When deciding to take science as a subject in high school, more specifically in the FET phase, it is more often than not a tough decision to make and stick to once made. Some of the questions that will most likely cross your mind go something like this: “Is science a subject that I can understand and master, or is it too difficult for me?” or “If it is this difficult just to decide whether to take science or not, should I rather leave it?”.
Truth is… science is not for the faint-hearted, but it is not solely reserved for the top academic achievers of the class either. You can do a few things to make sure you can relate to the subject and master the content. At the very least, to the extent, you feel like you enjoy science and want to take/continue with the subject.
Below are a few guidelines you can follow to ensure you see this subject through until the end of your high school career (at least). Who knows, you might even fall in love with this subject and dedicate the rest of your life to the sciences!
Make sure you read up about and understand that all concepts in science are based on models or theories.
To understand the world around us through science, we build models and theories to explain certain phenomena. Embrace these theories and try to immerse yourself in them so that you can start thinking like a scientist. This can be achieved by having discussions with more knowledgeable others, researching and reading about science in your spare time and seeing yourself as a scientist. Science is a lens through which we interpret reality.
Ask as many questions as possible – to your parents, teachers, friends or even our dear friend Google.
Science is about asking questions and not taking everything for granted. There are seriously no stupid questions in science, just people unwilling to engage with your question. Not to say every question has an answer, but that makes science so awesome – we try to answer questions as best possible with our skills and knowledge. But science is not static – it changes ALL THE TIME! The content in the science curriculum is not there to put you off the ideas that explain our universe; it is there to intrigue you and force you to stand still and think and reason.
Science is a language all in itself… learn the language!
Do not call an atom a “small thingy with some smaller things inside”. Use the correct terminology, and if you don’t know what the term is, put in the effort to find out.
Stay up to date with the curriculum.
Do not fall behind – and if you did, find extra help. Extra help is available all around you, and you must just take the first step and realise that you might need some help. Everyone’s idea of needing help is different. Some might need help understanding one specific concept, and others need help getting back on track after falling behind, while another person wants to move from 80% to a 90% average. Quality tutors and subject specialists can (and should be able to) play a significant role in addressing these different needs. Prevention of falling behind or struggling to understand is better than putting on band-aids afterwards. Ask for help before it is too late or before there is a bigger problem.
Practice, practice, practice.
Past papers, exercise books, YouTube videos, homework… you name it! The more exposed you are to various approaches to the same idea, the better it is for your understanding of the concept and the more likely you will actually enjoy the subject and its contents.
Think creatively and practically, and have fun!
Science is meant to pique your interest, and you are meant to think about it as part of a bigger picture. One concept makes out a speck of the bigger picture. Our universe is so incredible, and we are trying our best, through science, to try and understand how it works and how everything operates together so well – embrace it!
In South Africa, there is a crisis – too few learners opt to take science as a subject as one of their elective subjects in the FET phase. Many of those who take it fall off the bus along the way or decide that “it is not for them”. What I would like to see is for the youth of our country to be allowed to be offered this subject by adequately trained teachers. But perhaps more importantly, I’d love to see our kids think about learning science as an exciting and enriching adventure and a subject they should consider engaging with. So, when in doubt about science – take it! Try it out! It is super unique, and I bet you will love it! Just remember… there is always help out there.