2003 - Volume 44 > Numéro 3

ISSN 0035-2969

The « loss of interest » in scientific studies

pp. 449-467


The loss of interest of school-goers in scientific studies is a common phenomenon in numerous industrialized countries. This phenomenon is too easily blamed on the image young generations supposedly have of science. In reality, regarding the situation in France, there are solid grounds to believe that this is more likely caused by social demographical factors. A paradox which clearly indicates that the choice of studies is not linked solely to the course subject content : it was exactly at the time when in secondary education a physics-chemistry specialization was introduced, that the registrations in scientific subjects in further education started to drop sharply. The explanation put forward here, is related to the hierarchy of subjects. For a large number of students, the choice of physics-chemistry studies rather than mathematics is associated with a lower level of educational ambition, which itself is associated with a lower level of success and/or a more modest social background. This observation may be generalized. One of the causes for this loss of interest in scientific studies, in France, is the fact that scientific courses at the lycée (upper secondary) are becoming less and less distinctive. Over the last fifteen years, especially since 1995, women, average students academically-speaking, and students with a modest social background, have been more and more numerous to follow scientific baccalauréat courses. Yet women, academically average students and students with a modest social background, fully worthy in all aspects, are less inclined to opt for long term scientific studies.



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