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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Accessing senior science and mathematics course offerings in small rural BC high schools Nielsen, Wendy S.

Abstract

Access to an equitable educational environment for all students is one of the key goals of the public education system in the Province of British Columbia. The attainment of this goal is problematic, particularly for students in small rural high schools around the province. Compared to provincial averages, students in small rural schools participate at lower rates in provincial examinations for senior science and mathematics courses. This in part could be an issue of access for these students. In an attempt to make sense of this situation, the current study was undertaken. Through a mixed-method interpretive approach, the perspectives of principals, teachers and students from selected small rural schools were sought through questionnaires and follow-up interviews on the issues that impact student access to senior science and mathematics courses. From the study emerged a number of key factors that impact student access to senior science and mathematics courses, among which include students' access to specialist teachers, distribution of qualified and experienced teachers, student attitudes and aspirations and organizational support for course delivery at the school. The study shows that specialist teachers are unevenly distributed among the participating small rural schools. Additionally, teachers likely teach the majority of their courses outside of their subject specialty areas. Because the schools are small, there are few students who choose to take advanced courses in science and mathematics, which challenges the school's organizational ability to offer these low-enroling courses.

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