The impact of school disadvantage on senior secondary science: A study of patterns of participation and achievement in government secondary schools in Victoria, Australia

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Abstract

Science and science education is recognised internationally as essential for ensuring a sustainable and prosperous future. At the same time, significant equity issues are apparent in science education. This study used enrolment and academic result data, routinely collected from government schools in Victoria, Australia, to examine the impact of socioeconomic status and school location on patterns of participation and achievement in senior school Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Physics and Psychology. This research shows that though non-metropolitan students are less likely to have the sciences provided by their school, where they are provided they enrol in similar proportions to metropolitan students. In line with other research, it shows that high SES students are more likely than other students to study senior secondary Chemistry and Physics, and outperform low SES students in all senior sciences. While the findings of this study suggest that non-metropolitan students underperform their metropolitan counterparts in senior sciences, they suggest the gap in performance is not dramatic. More promising, the variation in school performance revealed in this study suggests that non-metropolitan schools can achieve just as well as metropolitan schools in the sciences. The study also suggests location has a moderating effect on SES not noted in the current literature, where science achievement in non-metropolitan schools appears less impacted upon by SES than similar schools in urban environments. This provides impetus for further research into high science performing non-metropolitan schools as a step towards addressing some of the equity concerns in science education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1603–1618
Number of pages16
JournalResearch in Science Education
Volume50
Early online dateJun 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020

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