How parents can help disappointed children

Come results day, school-leavers separate into three groups of matriculants; the thrilled high-fiving students who passed matric with university exemption; their bitter counterparts who perhaps just missed university entry; and those who unfortunately didn’t make it.

In the case of the last two categories, not being awarded university acceptance does not need to be the defining note of their future careers.

Once the tears have been dried, rational parental thought is required as a career still needs to be forged for your child. There are two types of tertiary educational institutions; the traditional public university variety where access is gained based on results, and limited spaces mean the competition is severe. Transformation prerogatives can further limit spaces for those with higher grades. Then there is the private education model, where good grades are still a requirement but many institutions have programmes in place to aid those who maybe didn’t quite make the university exemption cut.

Tertiary education is quite different from high school, and as a parent you should not be concerned that your child wasn’t a top-ten student. School is part of preparation for life, it is not life itself.

Vega is committed to producing a new breed of innovators and its style of learning ensures that a very high proportion of undergraduates ultimately acquire bachelor degrees, as opposed to a 50% fall out rate at public institutions. Vega also has a number of bridging courses available for those without university entry, which can be taken one year and from there allows individuals who successfully complete these certificate programmes entry into a degree programme the following year.

As a parent, your first obligation is to get perspective of your child’s underwhelming matric results. Therefore, consider this: Andy Murray, one of the top tennis players in the world, was knocked out of a major tournament in the first round by a much lower ranked player. As a media frenzy raged at his press conference he merely (and wisely) said: ‘Nobody died here. I lost a tennis match.’

You need to be very careful that your understandable desire to protect and encourage your teen doesn’t translate into responses which make your child feel like they have failed because they didn’t receive distinctions in all their subjects. As hard as it may seem, don’t openly display your disappointment. Teenagers can be emotionally fragile at this stage, and even the smallest hint of disappointment will be taken to heart and can destroy their self-esteem and motivation. Help them identify their strengths and interests. Don’t let your child give up on his or her dreams and aspirations. There is always an alternative route to a chosen career.

Primarily, you must not think that the traditional universities are the only option for higher education. Look at private institutions such as Vega which may still have vacancies and exciting qualifications available for 2017.

Most importantly, do not imagine that because your child struggled with matric, the same will happen at university. Poor performance in matric is not necessarily an indicator of what will happen at university, where a more mature and responsible approach to learning is required. Passing school exams can suit those accustomed to being ‘spoon fed’, whereas an average performer in exams can flourish in an environment like Vega, where independence, team work and innovative thinking is encouraged, and motivation is freely given.

The style of learning at an institution such as Vega is tailored to ensure students pass; small classes, close and interested supervision, a case study style of learning. In some instances, there may be no exams at all but a team-based project can be the ‘exam’, with each student having a defined responsibility. This group ethic mimics what occurs in the real workplace far better than a dry exam, and is a better indicator for future success.

By Fiona Peake

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