Research in Science Education

, Volume 46, Issue 1, pp 113–127 | Cite as

Minority Ethnic Students and Science Participation: a Qualitative Mapping of Achievement, Aspiration, Interest and Capital

  • Billy WongEmail author


In the UK, the ‘leaky pipeline’ metaphor has been used to describe the relationship between ethnicity and science participation. Fewer minority ethnic students continue with science in post-compulsory education, and little is known about the ways in which they participate and identify with science, particularly in the secondary school context. Drawing on an exploratory study of 46 interviews and 22 h of classroom observations with British students (aged 11–14) from Black Caribbean, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian and Chinese ethnic backgrounds, this paper identified five ‘types’ of science participation among minority ethnic students. The five types of science participation emerged from an analysis of students’ science achievement, science aspiration, science interest and science capital. The characteristics of the five types are as follows: Science adverse students have no aspirations towards science and lacked interest, achievement and capital in science. Science intrinsic students have high science aspirations, interest and capital but low science attainment. Students who are science intermediate have some aspirations, interest and capital in science, with average science grades. Science extrinsic students achieve highly in science, have some science capital but lacked science aspirations and/or interest. Science prominent students are high science achievers with science aspirations, high levels of interest and capital in science. The findings highlight that minority ethnic students participate in science in diverse ways. Policy implications are suggested for each type as this paper provides empirical evidence to counter against public (and even some academic) discourses of minority ethnic students as a homogeneous group.


Minority ethnic students Science aspiration Diversity Engagement 



The author would like to thank Marie-Pierre Moreau for her comments on an earlier draft of this paper. This work was supported by the ESRC under Grant ES/H005072/1 and RES-179-25-0008, and the Rosalind Driver Scholarship Fund at King’s College London.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (PDF 37 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EducationUniversity of RoehamptonLondonUK

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