Matric options for SA homeschoolers


This scene from The Wizard of Oz has always amused me. Maybe because its a good lesson about matric for homeschoolers.

The wizard was talking about the dilemma of the brainless scarecrow:

“Why, anybody can have a brain. That’s a very mediocre commodity. Every pusillanimous creature that crawls on the Earth or slinks through slimy seas has a brain. Back where I come from, we have universities, seats of great learning, where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts and with no more brains than you have. But they have one thing you haven’t got: a diploma.

Therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Universita Committeeatum E Pluribus Unum, I hereby confer upon you the honorary degree of Th.D.”

Whereup the scarecrow asks: “Th.D?”
And the wizard answers: “That’s, er, “Doctor of Thinkology”.

Matric for homeschoolers: why we need the diploma

We homeschoolers have brains. School-going children are definitely not smarter than our children. But like the scarecrow, we need the diploma or the ticket to catch the bus to higher education.

Here is a list of 5 ways that a home-educated child can get matric in South Africa and get that sought-after piece of paper. These options should satisfy a whole spectrum of homeschoolers, from those who are conventional to the total individualists.

1. Matric for home educators: Use a curriculum provider

Many, many homeschool families have successfully obtained a matric for their children by using formal curriculum suppliers. They report that their children are doing well and were easily accepted to universities.

In order to admit their students to the National Senior Certificate, these curriculum suppliers must formally test and grade the learners for grades 10, 11 and 12. This means that your children will have to do ‘school at home’ for the last three years of their home education, with tests, assignments and examinations, like any school-going child. To ensure that your child is ready for the curriculum-supplier’s grade 10 work, some of them may even expect your child to start following their formal programme from an earlier age.

You can follow this route on your own at home and let your child complete their assignments and write tests online. The exams will have to be written at the curriculum supplier’s examination centre. You can also choose to work through a learning centre, where your child will be formally enrolled and attend school. Usually there are smaller classes with more attention from the teacher at such centres.

Here are a few of the most well-known curriculum providers:

You can also consider these providers:

The biggest advantages of using curriculum providers for matric

  1. Your child will follow the mainstream way of doing matric – which is music to the ears of the skeptical grandparents. It will be easier when it comes to university applications as your child’s qualification will be seen as just another application, not an exception.
  2. Everything is laid out and prescribed for you. You don’t have to wonder what study materials or text books to choose. This means that your child can work through the programme pretty much on their own.
  3. Besides the technical matric option, this  is currently the only way that your child, as a homeschooler, can write matric in Afrikaans. (Only true of some of the curriculum providers)

The biggest disadvantages of using curriculum providers for matric

  1. It can be rather expensive and compares in price with private school fees, especially as it takes at least three years to do it this way
  2. You are subject to someone else’s schedule, deadlines and preferences. The whole process involves a lot of hard work and can be quite exhausting.
  3. As far as content goes, your children will be following the same CAPS curriculum as children at schools.

2. Matric for home educators:  do it through Cambridge

The Cambridge exams are international examinations which are overseen from Britain. This is the official matric exam of our neighbours, Namibia. In Botswana and Zimbabwe the Cambridge exams are also very popular. Afrikaans is one of the optional subjects that you can write through Cambridge, but the rest of the exams are written in English.

There is a huge range of subjects and past papers, text books and examination centres to choose from. For this reasons, the homeschoolers who have followed this route, recommend joining a support group.

Cambridge without tutors is difficult

It is also recommended that you make use of tutors. Experienced tutors can teach your children techniques, skills and help them avoid pitfalls. A tutor can also help you to decide which text books to use, as each specific tutor may use a specific text book to work from.

Cambridge is academically challenging as far as content and volume goes. These exams are more suited for the child who definitely wants to go to university. For the child that hopes to be selected for a course of study that is difficult to get accepted for, such as medical, veterinary science and physiotherapy, Cambridge is apparently the best choice.

