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Academic gap year may be an alternative route for matrics

Matrics from the Percy Mdala High School in Knysna get their results. Picture: Ewald Stander

Matrics from the Percy Mdala High School in Knysna get their results. Picture: Ewald Stander

Published Feb 10, 2022

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An academic bridging year or academic gap year also serves well for many matrics who are unsure about what to study and need more time for considering their options before committing to a university course.

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For those who don’t meet university admission requirements or want to better their matric results, an academic gap year may be an alternative route to tertiary studies or the world of work where further studies after school are becoming increasingly Important.

The Academy for Environmental Leadership’s Leopoldt van Huyssteen said: “Gap years should be structured with guidance to provide students with opportunities that are tailored to their need to find focus for their future.”

According to reports, the gap between school and tertiary education is huge in many aspects, causing thousands of students to fall by the wayside each year.

Recent studies have shown this phenomenon to result in serious throughput problems and very low student success rates in higher education. Failing a year at university is financially costly, and often a mental setback due to failed expectations.

The Gap Year Association (GYA), an international association based in the US, notes that almost all gap-year students enrol or resume higher education post-gap year.

“Approximately 90% of students who took a gap year globally returned to tertiary studies within a year. In 2020, nearly half of GYA respondents reported that their gap year experience increased their likelihood of completing a bachelor’s degree,” it said.

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Researchers at Stellenbosch University recently pointed out that, of every 100 children who start school in a given year, 60 proceed to write matric, 37 of them pass, 14 pass with marks that qualify them for university entrance (the ‘Bachelor’s pass’), 12 go to university, and four gain a degree within six years.

Many universities invest in focused academic programmes that can serve as a bridging year for students whose matric marks for maths and science were too low to gain entry to courses in science, technology, engineering, or maths. Also on offer are extended degree programmes that spread out the first academic year over two years.

The University of the Free State, for example, offers ‘university access programmes’ that allow students to ‘perform themselves into’ higher education. These programmes include a higher certificate in economic and management sciences or natural and agricultural sciences (with maths, chemistry, and agriculture study options). In addition, successful students gain access to appropriate further university degree studies with credit recognition and/or recognition of prior learning.

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Stellenbosch University’s SciMathUS programme offers matrics who passed with an average of at least 60% (but without an exemption for degree studies) a second opportunity to better their results in mathematics and science so that they may re-apply for university programmes with specific entry requirements.

The programme aims to grow the pool of students who qualify for access into courses where maths and physical sciences are prerequisites, specifically by enabling them to rewrite the National Senior Certificate (NSC) in these subjects.

Huyssteen advises: “Don’t sit in uncertainty. Consider an academic gap year programme.”

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