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Title: Why Not Science? A study of the low uptake of the natural sciences at post-16 education in England
Author: Pike, Angela Gay
ISNI:       0000 0001 3490 4348
Awarding Body: University of Sussex
Current Institution: University of Sussex
Date of Award: 2008
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This study addresses the pro~ess of choice which young people go through at the age of 16, when making their educational choices beyond compulsory education. The issue of the supply of scientists into the workplace and higher education continues to be of concern to governments and educationalists alike. In recent years, some universities in England have been forced to close their physical science departments. Inthe academic year of 200212003 I listened to student voices through 49 individual student interviews supported by focus group and staff interviews. These were the young people who had recently undergone this choice process. Through these interviews I explored how the students' pedagogical experiences had impinged on their learner identities and consequently on their post-16 choices. Choice, for these young people, was taking place within the context of educational change. The 14-19 curriculum was under review with several interventions being put in place. One of the major interventions, to affect the students, was the introduction of Curriculum 2000 into further education colleges. The final outcome of the 14-19 review was published in a Government White Paper in 2005. There were also changes being considered to the Key Stage 4 Science National Curriculum. Choice at the age of 16 is the first major choice that young people have. In the literature review I have explored the concept of choice within the English educational system for parents as well as the pupils or students. This provides the context of choice within which the analysis can take place. The students' narratives contained two distinct strands. Firstly they looked back to their previous experiences and secondly they looked forward to notions of their future pathways. When looking back their choices were very much bound up with their learner identities, which had been constructed through their pedagogical expenences m secondary education. As a framework for the analysis of this theme of the students' narratives I have utilised the work of educational theorists in the area of pedagogy and identity construction, theorists such as Basil Bern~tein, PauJ Dowling and Etienne Wenger, amongst others. I have explored how the pedagogies of different subjects, in particular the natural sciences, have impinged on their identity construction. Within the pedagogical experiences of the students there emerged a dominant discourse creating a hierarchy of difficulty amongst different subjects, placing the natural sciences and mathematics as the most difficult. This differentiation between subjects is also to be seen within the official documentation surrounding science education. The aspect of the difficulty of the natural sciences became an important feature of the students' narratives impinging on both identity construction and post-16 choice. When looking forward to their educational or occupational careers the students were taking account of the recent changes in post-16 education, the demands of university entrance requirements and the need to remain flexible for today's workforce. I have explored how these changes have affected the choice of the natural sciences. A typical biographical pathway for the young people of today has become extended in length as they tend to take longer before making final decisions on their career options. When reflecting on the stories the students told, I assess how the recent changes to the science curriculum might address the issues raised. I also reflect on the study as a whole and look to possible ways forward.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available