Parents whose children have followed various matric options say that Cambridge is more suited for the child who enjoys science and maths.

Click here to read how an Afrikaans homeschool mom prepared her children for Cambridge.

Advantages of Cambridge for matric

  1. Cambridge offers excellent preparation for the challenges of university. Parents who have pursued this option say that their children sailed through first year in subjects like Maths, Physics and Chemistry. These children then had more time to enjoy the new experiences of university life and didn’t have to worry too much about academics.
  2. Since the standards of Cambridge are high, this qualification enjoys prestige and this might persuade a bursary officer that your child deserves a bursary.

Disadvantages of Cambridge for matric

  1. It can be very expensive, especially as you need to use tutors. The cost compares with that of the cost of private schooling.
  2. It is incredibly intense and in the months preceding examinations there is very little time for any other hobbies or interests.
  3. Afrikaans-speaking children can’t write matric in their mother tongue. In addition, the standard of English required is very high.

3. Grade 12 alternative for homeschoolers: GED®

The GED® is an American school leaving examination, which can be written internationally, and only in English.

USAf are now clamping down on the regulations relating to the issuing of Foreign Conditional Exemption. They have issued notice that they will no longer consider applications for Foreign Conditional Exemption from South African GED® graduates.

Many overseas universities accept the GED® for admission purposes and offer highly regarded degree programmes. South African GED® graduates who wish to enrol for degree study do have the option to consider overseas online universities.

For out more at Online University Degrees.

Shirley Erwee wrote about how to prepare for this examination.

And here also why to choose it. 

Many homeschoolers have done the GED® and are now successfully studying at universities and colleges. (Please see above about a new policy of USAf). Parents report that children with good language skills cope well with the GED®.

The GED® tests these four subjects:

  1. Mathematical Reasoning
  2. Science
  3. Reasoning Through Language Arts
  4. Social Studies

More requirements for the GED®

Your child must be at least 16 years old to be eligible to write the GED®. There is no prescribed curriculum or syllabus. The exams test general skills to ensure that your child is ready for work or further study.
Those who choose this route reason that if their children need access to higher education, they are choosing the route with the least pain and suffering. The GED® suits unschooling and eclectic homeschoolers well, because it tests the types of skills that these children learn through a broad, free-range kind of education.

Consider this alternative to the GED®:

South African Virtual School:

They have two routes:

  1. More academic to enter university (usually takes 4 years)
  2. More career-oriented (takes about 18 months)

The advantages of the GED®

  1. Because it is not as intensive as Cambridge, for example, students can still focus on other interests, such as sport, art and hobbies. They don’t have to sacrifice years of their lives just to get a “diploma”.
  2. Many overseas universities accept the GED® for admission purposes and offer highly regarded degree programmes. South African GED® graduates who wish to enrol for degree study do have the option to consider overseas online universities. Find out more at Online University Degrees. 
  3.  Interestingly, many English-speaking homeschoolers choose this option as the Afrikaans required for Cambridge and by other curriculum providers offering the NSC is a problem for their children.
  4. It is very affordable.

The disadvantages of the GED as a matric alternative

  1. USAf are now clamping down on the regulations relating to the issuing of Foreign Conditional Exemption. They have issued a notice that they will no longer consider applications for Foreign Conditional Exemption from South African GED® graduates.
  2. Non-English homeschoolers have to write the tests in their second language, which is not optimal.
  3. It is not the best choice if your child is interested in pursuing a field of study, where there are strict admission requirements.

4. Technical Matric for Homeschoolers

To obtain a technical matric, your child must pass the required N-courses. For N courses are ranked as follows:

  • N1 = Gr 10
  • N2 = Gr 11
  • N3 = Gr 12

You can complete each N-level in about ten weeks. Each of the N-levels has at least four subjects. Here are examples of the typical subjects that are offered in an N-level: Maths, Engineering science, Motor mechanical theory and Metalwork theory

The N-courses also form the basis of training for a trade which can be completed through organisations such as Sol-Tech.

