Home FAQS What is a School Leaving Subject in South Africa?

What is a School Leaving Subject in South Africa?

This article contains information on everything you need to know about the School Leaving Subject in South Africa.

The concept of a school leaving subject in South Africa, its importance, and how it affects a student’s educational and professional path are all covered in this article. We will also go through the South African educational system, subject options for learners in grades 10 through 12, required subjects, school leaving exams, and school leaving certificates.


Overview of the South African educational system

The Foundation, Intermediate, and Senior phases make up the South African educational system. The Foundation phase covers grades 1-3, the Intermediate phase grades 4-6, and the Senior phase years 7-9. Each phase corresponds to a certain grade level. Students who successfully complete the Senior phase move on to the Further Education and Training (FET) phase, which consists of grades 10 through 12.

It’s critical to comprehend what grade 9 in South Africa means in the context of this article. The Senior phase ends in grade 9, and pupils who successfully complete it are awarded a General Education and Training (GET) credential. Students select their courses for grades 10 through 12, which decides their school-leaving subjects, after ninth grade.


School Leaving Subjects: Definition and Importance

A subject that a student completes throughout their FET period (grades 10–12) and is evaluated in the final exams is known as a school-leaving subject. These subjects, as well as the student’s performance in them, are very important in deciding whether or not a student is eligible for a school leaving certificate, which in turn determines their options for university education and careers.

School leaving subjects are important because of how they will affect a student’s future. Limiting subject options may limit future chances, while picking the correct subjects might open doors to certain study disciplines and careers. As a result, it is crucial for both students and their families to understand the significance of school-leaving subjects.

Compulsory Subjects in South African Schools

In South African schools, there are compulsory subjects that all students must take during their FET phase. These subjects serve as the curriculum’s cornerstone and are necessary to earn a school-leaving certificate. The following subjects are compulsory in South African schools:


In contrast to Life Orientation, which focuses on personal, social, and environmental facets of life, the first three courses are crucial for acquiring fundamental reading and numeracy skills.

Subject Choices in South Africa for Grades 10–12

In addition to the compulsory subjects, students in grade 10 must select a minimum of three electives. The selection of these electives, which decide the learner’s school-leaving subjects, should take into account the student’s interests, abilities, and desired future careers. In South Africa, among the options for grade 10 subjects are:

  • Physical Sciences
  • Life Sciences
  • Accounting
  • Business Studies
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • History
  • Dramatic Arts
  • Visual Arts
  • Music
  • Engineering Graphics and Design
  • Computer Applications Technology (CAT)
  • Information Technology (IT)

It is important to be aware that various higher institutions and courses may have requirements for a particular subject. Students should therefore inquire about requirements for their desired courses before deciding on their final subject choices.

South African School Leaving Examinations

The National Senior Certificate (NSC) examination, which is the South African school-leaving examination, can be taken at the end of grade 12. This examination evaluates the student’s knowledge and comprehension of the subjects they have selected, including both compulsory and elective subjects.

The results of the NSC examination are important since they determine a student’s eligibility for a school leaving certificate and the kind of certificate they will get. Additionally, colleges and universities make use of these outcomes when choosing candidates for admission to different courses. In order to continue further education or pursue a specific career route, learners must do well in the South African school leaving examination.

Types of School Leaving Certificates

A student has finished their secondary education and has satisfied the requirements for a particular certificate type when they get a school leaving certificate from the Department of Basic Education. There are three distinct types of school leaving certificates in South Africa:

  • National Senior Certificate (NSC) – Students who have completed grades 10 through 12 and have excelled on the NSC exams are given the National Senior Certificate (NSC).
  • National Certificate (Vocational) – Students who have successfully completed a vocational education program at a Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institution are awarded a national certificate in that field.
  • Senior Certificate: Awarded to graduates of the senior certificate program that has been revised for adult learners and students with special needs.

The subjects that a student successfully completes, how well they perform in the school leaving exams, and the particular course of study they follow all affect the type of school leaving certificate they will be awarded.

When Can a South African Student Leave School?

The legal age to leave school in South Africa is 15, or when a student has successfully completed grade 9. It’s crucial to keep in mind, though, that quitting school at this point can restrict a student’s prospects for subsequent study and employment. A student’s chances of enrolling in postsecondary education and entering the workforce can be considerably improved by finishing the FET phase and receiving a school leaving certificate.


Students and their families have to understand the South African concept of a school leaving subject and how important it is in determining a student’s educational and career path. These subjects are crucial in determining one’s eligibility for a school leaving certificate, which in turn impacts the possibility for colleges and universities to study as well as employment opportunities.

Students can make informed decisions regarding their education and future by taking into account the South African educational system, required subjects, subject options for grades 10 through 12, school leaving examinations, and school leaving certificates. To guarantee best subject selections, it is crucial to examine the prerequisites for preferred courses and programs, remain up to date on curriculum changes, and speak with teachers and career counselors.

Finally, school-leaving subjects are an essential part of the South African educational system. Students may achieve their full potential and access the educational and career opportunities that most closely match their interests and objectives by recognizing the relevance, meaning, and influence of these subjects.



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