Examining Normal Academic/Technical Students’ Science Learning from a Sociological and Cultural Lens

Project Number
OER 51/12 TWT

Project Duration
June 2013 - December 2016


Greater emphasis on helping ''students at-risk'' improve in academic achievements has become a key concern of many countries. The relatively large achievement gaps between high and lower academic groups is an educational issue, and also, a socio-political and socio-economic one as it suggests that a sector of a population is not equipped with the necessary academic qualifications, knowledge, skills, and aptitude to take on certain types of jobs and earn a reasonably good income to sustain their living. In 2008, the school dropout rate in Singapore was 1.6 percent?1 percent was attributed to secondary school dropouts of which approximately 90 percent of these students were from the Normal Academic (NA) and Normal Technical1 (NT) steams (Ministry of Education, March 4, 2008). The dropout rate has decreased over the years. In 2010, the primary one cohort which did not complete secondary school education was 1.0% (Ministry of Education, January 16, 2012). Based on the data drawn from the MOE Education Statistics 2012, NA and NT students make up approximately 29 percent and 12 percent of the secondary school student population, respectively. This research proposal for Examining Normal Academic/Technical Students' Science Learning from a Sociological and Cultural Lens seeks to investigate Singapore Normal stream students' science curriculum experiences. While most science education research focuses on mainstream Express and specialised school students, no studies have focused on how Normal Academic (NA) and Normal Technical (NT) students learn science. As a critical lens on the topic is absent, we are particularly concerned with the lack of deeper insights into the challenges, difficulties, and tensions NA/NT students' experience that may limit their interest and ability to learn science in meaningful and productive ways. The three key research questions we want to address are: 1. How do Singapore Normal Academic and Normal Technical students experience science learning in and outside the classroom? 2. How do structures shape Singapore NA/NT students' science learning? 3. How do Singapore NA/NT students' construct their science discursive identities? We have designed a research study using qualitative methods on case studies and quantitative surveys on a large purposeful sample of mainstream Singapore secondary schools and case studies (one NA and one NT class) in one school to investigate the above issues and identify support needed in the Normal stream science curriculum. Both quantitative and qualitative methods will be used to collect generalised and case specific data. We will apply the sociological and cultural lens, specifically, the theory of agency and structure, to analyse how various cultural schema and resources in the primary and secondary structures enable or limit the students' agency. Related to this, we will also examine the science discursive identities of students using discourse analysis. The overall goal of the study is to improve the teaching and learning of science for all. The short term goal of this research is to gain deeper insights into NA/NT students' experience in science classrooms and include identifying existing schema and resources that they engage with both from within and outside the primary structure (e.g., home, institutional, and social structures) and the secondary structure (e.g., scientific discipline and practice in science classrooms) to make sense of science and to develop their science-related discursive identities. The long term goals of this research are to address current gaps in research on NA/NT students' participation in science classrooms, particularly, how they learn science, how they relate to science, their views about science lessons, the factors and forces shaping their agency, and their motivation and interest to learn and pursue postsecondary education in science-related fields. The intellectual merit of this research is to advance the knowledge base

Research Themes

Funding Source

Related Links
SingTeach Issue 56 (2016): Equity in Singapore Education

Related Projects