Site hosted by Angelfire.com: Build your free website today!

 

 

How HSC Subject Choice Affects Life Skills?

 

Nicholas Clark

&

William Sheehy

 

 

Acknowledgements

 

A few people require thanks for advice given and their help in constructing this report. Firstly a very big thank you to Mitchell Trent who designed the coding for the web-survey, which without his management would not have come into being. Secondly to our tutor Elizabeth Cassity who was always willing to give constructive helpful advice on our project and last but not least, our tutorial class for all their suggestions in the proposal stage.

 

 

 

Introduction

 

In an increasingly competitive and demanding world market the need for education systems, schools and teachers to deliver students with a well rounded education as well as specialised tuition in some subject areas is a reality that has become obvious to all educators and most students. To facilitate this aim schools have taken on a wide array of subjects to cater for the diverse needs of students in order to prepare them for the work-force, tertiary education or career path. The choice of subjects in the last two years of school is often a very critical decision in deciding the future of students, as interests and skills gained in the final years of school often dictate future life skills and further education of the student in later life, as well as their immediate entrance into tertiary educational institutions from school

 

The purpose of this report is to look at the relationship between subject choice and life skills through a brief survey of students who completed the Higher School Certificate (HSC) in New South Wales after 1989. In doing this it is hoped that a greater understanding of the relationship between certain HSC subjects and subsequent life choices can be gained and used as a basis to discover which subjects need to be altered to improve their usefulness and relevance to the student in whatever path they choose to follow after leaving school.

 

 

The subject choices students make in Years 11 and 12 have a great influence on post school choice in terms of tertiary education and/or entry into the labour market. In this review the focus will predominantly be on literature that shows subject choice and how it relates and is affected by factors such as gender, school system and personal interests. These relations allow the wider study of the effects of subject choice on life skills to be broached with a grounding in trends present in Australian society, allowing a basis on which our own data can be compared. The idea of Higher School Certificate subjects influencing life skills is clear to see, but not so clear to define. However, through articles such as: Ainley, Jones & Navaratnam (1990), Fullarton & Ainley (2000), Lamb and Ball (1999), McGraw (2002), Hillman and Rothman (2004) and Lamb (1998) the process of subject choice effecting post school outcomes becomes complex and diverse concept.

 

The book Subject Choice in Senior Secondary School (Ainley, Jones & Navaratnam, 1990) is a study of Year 11 and 12 students taken from 1989-1990, that answers questions relating to subject choice enhancing, ‘subsequent life chances’, (p.1). It also focuses on a range of factors such as interests, aptitudes and opportunities in the student’s school environment. Issues of gender, location (by state), type of school system (public, catholic or independent) and student’s earlier achievement are factors looked at in relation to student's subject choice. One of the factors that stood out was gender. Gender was found to effect enrolment in the physical sciences, mathematics and technical studies where males dominated, as well as creative arts, performing arts and home economics, where enrolment was largely female. Location by state was found to have a great impact as different states had different compulsory subjects and requirements along with differing curriculum influences. Student’s earlier achievements also had a large effect on their subject choices, early high achievers in numeracy were typically more likely to enroll in mathematics/science orientated subjects where as children who showed higher achievement were more likely to choose English, performing/creative arts, humanities and social science subjects. Another interesting finding of the study was the link found between subject choice and later education. Nine-tenths of students who undertook a mathematics/science orientated course had taken on some form of formal tertiary education by age nineteen. In comparison only half of the students who chose a humanities and social sciences orientation to their degree ended up doing any formal education after school, one-fifth to a quarter did however participate in TAFE courses.

