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Participating in Olympiads helps produce top scholars

Last Updated Apr 2017

The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants illustrates how its annual Accounting Olympiad is an investment into future CAs(SA) 

When asked if your child can take part in an event that takes place outside of the everyday school curriculum, many parents worry that saying yes will place an unnecessary burden or additional stress on their child’s otherwise full study routine. They worry that they’ll be seen as pushing their child too hard to excel.

But studies show that taking part in events like Olympiads, helps learners gain additional knowledge and confidence and sharpens their ability to tackle problems at a level that they are not likely to encounter in their classrooms.

Cayley Tarr and Hamima Mullah are living proof that this is true. Runners up in last year’s South African Institute of Chartered Accountant’s (SAICA) annual Accounting Olympiad, these young ladies not only discovered that participating helped them excel in their matric finals and made them more confident in the subject, but it gave them a taste of what to expect during their first year at university.

Even brilliant learners need extra support

Cayley Tarr is in her first year of studies towards a Bachelor of Accounting degree at Stellenbosch University. She aims to qualify as a CA(SA). A past pupil of Westerford High School in Rondebosch, Cape Town; Tarr achieved eight distinctions in her final matric exams last year. 

While accounting is her forte, Tarr credits the SAICA Accounting Olympiad for its role in taking her accounting skills to the next level. “Participating in the SAICA Accounting Olympiad gave me confidence for the matric finals and it made me confident in my choice to study accounting at university this year.” 

Tarr shared second runner up position in last year’s SAICA Accounting Olympiad with Hamima Mullah. A past pupil of Spine Road High School in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town; Mullah also achieved eight distinctions in matric. “The Accounting Olympiad assisted me immensely in preparing for my matric tests,” she says. 

Gugu Makhanya, Senior Executive for Transformation and Growth at SAICA explains that Tarr and Mullah are great examples of the benefits participating learners achieve each year. “Year after year we see that the Olympiad participants have an advantage over their peers going into their final matric exams,” says Makhanya.

The Olympiad is well supported. Last year, 4 869 learners participated across South Africa, representing 367 schools. Western Cape did the province proud with 564 learners, from 44 schools, participating.

Participating schools are selected by Provincial Departments of Education, in conjunction with SAICA. From there, educators select the 10 to 15 learners they have identified as their school’s top accounting talent. It is a careful selection process, with fewer than 600 learners per province taking part.

Adding more CAs(SA) to the profession     

The SAICA Accounting Olympiad raises the profile of the CA(SA) profession, as well as other specialised careers within the financial services arena. Students such as Tarr and Mullah acknowledge that participating in the Olympiad helped them finalise chartered accountancy and actuarial science as their respective career choices.

The Olympiad also serves another purpose. Grade 11 and 12 learners who participate, understand this important life lesson: by setting goals and applying themselves they achieve better results. This prepares them for the discipline of a study routine at university. 

Makhanya explains: “Every year, we encourage Grade 11 and 12 learners to prepare themselves for the expectations of tertiary education by entering the Olympiad. The challenging three-hour paper aims to recognise learners’ accounting talent, encourages interest in accounting as a career choice, and grows the pipeline of potential chartered accountants.”

When learners see their hard work materialise into higher marks, this opens up a conversation that accounting may be a viable career option. Often in the school environment learners are not exposed to the various career options available to them.

The SAICA Olympiad sparks an interest in a career as a CA(SA) and draws a link between taking accountancy as a school subject and a career in an accounting or business field. South Africa needs more skilled professionals, including CAs(SA) and the Olympiad complements SAICA’s strategy to transform the profession and to increase the number of chartered accountants.

“Every year, SAICA is delighted by the high quality of the entries and the superb results the learners achieved. We commend them for their hard work preparing for the Olympiad. It shows that we have a great pipeline of accounting talent for the future. We hope that these learners will be looking after the country’s economy in the future,” explains Makhanya.

These shining stars are excited to be entering the next phase of their academic journey, as much as the opportunities that their future career presents. Some of them will become our accounting professionals of tomorrow. And for this we are thankful. 

Schools wishing to participate in the 2017 SAICA Accounting Olympiad should be advised that entries close on Friday, 28 April 2017. Schools must submit a minimum of 10 entries and a maximum of 15 entries per school.

For more information and to find out how to enter, contact SAICA at saica@saica.co.za.

 
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