaction.”

Mr Cahill said electives are formally chosen in Term 3. Different schools take different approaches to delivering information about the subjects available, an average of 15 to 20 options.

The subjects offered are determined by class size and many ‘lines’ on a timetable, where diverse subjects are grouped to run at the same time. Most students take five or six subjects in the final two years of high school.

“In the ideal situation, students choose to study subjects which they feel a real connection to and ones which they are passionate about. As with any endeavour in life, if you have passion for something you’re going to invest the time, effort and energy,” Mr Cahill said. “Students who do that then accrue the necessary learning skills. It can be within a particular discipline or it can be through their own discipline and approach to study. This is mainly the dedication and commitment to push through when things get hard and to think outside the box.”

Most popular non-compulsory HSC subjects at Sydney Catholic schools in 2015:

  • Business Studies – 1355 students, 6.95%
  • Business Services – 400 students, 6.26%
  • Legal Studies – 835 students, 4.15%
  • Senior Science – 474 students, 1.67%
  • Economics – 387 students, 1.47%

Source: SCS, calculated by percentage of students enrolled above state average (also shown above).

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