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According to new research by Cambridge International, 85% of South African students aspire to continue their studies at university once they have left a school. In addition, many still aspire to go into the more traditional, highly respected careers like medicine and dentistry (13%), engineering (13%) and psychology and psychiatry (11%).
The first ever Global Education Census by leading international education organisation Cambridge International aimed to find out what life is like in schools around the world today for students aged 12-19 and their teachers. The 2018 Census looked at other aspects of modern education including students’ favourite subjects, extracurricular activities offered by schools, homework and how schools celebrate success.
The census found the most popular subjects chosen by students in South Africa are English Language (95%), Maths (93%) and other languages (80%), followed by Accounting (29%) and Geography (17%). In fact, more South African students take Accounting and Geography than any other country surveyed.
In contrast, South African students’ favourite subject is actually Biology (40%), followed by Maths (37%) and English Language (26%). This is similar to the favourite subjects of students around the world who said their favourite subjects are Maths (38%), Biology (29%), Chemistry (23%) and Physics (23%).
Students in South Africa aspire to work for a well-established organisation after completing their tertiary education. They also lead the way with the highest number of students globally (8%) who plan to take a year off after finishing matric.
Juan Visser, Cambridge International’s Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa, said: 'For a successful career, students need to work hard and be dedicated to their studies. Education is a very important tool for everyone to succeed in life, as it is no secret that a good education has the power to change a life. It is important that educators and counsellors equip students with good career advice to make the right subject choices ahead of applying to university.'
Wallace Isaacs, Deputy Director: Student Recruitment and Enrolment at the University of Pretoria, said: 'Going to university after high school is a journey that is still expected for students in South Africa by many parents, educators and the students themselves. We do find a significant number of students aspire to pursue careers in what is considered more conventional but well respected fields like medicine and engineering. However, with the advance of technology and a globalisation, there are now a greater variety of professions that students can consider. For example the new Masters Programme in Information Technology: Big Data Science which didn’t exist a few years ago.
'It is however important that students plan well in advance to ensure they select the right subjects early in high school that will enable them to gain entry to their desired university course. It’s always advisable for students to seek advice from a career guidance counsellor at their school or contact the university of their choice to get the right information.'
Other key findings from South Africa include:
Allen van Blerk, Principal, St Charles College Pietermaritzburg, said: 'The key to success is the amount of time students spend with access to an enthusiastic, expert teacher. It is the quality of teaching and feedback on a daily basis, and the engagement of the student in pursuing conceptual understanding, that leads to deep subject understanding.
The next revolution is harnessing technology to allow personalized learning to take place in traditional spaces. The challenge of providing students with personal, specialized assistance at the point when they reach a learning obstacle is the new frontier. I am pleased to find that we are finally on the verge of being able to use technology in simple ways that effectively help learning to proceed, without sacrificing rigor for entertainment.'
Globally, one of the most interesting findings of the report is that one in three school pupils does no exercise at school. This is despite growing concern by leading global health experts that childhood obesity and unhealthy lifestyles are on the rise.
More than a third of students (37%) worldwide don’t exercise at school. What’s more, girls are less likely than boys to play sport at school, with two in five female students (41%) saying they don’t take part in school sports, versus 28% of male students.
Cambridge Assessment International Education prepares school students for life, helping them develop an informed curiosity and a lasting passion for learning. We are part of the University of Cambridge.
Our Cambridge Pathway gives students a clear path for educational success from ages 5 – 19. Schools can shape the curriculum around how they want students to learn – with a wide range of subjects and flexible ways to offer them. It helps students discover new abilities and a wider world, and gives them the skills they need for life, so they can achieve at school, university and work.