The Post Secondary School To Social Studies Education Essay

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Background of Research:

Subject choice is considered as the most important thing for senior secondary and tertiary students because it is responsive to all sides of learners' interests, needs, preferences and choices. As in the discussion of five Australian independent studies about subject preferences, subject choices and generic interest themes, the result shows that vocational interest themes are relevant to the subject choice of secondary school students for the last 2 years of study. Moreover, school subject areas have a strong connection with vocational interests, preferences and choices (Elsworth, Beavis, &Ainley &Fabris, 1999).

Similarly, the study on school curriculum as cultural commodity in the construction of young people's post-school aspirations finds that Australian senior students have increased remarkably and are more diverse during the last three decades. In response to this, calls for school curriculum expansion with wide-range of subjects to subject choice flexibility have been made to facilitate in students' decision-making. This study tends to figure out problems of subject choice by analyzing four observations such as: first, schools provide a range of subjects and flexible program at the senior year; second, the school and students construct subject choices as final and binding; third, students need to use multidimensional criteria for selecting their subjects during the last two years; and forth, an observation on a particular issue bases on its absence from the data not from its presence (Atweh, Taylor, & Singh, 2005).

One research about school effects and subject choice: the uptake of scientific subjects in Ireland among approximately 4,000 students, however, shows that there are commonalities with other cross-national contexts about subject choices made by students but also certain key differences. First, gender differences in take-up of science in Ireland where Physics is mostly chose by boys while Biology is taken by girls are also considered as gender neutral for Chemistry subject. Second, scientific subject choice is based on students' different ability levels and backgrounds as it is seen that boys take Chemistry, Physics and Biology while girls choose any science subjects as a selective group with the inequality of high abilities and from professional backgrounds. Third, selection of science subjects depends on students' perception of the value in which they see interesting or uninteresting. Forth, the limitation of science subject areas as there is only Biology provided for upper secondary level for the certificate exams whereas other European countries and the United Sates provide Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Finally, school structures can also shape students' subject choices within the systematically longitudinal process from lower secondary to upper secondary levels. Therefore, school contexts are influential factors on subject choices (Smyth & Hannan, 2006).

Anyway, another study was conducted to explore the issues of subject choices and occupational aspirations of British schoolgirls in single-sex secondary schools. The authors assert that single-sex schoolgirls' subject preferences are similar to mixed-sex secondary schoolgirls' in terms of more diverse and less gender-stereotypical if they are compared to the case twenty years ago. Conversely, the single-sex schoolgirls are likely to prefer math and science to mixed-sex schoolgirls. In addition, the authors further claim that single-sex schoolgirls essentially focus much on academic study and have high ambition for their future employment than they did twenty years ago even though they believe there will be a gender dichotomy in girls' future occupations (Francis, Hutchings, Archer, & Melling, 2003).

Interestingly, according to the studies on subject choices within Australian context, British context and Ireland context, they are explicitly seen that senior students choose subject choice based on their subject preferences and future careers. Noticeably, one study conducted a survey on Chinese students to determine how they make subject choice at secondary school and career aspirations presents that Chinese students feature their subject choice on their liking of subjects and teacher; school subjects and career connection; and institutional framework (Siann, Lightbody, Nicholson, Tait, & Walsh, 1998). As cited in Goodrum, Druhan and Abbs (2012), Fensham (1985) suggested that demand of science education about scientific literacy and preparation of scientists cause conflict and tension within the school science; thus, senior science courses need to be established to prepare students for further university science study. Conversely, from a tracer study of 90 terminating Beirut upper secondary school students in Lebanon, the result shows that though lack of information or guidance about higher education and career options, almost all of the students desire to transit to university, yet about half of them to science and technology programs (Barend, Kamel, George, & Jihan, 2007). To direct students to reach the goal, career guidance and counselling are effective approaches to be used. That is the reason why, with the intention to guarantee students' personal, academic, and career development, Malaysian schools supply school career counselors to provide information and guidance to students (Rashid, & Bakar, 2010).

