Matrics: There are always options - even after bad results in 2015

JANUARY 5, 2016

Many thousands of Grade 12 learners from the Class of 2015 will this week have to face the reality that things have not worked out the way they wanted them to in terms of their results.  With this disappointment will come the disarray of having to review their plans for 2016, an education expert says.

The most important thing to realise at this stage – even though it may be tough to stand up and face these choices – is that bad results are not the end of the road, and that there are still many options to get back on track.

“Below par matric results do not mean you have to give up on your dreams and aspirations,” says Dr Felicity Coughlan, Director of The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s largest private higher education institution.

“In fact, if handled maturely and pragmatically, a disappointing performance could be just the catalyst needed to propel a learner in a new and better direction, with more determination and resolve than before. As the saying goes, one should never let a good crisis go to waste,” she says.

Coughlan says parents, guardians and other caregivers should ensure they positively support learners during this difficult time as they may be facing a number of concerns, such as not being able to get into the higher education institution they expected, having to choose a different course, having to write supplementary exams, or even having to repeat the year. 

Many also have the emotional struggle with having disappointed themselves and others.

“There are still many options available, but it is imperative that proper research into all these options be conducted,” she says.

“These include options in the public and private sector, different degrees or diplomas, a higher certificate instead of a degree as a stepping stone, volunteer work opportunities or part-time study, second semester registrations, supplementary exams or redoing the school year in a more supportive environment.

“First, adults should assist disappointed learners to get the poor results into perspective. This is often best done by plotting all the options that are still available and weighing them up against each other,” says Coughlan. 

“It is easier to feel better in the face of real choices than to be told to feel better without any sense of options.  Facts help to reintroduce a sense of control over one’s fate and the path is then cleared for choosing the best possible way forward,” she says. 

Coughlan suggests that parents and caregivers (and students) who suspect that things are not going to turn out as well as hoped begin to look for options now so that if the disappointment does happen, options can be put on the table sooner rather than later.

Options available to learners who did not do as well as they hoped, include:


Not everyone will qualify for supplementary exams, but if they do, they should definitely register and do their very best to pass. Check with your school whether you qualify, and then go all out these next few weeks in ensuring that you spend as much time as possible behind your books.


Having another go at matric is not a happy prospect for anyone who has just been through the mill, but it could be an exciting second chance if you go about it differently this time round. For instance you might choose to do some part-time work while being enrolled in a distance learning course, or you could choose to attend a different institution that specialises in rewriting.  Many will even allow you to change your subjects.


South Africa has only one quality assurance system, which means that private institutions and public universities are subjected to the same registration and accreditation checks and balances.

So if your marks mean that you pass but are not able to go to your institution of first choice, have a look around. There are some fantastic and often more work-oriented options available out there that you might not even have considered.


Perhaps a higher certificate is the stepping stone you need to be accepted into the course of your choice. Or perhaps there is a completely different direction which you can tackle, one that you were not aware of before. Again, do your research and do it thoroughly.

Speak to the people in the industry you want to enter, and have a look around to see which institutions produce industry leaders. Today there are courses that did not even exist two years ago. Are you aware of these? If not, you have some pleasantly surprising research to do.


Another cliché which continues to exist because it is true, is that it does not matter how many times you fall – it matters only how many times you stand up.  This is painful and disappointing, but it is only a catastrophe if you don’t stand up and face it.  This can be no more than a temporary setback and can in fact be a character and strength-building exercise.

Do not let the year go to waste. If fulltime study or a return to school feels like too much of an ask or you do not have the funds to do this, then at least enrol for a short course which can keep you growing and in the habit of learning. Sometimes all that is needed is one or two small successes to realise that you are more than capable. 

Everyone fails sometimes. Successful people learn from their failures.