The Canberra Times

EducationAdvertising Feature

Experts illuminate choicesAdvertising Feature

ELECTIVES: "It comes down to what the student will most enjoy," says Kerina Puttman of Murdoch University. Photo: Shutterstock

According to some teaching experts, high school days are fraught with tough education decisions, but students and parents could be making them harder than they should be.

One of the most tortuous processes can be choosing what subjects to study - often years before children know what they want to be.

The common competing factors are an eye for a specific career versus what could be termed as an all-around approach to learning.

Heart and mind

It is a debate about classical education - with emphasis on subjects such as history, literature and language studies - as opposed to subjects with a vocational focus.

Fear of changing your mind and missing out on something 'better' later on is also a strong motivation.

"It is important to know that regardless of what students choose to study in their final years at school, they're not being locked into anything," Murdoch University future students senior manager Kerina Puttman said.

Her team works primarily with high school students and runs workshops with them.

"Some students know quite early they want to pursue a specific occupation, and they don't deviate," Ms Puttman said.

"Others may like to consider a wide range of course options and explore in more depth the types of careers they may lead to.

"The decision to make a selection between a few viable options for some can occur just weeks prior to starting at uni."

Ms Puttman believes choosing a direction is not just a matter of following your heart instead of your mind, or vice versa.

"What we're talking about here is interest (heart) and aptitude (mind)," she said.

"If a student has learning areas that they both enjoy, and are passing, then the subject choices become clearer.

"It's hard to do well in a subject that the student isn't interested in, or that they will struggle in.

"Both a classical education and a vocational education will provide learning and skills that are transferrable to studying at university.

"It comes down to what the student will most enjoy, and if they need to meet any subject prerequisites for their chosen university course.

"Students are not their end-of-school results," Ms Puttman said.


She offers words of reassurance:

  1. Year 12 results do not define the person, nor what career they will end up pursuing.
  2. It's OK not to know what you're going 'to be' (occupationally) when starting a degree.
  3. Universities offer a wide range of entry pathways if a student doesn't initially meet requirements.
  4. There is a lot of flexibility to change courses when at university.

Sara Ratner is a teacher and executive with leading Australian education technology services provider, Janison. She helps Janison deliver the platform for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Programme for International Student Assessment for schools. Australia is one of 15 countries using this assessment of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science.

"My advice would always be to play to your strengths when it comes to subject selection," Mrs Ratner said

"If you're doing something you love, it's going to drive your engagement; you're motivated, you're going to do well."

Mrs Ratner adds the proviso that students should maximise their options. "There are certain universities you can't get into if you don't do a maths course or a science course, for example."

Mrs Ratner also believes the decisions are made early, even before the child reaches high school. She asks the same three questions to her daughter's primary school teachers every year:

  • Is my child happy?
  • Is my child kind to others?
  • Does she have friends?

"If I'm raising a good human who is well-liked and has social skills to be able to get along with others, I know that the rest will come," Mrs Ratner said.

"It's perhaps a little bit of reframing of how we view the conversations we have around our children's development and growth.

"Making sure we're looking at the best interests of the whole child - and maximising all the opportunities."

Inquisitive minds become inspiring leaders at CGGSAdvertising Feature

With a proud 95-year legacy of leading, service-focused, holistic education in the ACT, Canberra Girls Grammar School (CGGS) says it has established itself as a progressive, forward-thinking institution, where young, inquisitive minds are challenged to become confident, reflective leaders.

CGGS is the first and only school in the ACT to offer a full, continuous IB learning pathway from the early leaning centre to year 12. Photo: Supplied

CGGS is co-educational from early learning to the end of year 3, and then girls only from years 4 to 12.

This year, with the introduction of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Program, CGGS becomes the first and only school in the ACT to offer a full, continuous IB learning pathway from the early leaning centre to year 12.

The International Baccalaureate program offers a rigorous continuum of international education for students aged 3 to 19. In line with the Australian curriculum, the program empowers young people to be lifelong learners and compassionate global citizens. By studying a range of subjects including foreign languages, humanities, sciences and arts, the IB encourages students to make connections across both the curriculum as well as the world around them.

"Whether it be through unique programs like The House, which prepares young women for a career in politics and government, or through extensive co-curricular offerings such as our renowned Music Academy, the Dance Company, the Podium Program and the Duke of Edinburgh program, CGGS is a place where your child is empowered to be their best self," a spokesperson said.

"With CGGS' research-based pastoral care, personal development-focused Signature Programs and a highly-skilled team of passionate educators, we are committed to developing independent and principled young people who are not afraid to tackle the big issues of our time. Upon graduation, they will join a network of over 100000 alumni across the world, featuring Rhodes scholars, Olympians, award-winning filmmakers, aerospace engineers, public interest lawyers and a Supreme Court judge."

To learn more visit or contact their admissions team on 02 6202 6419 or email Also register now for the open day scheduled for March 18, and explore their two campuses to discover how a CGGS education can support your child in discovering that anything is possible.

The program empowers young people to be lifelong learners and compassionate global citizens