 

The report entitled, Subject Choice By Students in Year 12 in Australian Secondary Schools (Fullarton & Ainley, 2000), is a research report that draws on data collected from a nationwide longitudinal study conducted in 1999. It focuses directly on what social factors are at play in student’s lives and how they effect subject choice. In the report, gender and its interaction with other factors such as SES, earlier achievement, type of school system, home location and language background, feature prominently to see how certain subject area enrolments relate to these factors and male and female students (Fullarton & Ainley, 2000, p. 29-34). The major findings of the report were that there was an increase in enrolment in more technical and computer based subjects against the major subject groupings of English, mathematics, humanities and social sciences, economics and business, biological and physical sciences and the arts. The most important factors in subject choice were gender, state of residence and earlier school achievement in literacy and numeracy. The predominance of males in mathematics, physical sciences, technical studies and computer studies and the predominant female presence in English, humanities and social sciences, biological sciences, the arts and LOTE was also affirmed by the data from the study. This trend was also confirmed by McGraw (2002), especially in the areas of VET subjects, as participation began to represent acceptable male and female social roles (p. 14). Hillman and Rothman (2004 pp. 37) cite Lamb (2001) in reference to how females were more likely to participate in tertiary education within the areas of social science and hospitality, whereas males were more commonly entering study in the fields of engineering, computing and maths. Adopting Lamb and Ball’s (2004) methodology in regards to curriculum groups, the males who were involved with maths and engineering would therefore be developing more life skills according to their gender stereotyped curriculum group. The issue of gender has henceforth become inextricably linked to the factors influencing subject selection.

 

The two longitudinal studies, Ainley, Jones & Navaratnam (1990) and Ainley & Fullarton (1999), are taken ten years apart and share common elements, the changes between them need to be analyzed more thoroughly; however, on the surface it is clear that the gender dominance of males in mathematics, science and technical areas as well as the female dominance in humanities and social sciences, arts and languages has remained intact during the nineties. Despite the more recent increase in enrollments in technical and computer studies subjects against other subject areas there is little to indicate that gendered dominance in these subject areas in decline. McGraw (2002) talks of  similar trends in VET courses, where students chose more stereotypically appropriate subjects for their gender, with Hillman and Rothman (2004) noting the same gendered dominance within tertiary educational institutions. The use of curriculum groups as in Lamb and Ball (2004) provides an interesting position from which to study this gendered dominance within subject areas.

 

Lamb and Ball’s (1999) report Curriculum and Careers: the education and labour market consequences of year 12 subject choice, is a comprehensive report outlining the consequences of subject selection for Year 12 students. The report shows an increase in the rate of school completion and that therefore the types of subjects students choose become more influential on post-school education and training and ultimately the job opportunities open to the student. The data collected on this issue is based on a national longitudinal survey of 11,500 16-27 year-olds, of which the aim was to define which combinations of subjects lead to specific career pathways in the labour market (Lamb and Ball 1999, p. 3).

 

To classify data from this survey, Lamb and Ball (1999) devised twenty groupings of subjects involving many different subject combinations into to which students were allocated. Through this Lamb and Ball were able to create groupings of subjects that stereotyped student’s subject choices. These twenty groupings were then classified into eight distinct ‘curriculum groups’ that allowed for easier analysis with other factors in subject selection and comparison to trends in post school career pathways. With this in mind, Lamb and Ball were able to generalise which curriculum groups were more, or less likely participate in further education and training post-school. They reported that 41.4% of those in the Arts and Humanities ‘curriculum group’  that includes subjects such as Languages Other Than English (LOTL), art, music, media studies, history, geography  received no more education after Year 12. Compared to 9.8% of Year 12 students in the Science and Maths ‘curriculum group’ who went on to complete studies at tertiary education institutions (Lamb and Ball (1999, pp. 24-45). From this it can seen that subjects such as science, business and math promote more effectively participation in education and training after school through TAFE and university courses. Being persistent and participating in post-school education is a catalyst for further advancement in the workforce.  Lamb and Ball (1999) further explain the influencing power that students studying science and maths obtain while job searching. With just above 80% of those doing science and maths being in full-time work at age 19 compared to around 65% of those students who completed schooling with subjects such as LOTE, history and geography. It is clear to see that certain curriculum groups are useful in defining which subjects are most influential in developing life skills.

