Debunking age-related myths about higher education and repeating matric

Returning to school as an adult is increasingly common. Online education offers the flexibility to study and take exams at your convenience. Picture: Pexels

Returning to school as an adult is increasingly common. Online education offers the flexibility to study and take exams at your convenience. Picture: Pexels

Published Jan 31, 2024


Many individuals may feel that it's too late to pursue their long-held educational goals, especially if they’re considering returning to school later in life. However, the idea that education has an age limit is a myth, particularly with the advancements in online education.

Despite concerns about feeling out of place or standing out as an older student, returning to school as an adult is increasingly common. Online education offers the flexibility to study and take exams at your convenience, making it a viable option for those with work and family commitments.

The National Center for Education Statistics reported that in 2009, 40% of college students were over 25 years old, and this number was expected to rise to 43% by 2020.

With this trend, adults should consider online education as a practical way to pursue their educational aspirations without feeling out of place or having to manage their studies alongside much younger peers.

While 2023’s matric pass rate of 82.9% is cause for celebration, it also means that almost a fifth of students who enrolled for their NSC exams last year didn’t pass.

There is, however, real hope for these students and the hundreds of thousands of other South Africans who still don’t have a matric certificate.

Addressing these concerns, Siyavuya Makubalo, marketing manager at Oxbridge Academy, part of ADvTECH, South Africa's leading private education provider, believes that earning a matric certificate or pursuing further education is always within reach, regardless of age and previous circumstances.

There are many common misconceptions about studying as a mature student, such as time limitations, a lack of confidence, and concerns about employment prospects.

Makubalo cites a recent Oxbridge graduate as a testament to breaking stereotypes and achieving success at any age, pointing to the fact that age should not be a barrier to personal and academic growth.

Dawid Bekker, at the age of 44, decided to rewrite his life story by enrolling for matric at Oxbridge Academy.

He successfully passed his exams last year and, upon receipt of his matric certificate, enrolled for the Human Resource Management N4 to begin his journey to earn a national N diploma.

“Dawid’s inspiring tale serves as a beacon of hope, proving that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams and redefine your path,” said Makubalo.

Dawid Bekker, 44, an Oxbridge matriculant and human resource management student. Picture: Supplied

“Dawid was motivated by a strong desire to rejoin the academic world and stand shoulder to shoulder with colleagues and friends. The decision to complete his senior certificate (as amended) at 44 not only marked the fulfilment of an educational milestone, but also reignited a profound sense of belonging and accomplishment.

“He continues to demonstrate to himself and others that age is no obstacle when it comes to achieving lifelong dreams.

“And his story is a powerful reminder that the pursuit of knowledge is timeless, and every stage of life offers opportunities for growth and personal fulfilment.”

According to Makubalo, attaining your matric certificate or pursuing further study is within most people’s reach, no matter what their age or station in life is. Unnecessary obstacles that prevent people from taking action include:

Concerns about time and flexibility

Mature students often have other commitments, such as work, family, or caring responsibilities, that make it difficult to fit in studying. However, this can be overcome by studying online or via distance learning through a reputable institution.

Lack of confidence

Mature students may feel that the ship has sailed and that they are not academically prepared or capable of succeeding in higher education, especially if they have been out of formal education for a long time.

However, a quality institution which provides flexibility and superior support will facilitate a successful academic journey.

Lack of motivation

Mature students may not see the value of pursuing their matric certificate or further education and may have reconciled themselves to where they are in life even while knowing they didn’t live up to their potential.

However, furthering your education offers a range of benefits, including improved self-image through self-actualisation, increased knowledge, skills, and income and career opportunities that can enhance personal well-being.

Lack of financial resources

Mature students may face financial barriers to accessing higher education. However, some avenues make further education affordable and modes of study such as distance and online learning increase access to quality education.

“Finally, mature students may feel that given SA’s high unemployment rate, and potential age bias on the part of employers, their chances of finding work in their field of study are limited,” Makubalo said.

“However, showing that you successfully pursued your studies against the odds is proof to hiring managers that you have drive and motivation and that you are able to commit and see things through.

“These are attractive qualities for any employer, and will position you well not despite of, but because of your age.”