Effects of students' beliefs on mathematics and achievement of university students: regression analysis approach.

Author:Suthar, Velo


The swift competition and progress in a globally changing economic and technological environment have been one of the driving forces for enhancing educational accountability in many countries (Martin et al., 1998). It is absolutely necessary for a nation to improve its standards of teaching, research and practice in science, mathematics, technology and engineering. As a consequence, professional and business guidelines have been developed over the last two decades to strengthen mathematics and science curriculum standards. The Malaysian government had announced a new education policy to strengthen the education standards in science and technology to compete with advanced countries and vowed to stand in the list of developed countries in 2020 (Mahathir, 1991). For example in the United States, national organizations produced documents to advocate curriculum articulation between mathematics and science education (National Council for Teachers of Mathematics, 2000; National Research Council, 1996). Meanwhile, educators in the United Kingdom adopted interdisciplinary approaches in the development of its national curriculum (Nixon, 1991). The Curriculum Council of Western Australia (1998) also recommended teaching methods across traditional subject boundaries (Venville et al., 1998).

Malaysia has successfully democratized higher education to produce sufficient graduates to meet its manpower requirements during its phenomenal economic growth over the last three decades. Higher education in the public universities is heavily subsidized by the government. In 2007, there were 9,422,002 students in 20 public universities, 32 private universities and university colleges, 4 branch campuses of international universities, 21 polytechnics, 37 public community colleges and 485 private colleges (Ministry of Higher Education, 2007). The four international universities with branch campuses in Malaysia are University of Nottingham, Monash University, Swinburne University of Technology and Curtin University of Technology.

The Malaysian government is attempting to increase the number of graduates especially in the fields of science, technology and innovation to become knowledge workers to sustain the nation and to achieve the title of a developed nation by the year 2020 (Sam et al., 2009). These fields inevitably require students to be adept in Mathematics. Various efforts such as the 60: 40 ratio in the teaching of Science and Mathematics policies had been put in place. Various research has been undertaken to investigate trends in mathematics achievement and the factors influencing mathematics learning and performance (Ma and Klinger, 2000; Pape et al., 2003; AlKhateeb, 2001; Mullis et al., 2004; House and Telese, 2008). Ma and Klinger (2000) considered the factors influencing mathematics achievement, which included students' gender, age, ethnicity, their family socioeconomic status and school characteristics in their study. In Papanastasiou (2000), the effects of school, students' attitudes and beliefs in mathematics learning on students' performance were explored. Mathematics beliefs and self-concept were also investigated by House and Telese (2008) and Wang (2007) while AlKhateeb (2001) examined gender differences in mathematics achievement among high school students.

Research was performed by Sam et al. (2009) on TIMSS data demonstrated that the eighth grade students from Singapore (Singapore, used to be a part of Sultanate of Johor, Malaysia 1965) were ranked first in mathematics among participating 41 countries while its neighbored, Malaysia was ranked 16th and 10th in 1999 and 2003 respectively (Mullis et al., 2000; 2004). Is it something about its students, teachers and/or school system that lead to Singapore's superiority over Malaysia in as far as mathematics performance is concerned? Thus it is the main interest of this study to investigate the possible weakness and flaw in Malaysian education system, including the students, teachers, schools and other characteristics of the students in hope of helping Malaysia improve its performance in Mathematics globally.

Importance of mathematics: Everything in the universe has been recognized by its worth and value. A diversity of independent major study areas and disciplines are offered at interest of higher education. The importance of having a solid background in mathematics and quantitative analysis as prerequisites for admission into university and college areas of study is well recognized. Students' achievements in mathematics in high school have a significant effect on their performance in college (Ismail and Awang, 2008). Mathematical and quantitative competencies are also linked to better chances of employability, higher wages and higher on-the-job productivity once employed (Geary and Hamson, 2000). Thus, mathematics learning and students' performance in mathematics receive considerable attention from educators, teachers and parents. It is therefore important to identify and recognize the factors that could influence students' mathematics achievement in order to help them improve and make substantial academic progress.

Recently, in Malaysia, the growing awareness of the importance of mathematics competency in secondary school for tertiary education and future careers has led to high expectations from both the teachers and parents for students to do well in mathematics examinations. Mathematics as a subject is taught in every tuition centre across all levels of schooling outside of the school hours, with a growing number of parents who appointing teachers to provide personal tutoring for their children at home (Ismail and Awang,...

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