Factors Influencing Singapore Students' Choice of Physics as a Tertiary Field of Study: A Rasch analysis
Asian students often perform well in international science and mathematics assessments. Their attitude toward technical subjects, such as physics, remains curious for many. The present study examines Singapore school students' views on various aspects of physics according to whether they intend to choose physics as an advanced field of study. A sample of 1076 physics students, from 16 secondary schools and junior colleges, participated in this study. The students were categorized as physics choosers or non-choosers according to their indicated intention, as sought in the survey, to study or not to study physics as a major subject at university after their leaving level examinations. Rasch-anchored analysis was employed to interpret the results; the use of Rasch analysis has helped to overcome significantly the psychometric limitations inherent in the treatment of Likert scale type of data using traditional analysis. As expected, the image of physics as a difficult subject surfaced in the samples used in our study. The students recognized unequivocally the utilitarian value of physics: physics is said to enhance career options and is necessary for technological progress to occur in a country. They also showed high interest in school physics?this is so even for students who are not keen to study physics in the future, a finding which is at variance with other studies reported from Western countries. School physics is seen to be relevant, and physics teachers are viewed as being able to foster students' interest in physics. Laboratory work, enrichment activities, and physics textbooks were reported to be important in order to encourage students to like physics. Though the physics choosers showed greater intention in physics, they were generally not inclined to pursue physics-related careers after graduation. Parents and peers at school, on the other hand, are perceived to display unenthusiastic attitudes toward physics. Possible reasons for these are discussed along with the implications of the study.