 

McGraw (2002) seeks to determine whether ‘students choose subjects that they think are important’ (p. 1). McGraw based research on a school in Campbelltown, with the majority of data coming through surveying a number of Year 11 students. A student defining whether a subject relevant or not to their needs is important in identifying its worth relevance to life skills. McGraw’s (2002, pp6) first question asked the students to categorise a list of subjects as either ‘absolutely necessary’, ‘fairly important’ or ‘not important’. The results concluded that English and maths were the two subjects categorised as ‘absolutely necessary’ for getting a job. This was similar to the findings of Lamb and Ball (1999), where subjects such as art, drama and music were regarded as ‘not important’.

 

Unlike Lamb and Ball (1999), Lamb (1998) states that rates of school retention began to decline in 1998. Therefore, a weak labour market is smeared with high levels of youth unemployment. Lamb (1998 pp5) goes on to state how “studying the recent trends is a preliminary step to establishing why many young people are no longer willing to depend on school”. This lack of dependence has been mirrored by a ‘sea saw’ of school completion since the 1970s. However, Lamb (1998) notes that not all has been lost in regards to education with the downfall in school retention. In fact, during this period, there was a considerable growth in the participation in “TAFE courses and in privately run training institutions” (Lamb 1998 pp.15) especially among males. Hence, with this decline in school numbers overall, the slack has been taken up by VET courses, keeping education participation at the same level.

 

The literature discussed shows clearly that subject choice in Years 11 and 12 is affected greatly by a variety of social factors. Subject Choice in Secondary School (Ainley, Jones & Navaratnam, 1990), found that gender was a dominant factor in subject choice and that patterns of enrollment confirmed definite male and female orientated spheres across subjects. The report, Subject Choice By Students in Year 12 in Australian Secondary Schools (Fullarton & Ainley, 2000), shows a similar picture ten years later than the other report again showing gender as being a very prominent factor in subject choice. Furthermore McGraw (2002), Hillman and Rothman (2004), and Lamb and Ball (1999), provide data to confirm these trends which leads to the conclusion that subject selection is an issue that is permeated deeply by gender stereo typing. The classification of subject selection into curriculum groups allows the beginning of a study into trends of gender stereotyping within the large amount of data present in the nation wide longitudal studies. The idea of student interest in subjects is also a critical factor brought to light by McGraw (2002), that shows the need for the analysis of motivations in the choosing of subjects and subsequent career pathways. The increase in the prominence of VET subjects has also greatly effected the choosing of subjects as through higher retention rates VET subjects are allowing further gendered dominance in more practical stereotyped vocational subjects.

 

 


Methodology

 

After exploring possible research methods for the research project it was decided that the best way to collect data from participants was to use the survey format. A combination of a descriptive and an explanatory questions allowed the inclusion of a broad range of questions on the research topic. The descriptive section of survey involved the collecting of demographic information such as sex, year completed the HSC, type of school attended and subjects taken in the HSC. The explanatory part of our survey involved questions asking the participant their opinion, through the use of a scale questions on how well prepared they were subjects they undertook in the HSC prepared them life after school. Participants were then asked to select three subjects that were most relevant to their post school needs and then for a text response on how those three subjects were relevant to their post-school needs. A closed item question was then used to record the participant’s greatest influence in their post school choices with answers covering a broad rage of possible influences. The survey was finished off with another scale question asking the participant to rate the influence of their subjects in guiding them to their current career pathway. (See Appendix Item 1 for full copy of survey questions)

 

NB: The idea of using a mixed descriptive and explanatory survey was suggested by Burns (2000) along with use of scale questions and the closed item response, (pp.567-585).

