Scientific revolution is always marching forward at a fast pace and this means that the Life Science in the FET band should also constantly keep up with the times.

The idea is that Life Science at school level should prepare students for a variety of science degrees should they wish to pursue a specialisation such as biomedical science, botany or even marine biology. Of course degree programmes at university offer courses in general biology but it’s essential to have a good foundation at school level.

Keeping the CAPS Curriculum up to Date

Since the implementation of the CAPS programme of study there has been a major upgrade with regards to creating content that's more relevant. We can take the topic of cloning as an example of the modern biology coursework found in textbooks today. High school students will now learn about the world-famous sheep, Dolly, when covering the topic of genetics and cloning.

In many ways the general education that learners receive in Life Science has moved forward with biological research. Studying this dynamic subject prepares students for life by teaching fundamentals such as elements of field husbandry and botany and exposing them to the the latest scientific trends in crop cultivation. Exposure to areas of study like this contributes to preparing a generation that is knowledgeable on all fronts.

brown wheat field under blue sunny sky
Modern biology courses should cover issues such as poor farming practices that contribute to climate change - Unsplash

The idea is to create a broader awareness of the world around us and to put emphasis on world economy through the way knowledge is conveyed in school. We’re part of a global village after all!

As biotechnology progresses, educators can use these fantastic discoveries in their course work and even present them as research projects. For instance learners could investigate the function of enzymes in large-scale bioreactors and the role these reactors play in our modern world.

The important thing is that learners and parents need to participate in the effort of keeping up with current affairs. This is also where a private tutor can really enrich a child’s learning experience.

Because there are so many modern aspects of biology such as molecular genetics and immunology, it’s not easy to stay abreast of every new development, much less expect printed textbooks to constantly remain up to date.

Discoveries are happening faster now than ever before in this modern scientific revolution.

So Is CAPS Keeping up With the Times?

By the time you get to Biology grade 12 you start to appreciate how interconnected Life Science is with other subjects like natural sciences and maths. But another branch of learning that is surprisingly interlinked with biology studies is CAT (Computer Application Technology).

Because of the constant developments in the technological world, biologists are able to use more sophisticated research methods and there are constant new discoveries being made in the biology laboratory thanks to biotechnology. Bioinformatics marries computer technology to biological data gathered from research projects.

Certain aspects of modern biology, such as molecular biology depend almost entirely on advanced technology. Yet despite the significance of technology in biological sciences, the general education requirements don’t reflect this obvious change; with very little up to date information on biotechnology in most courses taken at high school level.

The scientific community feels that Life Science courses need to reflect a more realistic image of what it means to be a biologist in this day and age in an effort to encourage youngsters to pursue a career in the sciences.

Understanding the Career Options That Life Science Offers

Traditionally Biology was associated with health sciences and thought to be essential for anyone planning on studying a degree programme in medicine. But although any academic advisor will tell you that Life Science is one of the prerequisites if you’re planning on becoming a doctor, there are so many other related fields that branch out of the Bachelor of Science Degree too.

selective focus photography of heart organ model
There is a misconception among many learners that Life Science is only useful if you plan to become a doctor - Unsplash

And this is where the skeptics start voicing their concerns. Are we putting too much emphasis on preparing youngsters for health professions and not shedding enough light on the myriad of other job and research opportunities that stem from the Life Sciences department?

The general impression is that Physical Science reflects modern discoveries and theorems while Life Science seems to have been left in the dust in comparison to other general education courses.  The course of study for biological science at school level is believed to be insufficient for the purpose of preparing learners to learn more complex concepts such as DNA sequence alignment or genomics.

It’s time for the national curriculum to embrace contemporary scientific methods in their life sciences courses.  As we shed more light on bioinformatics in the classroom and expose learners to modern statistical techniques we will be offering a much more well-rounded education to our future biological scientists.

Did you know that a background in Biology could help you create impressive art?

How New Legislation With Caps Effects Matric Graduation Requirements

The NCS (National Curriculum Statement) for CAPS was published in 2011. CAPS brought a big shift in the course requirements with numerous curricular changes and the content is certainly more compelling than it was 20 years ago.

