Date of Submission
The impetus for this study was a concern for student selection of appropriate subject pathways for senior secondary studies. Data indicating that large numbers of students chose not to continue with training and education after leaving secondary education led to this research study. In Queensland, approximately 72 per cent of secondary students take an academic subject pathway for their senior secondary studies although only approximately 36 per cent attend a tertiary institution upon graduation (Department for Education and Industrial Relations, 2011; Department of Education Training and Employment, 2010). In addition, approximately 30 per cent of senior secondary students take a vocational subject pathway however only 25.1 per cent undertake further vocational education and training after graduation (Department of Education Training and Employment, 2010). Following secondary schooling 40 per cent of secondary students do not transition to education or training and 10 per cent of this group are not employed in their first year after school (Department of Education Training and Employment, 2010). Thus, the majority of students take academic subject pathways but do not use the qualification for tertiary studies nor do the young Queenslanders who studied a vocational subject pathway capitalise on their decision and continue with further vocational education and training upon graduation from secondary schooling. This is a concern because studies on youth unemployment have identified increased risk of future of long term casual employment or unemployment for those who do not engage in training and education to enhance their employability skills soon after secondary schooling (OECD Secretariat, 2000; Queensland Government, 2002). Moreover, the youth in Queensland face challenges emanating from global and national factors that mean their employment prospects may not be as assured and the future economy may not be as robust as was previously the case. International factors such as globalisation, youth unemployment and economic recessions interact with the Australian and Queensland economies to affect career pathways of secondary school students. Policies and initiatives introduced by the Australian Government to provide secure career pathways for adolescents are affected by changes to the labour market and economic downturns and these affect the opportunities or constraints facing students upon leaving secondary school in Queensland. Exploration into the dissonance between subject pathway choices and eventual post secondary destinations commenced with this study situated in three selected secondary schools with diverse characteristics and locations in Queensland.
This study included: two self-report surveys administered to a group of Year 10 students, and semi-structured interviews with nine students from this cohort. Quantitative data were analysed for general data which raised several unresolved issues. The three schools were compared and the unresolved issues explored with a thematic analysis of the interview transcripts and the outcomes combined and discussed. Results suggested: academic self-efficacy was a salient predictor of the subject pathways that students would pursue; preferences for activities, skills or interests were not predictors of the subject pathways students would choose; and the schools' subject selection processes had a minimal effect on the career choices students made as most entered year 10 with a firm idea of their intended career. Students reported personal responsibility for their choice of subject pathway and future career at the same time as identifying their families as powerful agents in the choice of career; and teachers in the choice of subjects. Career Guidance Counsellors in the schools were under-utilised by the participants and had little impact on career choice or subject pathway choices. Overall students were found to assess the viability of information used in choosing subject pathways and career options according to how much they trusted the source and this was determined to some extent by the term of their relationship with that source and how closely that information resonated with their "personal first-hand experiences, social networks and social identities "(Dyke, Foskett, & Maringe, 2008). Results of this study suggest several possible approaches that could be implemented by school administrators and policy makers to provide students with appropriate subject pathway and career advice to smooth the transition for students between secondary studies and their eventual post-school destinations.
School of Education
Doctor of Education (EdD)
Faculty of Education
Nolan, T. R. (2012). "They just want me to be happy": a study of how year 10 students in Queensland choose subject pathways for their senior secondary studies (Doctoral thesis, Australian Catholic University). Retrieved from http://researchbank.acu.edu.au/theses/431