To obtain a complete matric certificate via this route, the candidate must also pass Business Afrikaans and Business English.

Your child can complete the N-levels mostly independently via an online college such as Ntek.

This option is ideal for children who are technically inclined.

Advantages of a technical matric

  1. It can largely be done in Afrikaans, as well as in English
  2. It is affordable and can be completed in stages

Disadvantages of a technical matric

  1. You have to take a detour to get university exemption (please let me know if you have achieved this)
  2. This route has not been pursued by many homeschoolers and so information and support is rather scarce.

5. Hacking matric for homeschoolers: the university of life itself

This last option is only for the most brave. If they were the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, they’d tell the wizard that he can keep his diploma, they prefer a brain, thank you!

It takes courage to swim against the stream of our society and to say that you are going to ignore the statistics which say that people with a high school credential (and more so with a university degree) are financially better off. Here, for example is a table that compares the hourly pay rates in America. (Data provided by the Economic Policy Insitute has been used.)

According to Bryan Caplan in his recent book, The Case against Education, there are three signals locked up in such a degree or diploma and that is why society and employers regard certificates so highly. They use them as a short-cut to decide who is likely to successful.

Interstingly, Caplan dedicated his book: “To my homeschoolers, Aidan and Tristan. You are the case FOR education, my sons”. He refers mostly to university degrees, but the arguments are not much different for matric certificates.

What a certification signals to society

The three signals, according to Caplan, that are tied up in formal qualifications are that it shows a prospective employer that the degree holder:

  • Is intelligent enough to do the work
  • Is diligent enough to handle a lot of boredom to achieve a goal (necessary in a work situation)
  • Can work in a team and won’t do his own thing in a work situation. (A good trait to have if you have to work in a big corporate environment.)

Caplan argues that the bubble of higher education is going to burst. Must burst …because it is hopelessly too expensive for society.

If you are one of the fearless who can go through life successfully without a piece of paper, know that the rest of us fearful ones are in awe of the brave like you. If you would like to share your own or your children’s stories with us, please contact me.

Like Caplan, I believe that we are on the edge of a huge quantum leap as far as education and educational qualification is concerned. The brave ones, who are leading the way, not wasting time with certification, but rather focusing on their brains, will be one step ahead of the rest of us. Like the genius Good Will Hunting reminds us in the following scene (caution – swearing is used):

For which careers do you NOT need matric?

What kind of careers are possible without a stamp on a piece of paper that says that your school days are done? Here are a few that I thought of:

  • Careers where your product is worth gold. If it works, people will buy it and be prepared to pay a fortune for it. Think of complicated computer programmes.
  • Careers where your talent alone will carry you. Think of painters, authors, musicians, sport stars and ballet dancers. I can remember the uproar that Annesu de Vos, the child prodigy of Afrikaans poetry caused in the papers, in 1986 after the publication of her poetry collection “Gebed vir ‘n Groen Perske”. She decided not to complete her schooling.
  • If you can start your own business. Throughout history, there have been plenty of people, for example those with serious dyslexia that never learned to read and write properly, but who were highly successful in business.  For sweet inspiration (literally) read Milton S Hershey’s life story. He couldn’t get much further than grade 4, yet he built a chocolate empire which is still today one of the biggest sweet factories in America.

For which careers is it not a good idea to pursue without a matric?

Any career that requires government regulation or registration – such as a doctor or lawyer.

6. And the sixth option … adult matric

And as an afterthought … remember that if you are 23  years old, you can do the National Senior Certificate free of charge through the Department of Basic Education…without having to slave for three years. You enrol for the exams, choose your subjects and choose when you want to write the exams. This is known as the ‘adult matric’.

Furthermore, when you reach the age of 23, there is also the possibility of obtaining university exemption by virtue of mature age.

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