However, Cambodian education inevitably needs to be enhanced for better quality by making it responsive to students' needs, demands and interests. Hence, it is recently seen that the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS) has divided Upper Secondary schools into two options which are Sciences and Social Studies to serve students' academic and employment needs. According to the Policy for Curriculum Development 2005-2009, subject choices in Grade 11 to12 curriculum provide students the specialization through deep knowledge of particular subjects or training-based vocational subjects in order to pursue to higher education, vocational programs and social-life participation. All students in Upper Secondary schools must take four compulsory subjects: Khmer Literature, Mathematics (Basic or Advanced), Foreign languages (English or French) and Physical and Health Education and Sport. However, students who choose the Basic Mathematics must select four other subjects from Elective subjects while the other three are for those who choose Advanced Mathematics. In fact, students may choose none, one or two or three of the Elective subjects from subject areas of Sciences, Social Studies and EVEP. The maximum number of subjects chosen by students is eight for students who choose Basic Mathematics and seven for those who choose Advanced Mathematics (MoEYS, 2004). According to Education Congress Report on the Education, Youth and Sport Performance in the Academic Year 2009-2010 and the Academic Year 2010-2011 Goals, there were 106, 908 students passing Upper Secondary Exams while number of students enrolled in public and private higher education only 173,264 including 70,954 females in the academic year 2010-2011 (MoEYS, 2011). Remarkably, the academic year 2011-2012 has 70 per cent of students who chose Sciences at Upper Secondary schools enrolls in a large number in Social Studies at university (MoEYS, 2012).

Through personal observation in the Institute of Cambodian Education (ICE), most of students who chose Sciences at their Upper Secondary schools now change to learn in Social Studies in higher education. Yet only a few students who do not change their subject choice from Social Studies in high school to Social Studies in higher education. Thus, there is a mismatch between subject choices selected by students at Upper Secondary level to tertiary level. And this will provide a good opportunity for all interested researchers to dig out the root causes of this problem.

Problem Statement:

By observation on some upper secondary schools and the institute X, high percentage of Upper Secondary school students choose sciences as their subject choice, yet only around 18 to 20 per cent of them choose this option at universities. In consequence, massive number of students at the tertiary level chooses Social Studies as their subject choice instead. This problem causes a need to conduct a research to find out the reason why Upper secondary students change their subject choice when they pursue to higher education.

Research Questions:

-What factors influences on the first-year students at Institute X change their subject major from Sciences at Upper Secondary schools to Social Studies at the institute?

Significance of the Research:

This research will be beneficial to both lower and upper secondary school teachers and school principals and students and parents and other relevant stakeholders who are concerned with the quality of education. To guarantee the educational quality, we inevitably consider critically of the students' needs and interest in terms of their subject choice, transition from high school to university and career decision. Moreover, the research will also be valuable for all high schools around Cambodia to consider and improve the curriculum of both options, Sciences and Social Studies, especially the Social Studies which are difficult for students to learn. Furthermore, it will provide an alert to all high school teachers and principals to reflect on how to select and put students into each option by referring to their interests and performance capacity. Finally, it is a message for Higher Education Institutions to reconsider the program and the select process in order to put students right to what place they should be in.

Literature Review


Since this particular topic of study about the influential factors which affect on upper-secondary school students' decision of subject-choice change from Sciences at Upper Secondary school to Social Studies at university is exactly new for the social researches in Cambodian educational contexts, we need to explore further to the broader contexts which are both regional and international. Therefore, it is crucially important to see what factors influence on upper-secondary students and the subject choices they made from the prior literature reviews or researches from the international reviews narrow down to the South-east Asia contexts. Additionally, career decision in which has a very close connection with the last outcome of every educational institution and future employment is unforgettable to be considered as a correlation of individual student's subject choice in the regional and international contexts as well. Most of the documents of literature reviews are mainly retrieved from James Cook University, Google scholar website, and Taylor and Francis.