 

The survey was placed on the internet and emailed to 150 participants who were sent the disclaimer and the internet address of the survey. The disclaimer was displayed again on the website and the demographic questions were facilitated by use of text boxes and drop down menu boxes. The explanatory questions utilised text boxes and check boxes for the scale responses and the closed item responses. The using of an internet survey was beneficial as it eliminated the need to record results on paper. Responses are uniform and the ease of distributing the survey and receiving the completed copies greatly allows greater efficiency, saving both time and paper, also allowing a greater amount of time to work with results (Burns 2000, p.581).

 

In analyzing the data from the survey, we classified students into curriculum groupings similar to the groups Lamb and Ball (1999) suggest. Two broader inclusive groups were used for the analysis of survey data, these were the Arts/Humanities and Social Sciences group and the Mathematics/Science and Technology group (See Table 2 in Appendix for complete subject listings in groups). These groupings allowed the classification of participants by their three most relevant subjects to their post school needs. Due to the relatively small number of participants in our survey the more generalised groupings used allowed the comparison of these groups to data such as gender, path chosen post school and factors influencing post school choices. This is affirmed by Jaeger (1988) who states that the generalization of findings is acceptable and inevitable when analyzing data from a survey (p. 324).

 

           

 

The downsides in our methodology were as follows:

           

-         Of 150 surveys sent, only 39 were received this gave our survey a response rate of 26% which effectively narrowed our demographic

 

-         Due to the low response rate our demographic was heavily weighted towards students who were completing full time university, with 76% of students surveyed indicating as their post-school career path

 

-         Our listing of subjects was incomplete, many participants contacted us and brought to our attention that our list did not include all the subjects they completed. This was due in part to coding issues with the web site and the complicated nature of providing a list that would cater for all participants

 

-         Scale questions should have used a five point scale rather than a ten point one, as the results gained from scale questions were difficult to compare with other data.

 

-         Another question relating to full time university students should have been included, on whether they were working either full or part time during their studies. This would have been relevant to analysing the instance of students participating in work during their studies and how subjects they chose enhanced their skills for their non career path prospects.

 

 

Ethical Issues in the Report

 

When a survey is to be viewed by large numbers of people in the public arena, the need to make sure it is acceptable to all audiences is paramount. Since the primary methodology used for gaining data was an internet survey the need to worry about results being affected by face to face contact was eliminated. The anonymity provided by the internet survey cancelled out effects such as intimidation or anxiety applicants may have felt leading to the giving invalid or dishonest information therefore cutting down the instance of irrelevant or invalid data. The survey over the internet was therefore beneficial as it gave us uniform information that was short, concise and easily accessible.

 

In the construction of the survey the need for anonymity was important and the medium of the internet survey was accommodating in this regard:

 

‘Information in this survey is strictly anonymous; no personal information will be recorded. If personal information needs to be included in the text responses, feel free, all personal information will be censored and kept in the strictest confidence.’

 

This kind anonymity did not allow the checking of the integrity of the responses as the it is impossible to know who is taking the survey. This is perhaps the reason for the distorted demographic received. The pay off for this anonymity as Burns (2000) mentions that surveys often gain more honest responses from participants as there is nothing to identify them with their response. This did not allow us to be more discerning with the demographic surveyed.

 

All participants knew what they were participating in and were fully aware that the survey was not compulsory and that they were reserved the right to withdraw at any time:

‘We are conducting a survey on people who have completed the HSC from 1989 onwards to find how subject choice has effected their post school choices, and as a result, life skills. This survey is written to take a broad picture of what people have done post school and what their main influences have been with regard to ultimate life choices. On completion of the report, a finished copy will be displayed on this page for your pleasure. This should be around the 17th October. Feel free to forward any comments, queries, problems to either one of us.’

 

 By providing our contact details, the option for participants to contact us with problems and queries regarding the process of filling out the survey was available.

 

 

Results

 

            Descriptive Statistics (Demographics)

 

(Fig. 1)

 

                                                                                                           

In terms of participant’s gender, there were a slightly higher number of females surveyed than males; the spread of school type however is fairly even, with participants surveyed attending almost equally among public, private and catholic schools.

