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Why don't students opt to study physics? Or why do they?

The proportion of students opting into LC Physics has been stuck at around 14% for a number of years, which is similar to those taking Chemistry, but far below the numbers taking Biology. The trend over the decades is illustrated in this graph here:

But, even though we have detailed numbers of those taking each subject, we have little or no data supplied over the years as to why . Of particular interest here is the number taking physics. There is no shortage of opinion on the matter. Amongst the theories I've heard over the years are: its perceived to be too hard, it is too hard, students aren't encouraged by Guidance counsellors, students aren't encouraged by the JC science teachers (who predominantly specialise in biology, it is assumed), the facilities aren't there, the students have no interest etc.etc.etc.

I have my own favourites among those theories. I'm sure we all have. But I've always been aware that in a subject that is supposedly based on research rather than opinion, we have very little research on which to base our opinions. And in particular, we lack recent, Irish based research*. So its good to see somebody trying to fill the gap. I have no involvement in this, but we (science teachers) have all been invited to participate in a national survey conducted by researchers from the University of Limerick, Dublin City University and Institute of Physics. The focus of this study is to investigate what factors affect subject participation in science. Their survey is here, and as of this morning they were looking for about 60 more teachers to complete that survey in order to have a representative sample.

Best of luck to them. I look forward to reading their findings.

*at least, I do. If there are links to recent, Irish research, I'd love to hear about them....

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