An Analysis of Factors Shaping Students' Decisions to Study or Not to Study Languages Other Than English in Queensland State Secondary Schools

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Hyde, Merv

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Hirst, Elizabeth

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Over the past two decades, the teaching of Languages Other Than English (LOTE) in Australia has received widespread support from governments at both state and federal levels. Much funding has been directed to this curriculum area, and initiatives have been implemented to increase enrolment levels in LOTE subjects once the compulsory periods of language study are over. In spite of this, enrolments in elective LOTE programs remain largely unchanged over this time period. This thesis reports on a study examining the subject choices made by Year 9-12 students in Queensland State secondary schools. Specifically, the study sought to identify and explore the factors shaping students’ decisions to study or not to study LOTE once it is no longer compulsory to do so. In Queensland, Year 9 represents the first opportunity that students have to make choices concerning their language study, and they are given further opportunities in Year 10 and in Year 11. The design of the study was informed by Ajzen and Fishbein’s (1980; 1988; 2005) ‘Theory of Planned Behaviour’, which maintains that behaviour is a result of the influence of three major components – attitude toward the behaviour (in this case, studying LOTE), subjective norms (the influence of the opinions of people who are important to the student) and perceived behavioural control (the extent to which the student feels that they are in control of their own actions). The use of this theory allowed for the analysis and exploration of the factors shaping students’ subject choices. The research was conducted using a five-phase, mixed-methods approach incorporating two major phases, one of which was qualitative and the other quantitative. The two major phases were preceded by three preliminary phases, all of which were of a quantitative nature. The first preliminary phase involved the collection of historical enrolment figures in LOTE subjects in Queensland schools, in order to establish enrolment trends over the past forty years. The second preliminary phase examined enrolments in LOTE subjects in individual State schools in Queensland, in order to select research sites for the subsequent phases of the study, based on the proportion of students in each school electing to study a LOTE. Three large State schools in the Gold Coast region were then selected to participate in the third and fourth phases of the study. In the third preliminary phase, 2030 students in Years 9-12 at the three schools completed a survey, which served two purposes – to provide background information concerning the students’ participation in LOTE programs at the school, and to ascertain the students’ willingness to participate in Phase Four of the study.

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Education and Professional Studies

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Languages Other Than English


Queensland State secondary schools

secondary schools


subject choice

compulsory language study

elective language study

LOTE study

studying LOTE

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