 

(Fig. 2)

 

 

Participants surveyed overwhelmingly chose University Full-time as their post school pathway.

Table 1:

                                     Raw Subject Participation/ Most Relevant Subjects

 

 

Aboriginal Studies

0

0

Mathematics (2 Unit)

19

9

Biology

7

2

Mathematics (Extension 1)

10

4

Business Studies

8

7

Mathematics (Extension 2)

4

2

CAFS

2

1

Mathematics (General)

8

3

Chemistry

7

2

Music

5

1

Dance

2

1

Music (Extension)

0

0

Design and Technology

0

0

PD/H/PE

3

1

Drama

6

2

Physics

5

1

Earth and Environmental Studies

0

0

Religion

10

2

Economics

6

5

Religion (Extension)

3

0

Engineering Studies

2

1

Senior Science

1

0

English (Advanced)

32

18

Software Design and Development

5

3

English (Extension 1)

15

3

Texiles and Design

0

0

English (Extension 2)

9

8

VET (Business)

0

0

English (Standard)

3

3

VET (Hospitality)

1

1

Food Technology

2

1

VET (Information Technology)

0

0

Geography

7

3

VET (Other)

0

0

History

21

6

Visual Arts

8

5

History (Extension)

7

6

Visual Design

2

0

Industrial Technology

1

0

 

 

 

Information Processes and Technology

5

2

 

 

 

Legal Studies

6

5

 

 

 

LOTE

7

4

 

 

 

 

All students surveyed participated in at least one English course, as it is a compulsory HSC unit, thus explaining the high participation levels in English Advanced. History and Mathematics were the next most taken subjects, with most of the extension units also having high rates of participation. By far the most commonly indicated subject of high relevance to post school needs was English (Advanced) followed closely by Business studies, Economics and English (Extension 2), which possessed the highest ratios of raw subject participation to most relevant subject. The results that we gained from our survey were successfully in reinforcing (Delamont 1992) and over throwing preconceived notions surrounding relevant subjects to post-school needs.  Indeed, it was clear to see that the most relevant subject that was noted as being relevant to post school needs was English, and all its inclusive subjects. English subjects were mentioned thirty-two times as being one of the three most relevant subjects to post school needs.

 

 

Explanatory Statistics

 

(Fig. 3)

 

 

 

 

(Fig. 4)

 

 

 

 

(Fig.5)

 

 

 

When the data was placed into curriculum groups it was found that a slightly greater number of males possessed were Maths/Science & Technology group, compared to a large greater number of females by far belonging to the Arts/Humanities and Social Science curriculum group.

 

 

Text Responses

1.

relevantSubject01: English (Extension 2)
relevantSubject02: History (Extension)
relevantSubject03: English (Advanced)

English Ext.2 was a great learning experience in terms of writing a substantial unified body of work. History Ext. provided useful conceptual information for subjects at uni. English Adv. gave me a good general education in essay writing, close reading and critical analysis.

2.

relevantSubject01: English (Advanced)
relevantSubject02: Visual Arts
relevantSubject03: History

i found that english was a critical component for post-school as it is consiserd important at University and in getting a job. Visual arts was also beneficial as it allowed for interation and critical thinking combined. And history is cool because i am now studying it at uni

 

3.

relevantSubject01: English (Advanced)
relevantSubject02: History (Extension)
relevantSubject03: Visual Arts

Subjects taught critical analysis, communication and essay writing skills, all of which were helpful during my undergraduate degree. I now lecture at a tertiary level and am undertaking postgraduate research work. HSC History and VA helped me determine the direction my research would take as well as providing a foundation of research and writing skills to build on at university.

 

4.

relevantSubject01: English (Extension 2)
relevantSubject02: Visual Arts
relevantSubject03: LOTE

Since i am now in my fourth year of doing arts law, i find that english were definately the most beneficial subjects which i participated in at school. They have been critical in helping to develop my understanding and thinking surrounding difficult subjects in law. They have also assisted in expressing myself. Visual arts has been helpful in interpretation and languages have acted as a key to access difficult parts of the law market.

