Sequential attrition of secondary school student interest in IT courses and careers

Catherine Lang (Faculty of Information and Communication Technologies, Swinburne University of Technology, Hawthorn, Australia)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Publication date: 17 August 2012

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to present results of interviews with Australian students in junior, middle and senior secondary‐school. It also aims to provide a current insight into the declining diversity of the information technology (IT) student cohort that is not captured in the existing literature. Educational psychology theories of self‐efficacy shed light on the development of like and dislike towards aspects of IT, it also seeks to consider the career choice decision‐making theories and models to understand the cost‐benefit dimensions of career choice in young people in the twenty‐first century. Socio‐cultural factors that condition young women for their expected role in society also apply to career choice and build a theoretical framework for the research.

Design/methodology/approach

Qualitative research methodology of semi‐structured focus group interviews were conducted with students of both genders from three different year levels. The interviews were analysed using a meta matrix approach aligned with themes suggested in the literature.

Findings

This research found that IT rarely entered their schematic repertoire of possible future careers, a schematic repertoire strongly influenced by parental opinion and habitus at all stages of education. While it would appear that there is a deficit in student knowledge of what an IT career involves beyond that of the most stereotypical portrayal of a programmer, this deficit of knowledge is evident in both genders. While it would appear that there is a deficit in student knowledge of what an IT career involves beyond that of the most stereotypical portrayal of a programmer, this deficit of knowledge is evident in both genders. This research found a pattern of factors specific to Information Technology that encouraged some males to choose this career path and a pattern of inhibiting factors that had a stronger negative impact on young women than young men.

Research limitations/implications

It is apparent from this study that the lack of women in IT is not necessarily a gender issue, but an issue embedded in the image of the IT discipline, an image of lower status than most other professional careers. It is apparent from this study that the lack of women in IT is not necessarily a gender issue, but an issue embedded in the image of the IT discipline, an image of lower status than most other professional careers.

Practical implications

A positive implication is that there is little differentiation between the genders in IT use, despite greater confidence in technical ability residing with males.

Social implications

A lack of diversity in a workforce is detrimental to creativity and future design. IT professionals, industry and academics need to work together to engender greater interest in this discipline and increase their focus on parents of students.

Originality/value

This paper adds to current theory by suggesting that parents remain the primary influencers to student career and course choices. A second important contribution to current theory is the perpetuation of the poor image that students hold of the IT profession.

Keywords

Citation

Lang, C. (2012), "Sequential attrition of secondary school student interest in IT courses and careers", Information Technology & People, Vol. 25 No. 3, pp. 281-299. https://doi.org/10.1108/09593841211254330

Download as .RIS

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Please note you might not have access to this content

You may be able to access this content by login via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
If you would like to contact us about accessing this content, click the button and fill out the form.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.