Influential factors on first-year students' subject-choice

The subject choice made by the individual student should be critically considered and definitely and is purposefully chosen by the learners' perspectives. Inevitably, the choice must be made under the various factors which reflect the expectations of personal learners or the influential people on the learners' decision or other factors. As cited in Roushdy (2012), Behrman et al. (1998) claimed that individual learners made choice depended on their personal characteristics, which functioned partly in the past and partly for their future opportunities and alternatives while Boatwright and Ching (1992), Paa and McWhirter (2000), John et al. (2005), Teachman and Paasch (1998), Wilson and Wilson (1992), and Zuker (2006) asserted that many factors such as economic, academic, geographic, cultural, and even political factors influenced students and their parents to choose the most suitable and desired university to attend (Roushdy, 2012). Moreover, the recent study about factors influence student's choice of universities in Egypt contends that students' subject choice can be influenced by both economic factors which are the cost of university tuition, scholarships and grants, and accommodation (room and board) and non-economic factors which are university size and location. Thus, these provide an alert to higher educational institutions to be aware of what influence students' choice of a university. The author further claims that economic reasons play the most important and the largest role in choosing a university (Roushdy, 2012).

Conversely, according to the report about Year 12 student choices: A survey on factors influencing Year 12 decision-making on post-school destination, choice of university and preferred subject personal interests were the dominant factors underlying course preferences with the three highest ranking factors being: opportunities for an interesting and rewarding career 96 per cent; that it suits personal talents and abilities 95 per cent; and allows them to explore an area of interest 93 per cent. The results indicate that the level of Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) fees is not a major influence in respondent decision-making, ranking in the bottom set of factors surveyed (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations & Roy Morgan Research, 2009). Most of the studies prove that subject interest has influence on the choice of major. For instance, the result of the study on undergraduate students at a large northeastern business school in concerning influences on their choices of major shows that by not regarding of gender, subject interest is considered as the most important factor for incoming freshmen. Interestingly, the most influential factor for women is aptitude in the subject whereas men is significantly more influenced by the major 's potential for career advancement and job opportunities and the level of compensation in the field. Students appeared to be driven to change their major because of positive factors about the new major, rather than negative factors related to the old major (Malgwi, Howe, & Burnaby, 2005).

More interestingly, the empirical research conducting to assess the factors, motivations, and nonacademic influences that affected the choice of major among pharmacy and nonpharmacy undergraduate students (freshman and sophomore students) in the United States found that there were different interests of subject-choice majors among African-American, Hispanic, Caucasians and Asian-American. The result of this study showed that African-American and Hispanic students were less likely to choose pharmacy as a major than Caucasians, whereas Asian-Americans were more likely to choose pharmacy as a major. According to the result, pharmacy students made decisions based more likely on their interests in science and math than nonpharmacy students. The authors concluded that students' self-reported, racial and ethnic backgrounds influence their decision of whether to choose pharmacy as their academic major. In addition, results of this survey provide further insight into developing effective recruiting strategies and enhancing the marketing efforts of academic institutions (Keshishian, Brocavich, Boone, & Pal, 2010).

Likewise, according to the study of the reasons why students of the Department of Nursing of the Faculty of Health Science at Near East University in North Cyprus choose to be nurses, the influencing factors and their thoughts on the profession by surveying 335 students, the results indicate that nursing students are keen to help people and provide them with maintenance, the high possibility of employment and the nursing value in the society. The authors conclude that the influencing factors for students to choose nursing as a priority are the students' living places, their socioeconomic status, and their parents' education level. According to the findings of this research, it can be made suggestions for organizing the nursing education programs by means of developing the professional identity, enabling students to cooperate with the experienced nurses during the education process and examining the change in the perception of the nursing that students have (Dala, Arifoglu, & Razi, 2009).

In accordance with choices and motivations among Portuguese students, the findings present that the reasons of taking students to higher education and to a particular institution are attractive career preparation, degree obtainment and personal life-direction. These factors relatively depend on social and symbolic representations which are constructed in different environments and social circumstances. The most important factors for which students choose an HEI are a good academic reputation, to be the best one for the study subject and to be near home. As the results, when students choose an HEI, they think of the best for the study subject and near-home location. The first reason is the most important in public universities and in most study areas. The second is the most important in public polytechnics and in the areas of Educational Sciences and Teaching, Economics, Management and Accountancy (Tavares & Ferreira, 2012).

