Attitudes of Year 12 Students and Their Parents to Secondary Mathematics Teaching as a Career

Year: 1991

Author: Oakley, John, Horton, Bruce, McKinnon, David, Jeffries, David, Donaldson, Paul

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper reports on one aspect of a larger study into the factors which influence school leavers to consider, or not to consider, a career in secondary mathematics teaching. The study questioned Year 12 students, their parents, the mathematics teachers at their school, and students from Charles Sturt University-Mitchell studying to be secondary mathematics teachers. This paper concentrates on the responses of the Year 12 students and their parents. The responses are discussed using a "Key Factors" framework. These factors were those identified by a group of teachers in informal discussions before the major project started. The data indicates that there are several crucial factors militating against school leavers choosing secondary mathematics teaching as a career. Female students are more likely to express a preference for a career in mathematics teaching than are male students. This imbalance is exacerbated by the relatively small proportion of females choosing to study a level of school mathematics that will serve as an adequate prerequisite to university studies in mathematics. Males who study mathematics at these higher levels are much more likely than females, to choose to enter a profession other than teaching. Year 12 students are generally not interested in teaching as a career. Teachers are perceived by many as being poorly paid with poor working conditions and low social status. Poor behaviour of students is of major concern. Mathematics teaching as a career is generally not encouraged, either by careers advisers or parents. Indeed, some parents actively discourage teaching as a career choice.