 

One of the main points brought out by text responses 1 – 4 was that they noted critical thinking as being the product of doing either Arts/Humanities and Social Science subjects as being especially helpful.

 

5.

relevantSubject01: Mathematics (Extension 1)
relevantSubject02: Engineering Studies
relevantSubject03: English (Advanced)

these skills transferred over into my uni course as i am studying engineering. advanced english assisted me in the communication classes that are required in my course

 

6.

relevantSubject01: Mathematics (Extension 1)
relevantSubject02: Mathematics (Extension 2)
relevantSubject03: Business Studies

I am doing a BE and BCom at uni. Mathematics (ext 1 and 2) is highly relevant to Engineering and Business Studies, although a very basic introduction to the way business operates in society has been a good grounding for a commerce degree.

 

7.

relevantSubject01: Mathematics (2 Unit)
relevantSubject02: English (Advanced)
relevantSubject03: Chemistry

My course required some previous understanding of mathematical and chemistry concepts, and my core university subjects require essays to be written.

 

8.

relevantSubject01: Mathematics (2 Unit)
relevantSubject02: Music
relevantSubject03: Software Design and Development

Maths and software design were a great preperation for studying engineering and computer science at uni. Music was good because it got me a job, which paid for uni.

 

 

The main point brought forward by text responses 5 – 8 was that Maths/Science and Technology related subjects as being highly relevant in building Mathematical skills that were used at university.

 

 

Discussion

 

Data from the survey indicates a trend towards the dominant presence of males in technical, maths and science orientated subjects which is also found in Ainley, Jones & Navaratnam, (1990) and Ainley & Fullarton (1999). This trend is reiterated in the survey (see Fig. 5) by the greater number of males belonging to Maths/Science and Technology curriculum group when indicating which subjects were most relevant to their post school needs. Similarly females showed more strongly in the Arts/Humanities & Social Sciences curriculum group, a trend which is again indicated by Ainley, Jones & Navaratnam, (1990) and Ainley & Fullarton (1999). The narrow margin between men and women in the Maths/Science and Technology curriculum group, five females and six males recorded as fitting the criteria for this group, is considerably narrower than expected. This finding is not reflected in either of the longitudal studies which showed that from 1989 – 1999 gendered dominance in these two spheres had remained intact. An explanation of our results is perhaps the fact we did not have a valid sample of Maths/Science and Technology students surveyed as well as the disproportionate number of males and females who took part in the survey (see Fig. 1).

 

Text responses received indicated that the Arts/Humanities and Social Science curriculum group subjects were most effectual in fostering critical thinking and close analysis skills rather than practical skills. This is a natural result seeing as a large part of participants were full-time university students. The subjects selected at school continued to be studied at university and the value placed on the skills in the school subjects proved to be highly relevant to students who studying university level Arts/Humanities and Social Science subjects. This is a trend also found in text responses 5 – 8, where students indicated that the selection of Mathematics subjects greatly assisted them in forming generic mathematical ability giving them a firm grounding for university study in scientific, mathematical and engineering areas.  

 

Lamb and Ball’s (1999)  research found that 41.4% of those students in the Arts/Humanities and Social Sciences curriculum group (Lamb and Ball 1999), which included students attempting a combination of subjects such as art, music, media, LOTE, history and geography, had no further education or training after their last year of school. In the survey, the classification of students into two broader curriculum groups, than Lamb and Ball’s (1999) eight curriculum groups allowed a somewhat more generalized comparison to be made between trends present in our data and trends present elsewhere. The data received in our survey was significantly less than Lamb and Ball’s, with 12.5% of students in our survey belonging to the Arts/Humanities and Social Science group receiving no more education after school. The other curriculum group is the Science/Maths and Technology curriculum group where Lamb and Ball (1999) noted that 9.8% of their students participated in further education after year 12. This outcome was refuted by our results as we had a all students who were classified as being part of the Maths/Science curriculum group as progressing to some form of tertiary education. Hence from this comparison and reinforcement of data, we can see that The High School Certificate subjects that were considered as being influential in developing life skills were within the Science/Maths and Technology curriculum group and are noted specifically as being beneficial to post school needs.