Relatively, one study conducting to examine the factors which influence on the choice of major concerns on the important factors when students select a major and intends to have better understand the reasons why some students never consider economics as their major. The results indicated that the most important factors in the choice major were interest in the subject, career concerns, the student's performance in major classes, and the teaching reputation and approachability of the faculty. Within these results, however, the authors asserted that there were a significant gender differences in which female respondents put a greater emphasis on subject interests, good class performance, high school exposure and the encouragement of a high school teacher while male respondents were more concerned with the perceived marketability and expected income associated with the subject. Moreover, the authors further provided that subject interest was the key factor for the choice of major because 95 per cent of the students in this survey claimed satisfaction with their given choice of major though most female students never considered economics as a major in terms of difficulty and overly math (Calkins & Welki, 2006). Similarly, the recent study which is conducted on science choices among 1628 Norwegian upper secondary school students by investigating the relevant importance of various issues students' choices of postcompulsory subject combinations such as natural science and mathematics or language, social science and economics shows that students choose Science base on their identity reasons which are interests, self-realization and fit to personal beliefs. In addition, the finding more indicates that students also make Science major for strategic utility reasons which are somewhat more important to Science girls than to Science boys. This appears that girls put more weight on utility than on their interests (Boe, 2012).

Surprisingly, the decision-making process of academically talented students when making the transition to college is complex. The purpose of this study is to investigate the factors that contribute to the selectivity of the colleges by Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate students for application. This study found that students selected colleges with higher mean SAT scores when prestige of the college was the reason, the students had higher achievement, and the college was farther away. Academic self-concept and perceived challenge of their high school curriculum had no effect on the college selectivity (Wilson & Adelson, 2012).

Career decision of the first-year students

Career decision of the upper secondary school students is crucially important because it is considered as a definite guidance to show up the pathway for students to choose or to make decision before selecting their career choice. More than this, some students might also have made their career choice since they were in lower secondary school or perhaps in primary school. To support these ideas, Arrington (2000) contended that the decision of students in middle grades has a great affect on their future educational and career paths. The author confirmed that mostly students do not have the necessarily adequate information or assistance to help them make decisions which would produce success in their educational and career paths. Generally, however, thinking deeply of the career choice, students must have a foundation of career awareness and career exploration experiences. These experiences can be applied to a consideration of the career interest to form realistic career plans. The results make some suggestions that implementation of a six-year plan of study, curriculum infusion, and job shadowing are just a few of the critical elements that need to take place in the career exploration phase. These elements, along with others found in a comprehensive career guidance program, can help assure students are cognizant of the many educational and career opportunities available to them and how to capitalize on these opportunities (Arrington, 2000).

To see how high school students make education and career decision, it is better to see one main study which was conducted to investigate five key themes which are education and career decision-making processes; career advisers and career information services in schools; vocational education and training in Schools; traditional trades as a career; and teaching as a career. This study broadly focused on Australian students in Year 10 and Year 12 from 9 schools located in various parts of Australia like: 2 schools (1 lower and 1 middle SES) in Perth; 3 schools (1 lower, 1 middle and 1 higher SES) in Brisbane; 3 schools (1 lower, 1 middle and 1 higher SES) in Sydney; and 1 rural area school in New South Wales. The findings of the study to the first theme about education and career decision-making process show that there were five key findings such as: both girl and boy students with high ambitions satisfied for their careers; students invested time and thought for their future time development; students earlier planned their career during the junior grades of secondary school comparing to the previous students; school and career advising services, parent and family members, students themselves, and the level of academic achievement are influential factors for students to make career planning; and the availability of information enables students to make subject choices (Alloway, Dalley, Patterson, Walker, & Lenoy, 2004).

Seeing more specifically of adolescences' choice making and career decision-making, the longitudinal study examined how adolescents' perceptions of attachment security with parents relate to their process of choosing a major in higher education from a large sample of 281students who were investigated at the beginning, middle, and end of Grade 12. Findings demonstrated that higher perceived security with mother, but not with father, predicted higher levels of coping with the career decisional tasks of orientation, broad and in-depth environmental exploration, and self-exploration in the future. However, perceived security did not relate to the degree of change in decisional tasks during Grade 12. Finally, results suggested that the association between perceived security with mother and the decisional tasks of orientation, broad and in-depth environmental exploration, and self-exploration was mediated by adolescents' career decision making and self-efficacy (Germeijs & Verschueren, n. d.). Another study investigated the reasons that influence students' career choices in accounting. The findings divided into two categories. First, students who have a desire to work in accounting field assume that accounting field provides good job opportunities, and the field matches with their abilities and interests. Second, students who have no desire to work in the field of accounting assume that other fields provide wider job opportunities and are less stressful, tiring, and boring. In addition, the association of the factors that play role in choosing or not choosing a career in accounting field with student performance in accounting course is investigated (Uyar, Güngörmüs, & Kuzey, 2011).

