Murdoch University Research Repository

Welcome to the Murdoch University Research Repository

The Murdoch University Research Repository is an open access digital collection of research
created by Murdoch University staff, researchers and postgraduate students.

Learn more

Ethnicity: A study of participation, aspirations and achievement in education

Peck, Bob (2000) Ethnicity: A study of participation, aspirations and achievement in education. Professional Doctorate thesis, Murdoch University.

PDF - Whole Thesis
Available Upon Request


This was a contemporary, empirical, exploratory study of the education of children of families that have come from other countries to live in Australia. Specifically, this work compared students from ethnic minority groups with members of the Anglo-Australian majority in terms of participation in post-compulsory education, academic achievement at school, educational and occupational aspirations, academic self-concept, access to university and achievement in their first year at university.

A survey instrument was used to collect data from a sample of Western Australian students (N = 4061) in their last year of post-compulsory schooling. Data from the survey were used to construct variables for ethnicity, academic self-concept, aspirations, gender, rurality and socioeconomic status (SES). Additional data on school achievement, completion of units at university in the following year, and school participation were obtained from the Secondary
Education Authority, the four public universities in Perth and the Australian Bureau of Statistics respectively.

In this study ethnicity was defined as family linguistic background. The students’ grandparents’ main language, in cases where it was common to both sets of grandparents, was identified as the family linguistic background. Family linguistic background was categorised at six different levels: English, Italian, other European languages, Chinese, other Asian languages, and other languages. One additional ethnic group included in this study was Aboriginal. Since this was not intended to be a study of educational limitations arising from slow English language acquisition, students with a non-English speaking background who had been in Australia for six years or less were removed from the analysis.

Scales of academic self-concept in English and mathematics were constructed from responses to survey items using the Rasch model, and students’ academic self-concepts were compared in these dimensions. Multivariate analytical techniques—namely, logistic regression and general linear models—were used, so that the effects of ethnicity could be seen after eliminating the effects due to gender, socio-economic status (SES) and rurality. The educational attributes or outcomes of minority ethnic groups were compared with those of the Anglo-Australian group because this majority group exerts hegemonic power by defining itself as the norm in Australian

It was found that the parents of students whose family linguistic background was English were more likely to have occupations of high status than equally well educated parents of other students. Differences between students due to the covariates SES, gender and rurality were found to be generally greater than differences due to ethnicity. After adjustment for these covariates, differences in school participation, mathematics self-concept, aspirations, academic achievement and university participation were found between Anglo-Australian students and students of other ethnicities. The high participation rate and high academic achievement of students of Chinese origin were especially notable. After these adjustments it was found that, for students completing year 12 at school, the mean Tertiary Entrance Score was independent of gender and rurality. The study concluded with a review of policies intended to improve equity for non-mainstream students.

Item Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Andrich, David
Item Control Page Item Control Page