By Marita Green, Homeschooling Mom and Author at Deep Stash
As parents, we may find the last years of home education challenging to navigate. Together with our children, we have to make a suitable matric choice that will benefit our children in the future. Knowing which matric options are available and how these options are likely to fit into the future can help the decision process.
The Purpose of a Matric Certificate
Some homeschooling parents think the purpose of education is to obtain a matric.
Parents will often follow a particular curriculum throughout their child’s schooling years to acquire a matric qualification at the end. The child will then either enter the workforce or study further.
Other parents view a matric certificate or equivalent only as a key to unlock doors of opportunity. For these parents, this key is not education in itself. Instead, they see education as broad and varied and not limited to school, matric subjects or certificates.
Matric Options for Homeschoolers Change Often
Matric options for South African homeschoolers can and do change. What is available this year may not be available next year.
For example, until 2007, any person age 18 and older could write the old SA matric without proof of prior learning. But at the end of 2007, the old South African Senior Certificate qualification was discontinued, and suddenly SA homeschoolers could not write a matric without using a service provider. The matric also changed from a one year certificate to a three-year certificate program.
At about the same time, homeschoolers became aware of the American General Education Diploma (GED) as an option to an alternative “matric”. The GED could be used to enter a SA university when accompanied by an SAT or acceptance letter from an American university. But since 2019, Universities South Africa (USAf) – a membership organisation representing South Africa’s universities – no longer considered GED applications for Foreign Conditional Exemption. That means you can’t apply for degree studies at a SA university with a GED alone. The GED is still regarded as a grade 12 equivalent but is viewed as a matric without exemption.
Since 2020, EdExcel (an alternative examination board to Cambridge) has also become a grade 12 option in South Africa.
The Technical Matric N3 is also phasing out in 2021. The National Senior Certificate for Adults (NASCA) is supposed to replace both the Technical Matric N3 and the Amended CAPS. No proof of prior education is needed, and it can be completed when one turns 18. This may again become an option for homeschoolers.
This means that what is chosen for matric at the start of the home education journey may not always be available at the end.
Various Names for a School Leaver’s Certificate
School leaver’s certificates are known by different names in different countries. In South Africa, a grade 12 certificate is generally known as a matric certificate. Officially, the qualification is the National Senior Certificate (NSC). In England, the school-leaving qualification we are familiar with is known as the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). In the United States, most schools use a qualification known as a high school diploma.
1. National Senior Certificate (NSC)
The NSC a three-year certificate. A homeschooled child must make use of a recognised service provider for grades 10-12. A Grade 9 certificate is often (but not always) required by a service provider before allowing entry for the course. The NSC is recognised for further studies by all SA universities and employers. However, it is frequently considered inadequate locally and is often unable to open international doors.
2. Cambridge International (International General Certificate of Secondary Education – IGCSE/AS/A level)
Cambridge is an internationally recognised certificate from the United Kingdom. You don’t need proof of prior learning and can write the exam at any age. It is self-paced but typically takes three years. Preparation for the Cambridge exams can be done solo or through a service provider. The exams are written at recognised centres in South Africa.
Cambridge is a tried and tested system that promotes creative and critical thinking. It is recognised for further study in SA and internationally. It can be time-consuming and may not be the best fit for every child.
3. Edexcel (IGCSE)
Edexcel is another UK examination board similar to Cambridge and a fairly new option in South Africa. They offer their own versions of IGCSE and are similar in content to Cambridge. Edexcel currently only has a few exam centres in South Africa and still suffers from some teething problems, but it seems to be a promising alternative.
4. American General Education Diploma (GED)
The GED is an adult school leaver certificate. In South Africa, it can be written from age 17. No prior grades are necessary. However, the GED assumes a deep general knowledge and tests critical thinking skills. The GED is self-paced and commonly takes one to two years to prepare for.
Preparation for the GED can be done solo or through a service provider. The exams can be written at any time of the year at Boston City Campus test centres. The GED appeals to people who prefer to study from a wide variety of non-traditional sources. It is considered as a foreign school-leaver certificate and recognised as equivalent to a matric without exemption. However, many Universities in the United States and elsewhere find it sufficient for university entrance or combined with a Standard Achievement Test (SAT). In SA, a GED plus a certificate course that is equal to level 5 on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF 5) may be suitable for entry into a SA university.
5. American High School Diploma
No prior programs or grades are needed for this diploma, but gr 1 – 8 will provide a framework to build on. The diploma is typically concluded in 4 years but can be fast-tracked. The diploma can be earned from age 16 onwards.
In South Africa, you need to enrol in an accredited online school, virtual school, or umbrella school. The American High School Diploma offers a wide range of subjects, and students can do university-level courses during high school. The diploma is used for university entrance in SA when combined with an SAT or an acceptance letter from an American university.
6. No School Leaver Certificate
Many employers are becoming more concerned with ‘job-readiness’ than ‘whereyou- studied’. With so many opportunities available to study through online sources, such as Massively Open Online Courses (MOOC’s), many are beginning to question the need for a school leaver’s certificate. Children instead receive a tailor-made education, often starting businesses from a young age, and entering an adulthood of life-long learning. This can provide them with a significant head-start. For further study, universities such as The Open University and MIT don’t require any school leaver certification for admission to their degree courses.
What Homeschoolers Need to Know About USAf and SAQA
The South African Qualification Authority (SAQA) is overseeing the development and implementation of the NQF. Homeschool graduates with an international or foreign matric can apply for a Certificate of Evaluation from SAQA to convert it into an SA matric. But this is only necessary if a college admissions department or employer requests it.
Suppose your child wants to attend a SA university and has an international matric such as Cambridge. In that case, they will need to apply at Universities South Africa (USAf) for a South African Matric Exemption Certificate.
Which Matric Option to Choose
Home-schooled children generally look at matric options when they are around age 15. In order to choose a suitable matric, it is often advisable to try to work backwards from an end objective. If a child wants to study at a SA university, it is best to contact the faculty at the university of choice and determine their entrance requirements to the specific course. Then choose a matric that will best suit those requirements. If a child wants to study in the UK, a Cambridge or Edexcel matric may be advisable. An entrepreneur may find a matric certificate unnecessary and may instead focus on experience and short courses.
No Matric Does Not Mean the End of Your Education
A matric can always be written at a later stage if that becomes necessary. It only takes one or two years, not twelve years. This means that a child’s early years can be used for a broader education. Later on, when a child has more clarity about their future, they can determine which key will open the right doors for them.
The Value of Experience and a Portfolio
Acquiring a school leaver’s certificate is also no guarantee of admission to a SA university. Almost all faculties require an applicant to also write a selection test, attend interviews and submit a portfolio of work. This is an important reminder not to forget the education while focusing on obtaining the qualification.
There are many exit exams we can choose from. The option you choose will be unique to your child and circumstances.