However, a career in medicine is extremely attractive amongst second level students in Ireland. This leads to huge competition obtain a university place in undergraduate medicine. Anyway, this is the first study to describe the factors influencing this cohort of students in choosing medicine as a career. This study has demonstrated that a factor of interest in surgery presents in pre-college students and therefore not acquired through undergraduate or postgraduate experience. Moreover, this is also the first study to determine the influence on television in these students. The results indicates that over-dramatization and romanticizing of the lifestyle of surgical trainee and consultant surgeons through popular television shows is significantly influencing students in choosing to study medicine and may account for high levels of interest in surgery as an ultimate career choice (McHugh, Corrigan, Sheikh, Lehane, Broe, & Hill, 2011).

Similar to McHugh, Corrigan, Sheikh, Lehane, Broe and Hill, Law and Arthur (2003) conducted a research to determine the factors which influence on school students to consider nursing career in Hong Kong. The findings showed that the high potential group was female students who studies a biology subject at F.5 and A-level, possessed a positive perception of nursing, a good CGP in the HKCEE, and experience of participation in career activities. In addition, F.6 students had generally positive opinions of nursing. The majority perceived nursing as a career that provided opportunity to care for people and was a financially rewarding career with job security because of a desire for a profession with job security where they could care for people and capitalized on their interest in science. Furthermore, the finding also showed that more than 50% of students negatively perceived related to the lower status of the nursing profession, the high cost of nursing programs in university, difficulty of the study program and perceived female-orientation occupation of nursing. The attraction to nursing because of its reputation as a 'caring' profession should be exploited in the recruitment process. More importantly, these qualities must be articulated in the design of nursing roles (Law & Arthur, 2003).

Remarkably, decision is not easy to be made by individual students. Recently one study titled career decision statuses among Portuguese secondary school students: a cluster analytical approach by Santos and Ferreira (2012). This study examines career decision statuses among a sample of 362 12th-grade Portuguese students. The authors suggest that career indecision is a complex phenomenon and an increasing number of authors have proposed that undecided individuals do not form a group with homogeneous characteristics. A cluster-analytical procedure, based on a battery of instruments designed to assess career and personality dimensions, was employed to understand the heterogeneous groupings that underlie the concept of career indecision. Three groups of career decision statuses were identified and their characteristics described. The study finds that the first cluster (n ¼ 129; 64 males and 65 females; 39.1% of the total sample) scored high on self-esteem and vocational identity, in comparison to members of the other clusters. These individuals appear to have a clear self-perception of their interests and talents and generally have a positive attitude about themselves. They also obtained low scores on trait anxiety, indecisiveness, and externality. These results mean that they do not tend to be nervous and worrisome; they feel confident about their decision-making capacity and think that their lives are generally under personal control. This group was named career decided and confident. The second cluster (n ¼ 133; 43 males and 90 females; 40.3% of the total sample) consisted of individuals who lacked vocational identity and were more indecisive, while their levels of self-esteem, anxiety, and internal locus of control were of average magnitude. These students do not seem to have chosen a career option, but they reveal a positive image of themselves, experience median levels of anxiety, and do not think that their lives are under external control. This group was named developmentally undecided. Individuals belonging to this group are apparently going through a normal and temporary phase of career decision making. They are probably experiencing a process of exploration before they make a career commitment. The third cluster (n ¼ 68; 14 males and 54 females; 20.6% of the total sample) were career undecided as revealed by their lack of vocational identity, high anxiety, indecisiveness, and low self-esteem. This group also had the highest degree of external locus of control, although it was not statistically different from Cluster 2. This group was named indecisive or chronically undecided. Making decisions, including careers choices, is a difficult task for these individuals. They also present a psychological profile that is indicative of low levels of psychological adjustment (Santos & Ferreira, 2012).