However, it's really important for the educator to ensure that learners are kept abreast with new discoveries and that they have a constant attitude of scientific inquiry. But the real change that is crucial to grasp, is the manner in which marks are allocated.

The Progression of Biology as a Subject in School

During the intermediate phase (Grades 4 – 6) Biology is incorporated into a subject known as Natural Science & Technology. Learners are given a broad overview of basic biological principles and living systems.

In the senior phase (Grades 7 – 9) there is more targeted focus on the sciences as Technology becomes a separate subject. Biology and Physical science remain interlinked in the subject known as Natural Science.

It's only in the FET phase that Biological Sciences are given specialised attention and the former Natural Science splits into Life Science (Biology) and Physical Science (Physics and Chemistry).

How to Approach Life Science During the FET Band

At this stage learners can decide whether to study these two courses of the sciences or to branch off into only one direction. Once a subject is chosen in Grade 10 the general departmental protocol will advise for no further subject changes to be made until the completion of Grade 12.

The FET Band approaches subjects as entire three year courses. There is little repetition of content from year to year but each new concept paves the way for the next concept. For instance in Grade 10 learners will be introduced to support and transport systems in plants, then in Grade 11 they will learn about energy transformations such as photosynthesis which leads up to concepts such as homeostasis in Grade 12. So following courses for the full three years will count in your favour when writing your final exam.

The Weighting of Marks

The other big change from one learning phase to the next is the weighting of SBA (School Based Assessments) and End of Year Exams.

  • Foundation Phase (Grade R – 3) 100% SBA
  • Intermediate Phase (Grade 4 – 6) 75% SBA 25% End of year Exam
  • Senior Phase (Grade 7 – 9) 40% SBA 60% End of year Exam
  • FET Band (Grade 10 – 12) 25% SBA 75% End of year Exam.
Learners need the right study tools during finals because these exams count for so much of their marks - Unsplash

Clearly it's important for senior learners to perform well in their final exams which can put immense pressure on them. However the plus side to this is that in the FET Band there is no room for learners to cheat their way to graduation by getting outside help with their school work and projects.

Success rests entirely on the learner. It is a great preparation for tertiary education and an opportunity to learn responsibility.

Making Use of Grade 12 Past Papers

There have been numerous changes in education legislation since the early 90s, from OBE all the way to CAPS.

Fortunately things have remained settled since 2012 which means that there have been very few curricular changes of late.

This is good news because there's no better form of revision than a past exam paper. Here you can find a comprehensive list of NSC (National Senior Certificate) past papers for Grade 12 as well as Grade 11 past papers.

Other Options for Exam Prep

In order for learners to really excel it is important to find what works for the individual.

Not everyone is cut out for summer research projects or an independent investigation on the latest developments in environmental biology. Being such a dedicated biology student is fortunately not a prerequisite for acceptance into university but it would be impressive to any faculty member in the science department!

shallow focus photo of person writing in a notebook
Be sure to use a learning style that suits you, not everyone learns from reading alone - Unsplash

The point is that some of us thrive with experiential learning and gain more from field work or laboratory science than we would from studying a textbook, while others can become masters of Science simply by being ensconced in a library.

Fortunately, professional tutors understand the various learning styles and can help to point apprehensive learners in the right direction prior to final exams!

There are also fantastic study guides such as the Xkit series that helps to cut through what can appear to be an overload of information when kids are overwhelmed.

Make an Effort to Stay Informed

In the last eight years since the Education Department website released the new CAPS guidelines and course work specifications so much has changed. Biotechnology keeps propelling Life Science forward. There have been so many advances in biophysics, cell biology, microbiology and even botany and zoology to name but a few of the many branches of Life Science.

The question remains, do the current course descriptions live up to these changes?

Maybe not, but with the right attitude, educators and tutors, Life Science can be an exciting and informative subject choice!

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Born from a family of creatives, Kyla has a passion for the arts and interior design.