 

In regards to entering into the labour market, unfortunately we received no results by participants that could reinforce the data that Lamb and Ball (1999) gained. They noted a significant amount of students, 80% of those students participating in the Science/Maths and Technology curriculum group as entering the workforce at age 19. It would have indeed been beneficial if we included a question in our survey that asked the participants if they were involved in part time work while completing either school or their TAFE/ University degree. However, this lack of results in regards to the work force was also due to the demographics who received this survey. The majority of the recipients to the survey were inevitably friends and friends of friends therefore, it was clear to see why many respondents were at university and not in the labour market as they were all youths. The earliest respondent who completed the HSC was in 1996, then 1998, however the majority who completed the survey finished school in 2003 (n=18), the same year as the authors of the report. Nevertheless, it would however have been interesting to note how many students were trying to balance a successful university degree while earning a living. Therefore, the social perspectives of education that have been highlighted through comparing Lamb and Balls data to ours includes answers as to what subjects were seen as being beneficial to the workforce and also post-school experience.

 

Data received from Lamb (1998) in regards to school retention beginning to decline combined with the rise of Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses is echoed by data released by the Education Minister Carmel Tebbutt (McDougall 2005 p.17) which states that almost 25% of students in HSC VET subjects went on to university in 2004. The significance and impact of these courses was not enforced through our research, with only one respondent noting that they completed a VET course. It is significant to note however that Lamb (1998) predicted the trend of a rise in selection of VET courses by HSC students in absorbing the students who dropped out from school. Therefore, we see a rise in the social perspectives and knowledge surrounding VET courses and acknowledge the concept that as Bert Evans, the Chairman of the Board of Vocational Education and Training stated, that VET courses are knowledgeable and do indeed prepare students thoroughly for work (McDougall 2005 p.17).

 

The data that we received should indeed be seen as relative to Lamb and Balls research. Their study was significantly more diverse than ours, with a total of 11,500 participants (Lamb and Ball, 1999 p. 3), where able to gain a larger insight into the ideas surrounding subject selection and its affect on post-school experience. 

 

 

Conclusion

 

Findings from the survey indicated strongly that subject choice in itself was greatly influenced by gender. This was reflected through the dominance of males in the Science/Maths and Technology curriculum group and the dominance of females in the Arts/Humanities and Social Science curriculum group. This indicates that subjects taken by males and females in these curriculum groups were most relevant to their post school needs. Gender difference is attributed to the domain in which it is stereotypically assigned. Science/Maths and Technology subjects inherently cater better for the life skills of males opposed to females. Conversely, Arts/Humanities and Social Science subjects are more congruent with female needs in life skills. This is not necessarily universal however as our ratio of male students versus female in the male dominated Maths/Science and Technology curriculum group seems to have narrowed compared to other studies. The conclusions made from our data here are most likely invalid. When generalizing the results of the survey confirm trends brought out by other studies however the poor response rate and overwhelming amount of full-time university students who participated in the survey precluded any conclusive answer to the matter.

 

Trends present in texts responses were that students who had taken on Full-time university degrees have built on subjects taken in High School. This points to the conclusion that subjects taken from whichever curriculum group greatly influence and allow for the foundational knowledge required in full time university study. The Arts/Humanities and Social Science curriculum group seemed to improve skills in critical thinking, analysis and close reading which in turn were beneficial in university courses within the same domain; also, the Maths/Science and Technology group was fundamental to participants in fostering general mathematical skills which provided the basis for studies in areas such as engineering, science and mathematics at a university level. This is the main conclusive point from the data as most participants drew a solid link between subjects of most relevance to them and their degree choice at university.

