Choosing to study science in Taiwanese schools: perceptions of science and other influences on students' choices

  • Angie Hsu

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


There is widespread concern in many Western countries over the declining levels of uptake of science at the upper levels of high school. In contrast, Taiwanese senior high school students have a greater tendency to choose science rather than social studies and achieve highly in international comparative tests. The well-developed technology industries in Taiwan also suggest that science education in Taiwan has been a success. However, the attitude toward school science, unlike the promotion of scientific attitudes, has received little attention in Taiwanese schools. This paper firstly investigates 729 students’ attitudes toward both school and real-world science. The results show that the high level of uptake of science is not strongly associated with positive attitudes towards science as a subject. Few differences were found in the affective responses to school science between the Natural Sciences programme (NSP) and Social Studies Programme (SSP) students, with only a minority expressing a positive attitude to science in both cases. The research findings challenge the simplistic linking of attitudes and uptake in this context. This research then seeks to understand this unusual phenomenon by exploring the nature of and influences on students’ subject choice decision-making. Through focus group discussions with students and interviews, this research explores the sources of students’ perceptions of science and social studies, identifying influences derived from the teaching of school science itself but also those arising from ‘external’ contexts of wider society, including cultural and economic influences. The results show highly complex relationships between students and the surrounding actors, i.e. parents, teachers and the media. The findings also demonstrate possible explanations why students are doing well in school science and in industry but have not produced prominent discoveries or achievements in the world’s academic research. Drawing on Taiwan’s distinctive socio-cultural context, this research provides a different perspective from that in western science education research literature on the factors that shape science uptake.
Date of Award1 Jan 2008
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorPaul Denley (Supervisor)


  • Taiwan
  • cultural influence
  • Science education
  • decision-making
  • subject choice
  • Confucian heritage

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