Declining Rates of Participation and Attainment in Mathematics and Science in Australian Schools

Published: 2021-07-19
832 words
4 pages
7 min to read
Vanderbilt University
Type of paper: 
Research proposal
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Australia is experiencing a decline in the percentage of students studying advanced and intermediate Mathematics. Phillips (2014) explains that a study by Australia's chief scientist showed that main sciences, i.e., Biology, Chemistry, and Physics were experiencing a huge decrease in student enrollment. Although the decline is very vivid, the level of this decline is not clear. Numerous reports from the media, politicians and top scientists in Australia have shown different and sometimes conflicting findings on the level of declined in student enrollment (Goodrum, Druhan & Abbs, 2011). No matter the scale of the decline, this issue should be addressed quickly and effectively. Several kinds of research done on this topic dwell so much on the decline in enrollment, thus ignoring the decline in the attainment of students learning sciences and Mathematics.

This research project studies the cause of the decline in both enrollment and attainment of Sciences and Mathematics in Australian schools. The project will concentrate on senior high school students. Remedies to this major problem affecting Australian education sector will also be discussed. This research also hopes to resolve the conflicting figures on the rate of decrease enrollment and attainment. The research will consider Mathematics and three main sciences: Biology, Physics, and Chemistry.

Research questions

What is the cause of the decline in student enrollment and attainment in sciences and Mathematics in senior high school in Australia?

What is the scale of decline in student enrollment and attainment in sciences and Mathematics in senior high school in Australia?

What can be done to reduce the decline in the enrollment and attainment?

The Rationale

Learning Science and Mathematics equips students with knowledge that enables them to comprehend challenges facing their day-to-day lives. Issues such as climate change, genetic modification of foodstuff and robotics require a good science base for one to fully comprehend them (Thomson, 2013). If many people abandon science classes, Australia will raise a society which is ignorant of the key issues affecting the world. The decline in enrollment and attainment may lead to a shortage of skilled labor especially in the scientific field. If this decline is not stopped immediately, Australia will not be able to supply skills required by the future workforce. This research hopes to provide solutions to the problem of decreasing enrollment and attainment in Mathematics and Sciences.

Theoretical Perspective

The decrease in the number of students interested in sciences and Mathematics is very alarming. Although the number of students enrolling in Australian schools is increasing annually, the number of students enrolling in sciences and Mathematics is decreasing dramatically (Phillips, 2014). According to Wood (2017), enrollment in these subjects is at its lowest level in the last 20 years. This is despite an increase in student population in Australian schools.

To clearly understand the enrollment, we need to review the education systems across Australia. Australia has ten school leaving qualifications which are administered by eight state governments, one territorial government and one international organization (Kennedy et al., 2014). English, Mathematics, and Science are compulsory up to Year 10, and in almost all states English remains compulsory up to Year 12. In Year 11 and 12, students select other three to five subjects as provided by their school (Kennedy et al., 2014). It is at this stage where students are dropping sciences and Mathematics.

Australias performance on 2012 PISA assessment of Mathematics and Sciences among 15-year olds showed a decline in international competitiveness while statistics show a decline since 2012 (Thomson, 2013). This is more worrying as math is a cross-discipline pillar that improves performance in other subjects (Wilson & Mack, 2014). It is therefore important to comprehend what causes the decline in both enrollment and attainment in order to find a remedy.


A quantitative method will be used. Data from the states will be used to determine the subject enrollment and attainment. The raw data published by state and territorial governments for ten years (from 2006 to 2015) will be studied to develop trends. More recent data is not readily available. Data on students' reason for dropping Sciences and Mathematics will be collected online through posts to a Facebook group for Year 12 students.


Goodrum, D., Druhan, A., & Abbs, J. (2011). The Status and Quality af Year i i and 12 Science in Australian Schoois. Canberra, ACT: Australian Academy of Science

Kennedy, J., Lyons, T. and Quinn, F. (2014). The Continuing Decline of Science and Mathematics Enrolments in Australian High Schools. pp.34-46.

Phillips, N. (2014). 20-year decline in year 12 science and maths participation, study finds. [online] The Sydney Morning Herald. Available at: [Accessed 18 Aug. 2017].

Thomson, S. (2013). New PISA results show education decline: its time to stop the slide. The Conversation Dec. 2013. Retrieved August 18, 2017, from

Wilson, R. and Mack, J. (2014). Declines in High School Mathematics and Science Participation: Evidence of Students and Future Teachers Disengagement with Maths. International Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education, 22(7), pp.35-48.

Wood, P. (2017). Could 'entertainment science' lure kids back into STEM?. [online] ABC News. Available at: [Accessed 18 Aug. 2017].

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