 

 The data that we received reinforced the idea surrounding curriculum groups as greatly influencing future student pathways. It can be noted that students who participated predominately in the Science/Maths and Technology group went on to have further education and training and became more involved in the workforce whereas students who were grouped in the in Arts/Humanities and Social Science were less likely to follow on with any formal education. It can be assumed from our data that subjects which are part of the Science/Maths and Technology curriculum group are more practically beneficial in fostering life skills for the aim of gaining entrance into full-time university. This conclusion is also inconclusive as our sample of participants did not include a significant amount of non full-time university students. More students who chose TAFE, traineeships, apprenticeships, and so on needed to be sampled for a proper rounded answer to this issue.

 

            It is obvious that subject choice has a great influence on life skills, this study due to reasons of a narrowly focused demographic was unable to present conclusive answers to many of the factors involving the relationship between subject choice and life skills. If this study were to be revised the need for an even number of participants from different career paths would be needed. Furthermore an equal number of female and male participants would also help to make results more valid. The true effect of subject choice on life skills will only be fully addressed by a wide and complex study including wider demographic data than collected for this survey.

 

 

            References:

 

Ainley, J., & Fullarton, S. (2000). Subject choice by students in year 12 in Australian secondary schools. Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research.

 

Ainley, J., Jones, W., & Navaratnam, K. K. (1990). Subject Choice in Secondary School. Canberra: Australian Council for Educational Research.

 

Burns, R. (2000). Research Methods 4th Edition. Australia: Pearson Education.

 

Delamont, S. (1992) Fieldwork in Educational Settings Methods, Pitfalls & Perspectives. Great Britain: Burgess Science Press.

 

Elsworth, G. R., Harvey-Beavis, A., Ainley, J., & Fabris, S. (1999). Generic Interests and School Subject Choice. Educational Research and Evaluation, 5(3), p.290-318.

 

Hillman, K & Rothman, S Gender Differences in Education and Labour Market Outcomes, Learning Matters, 9 (2) 2004

 

Jaegar, R (1988) Survey Research Methods in Education, in R. Jaegers (Ed) , Complementary Methods for Research in Education (pp301-387). Washington, American Educational Research Association,

 

Lamb, S & Ball, K. (1999) Curriculum and Careers: the education and labour market consequences of year 12 subject choice, Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth, Research report number 12,

 

Lamb, S Completing school in Australia: Trends in the 1990s, Australian Journal of Education, 42 (1) 1998

 

McDougall, B (2005, October 12) Pupils find education that works. The Daily Telegraph, p. 17. 

 

McGraw, K A community based study of students’ perception of knowledge and its relation to their subject choice in year 11, Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) Conference (2002 : Brisbane)

 

Tertiary Entrance Procedures Authority (1997). Research Series: The Longitudinal Study on Career Decisions and Tertiary Pathways: Subject selection. Brisbane: Tertiary Entrance Procedures Authority.


Appendix

 

Table of Subjects according to curriculum group

Arts Humanities and Social Sciences

Science/Maths and Technology

 

 

Aboriginal Studies

Biology

Business Studies

Chemistry

CAFS

Design and Technology

Dance

Earth and Environmental Studies

Drama

Engineering Studies

Economics

Food Technology

English (Advanced)

Industrial Technology

English (Extension 1)

Information Processes and Technology

English (Extension 2)

Mathematics (2 Unit)

English (Standard)

Mathematics (Extension 1)

Geography

Mathematics (Extension 2)

History

Mathematics (General)

History (Extension)

Physics

Legal Studies

Senior Science

LOTE

Software Design and Development

Music

VET (Information Technology)

Music (Extension)

Visual Design

PD/H/PE

 

Religion

 

Religion (Extension)

 

Texiles and Design

 

VET (Business)

 

VET (Hospitality)

 

VET (Other)

 

Visual Arts