ONLY 36 per cent of Danish sixth-form college pupils studying mathematics, sciences or technical subjects want a natural sciences or technical higher or further education.
A survey of the life strategies and educational choices of 16 to 19-year-olds, whose schooling prepares them for education as engineers, natural scientists, economists and doctors, shows that high socioeconomic status and a tradition of long education at home directs them towards a literary cultural ideal rather than a scientific - cultural ideal.
Lilli Zeuner, a sociologist at Denmark's Social Research Institute, found that 15 per cent of 2,287 sixth-formers studying maths, sciences or technical subjects subscribe to a scientific-cultural ideal, while 34 per cent of the same group subscribe to a character-developing literary-cultural ideal.
"Education has become a matter of character development," Ms Zeuner said. "The pupils want to form themselves. The natural sciences have lost their prestige among young people who regard education as a means of self-realisation rather than a career. They choose the arts, and the trend is general - psychology is more popular than mathematics or physics."
The report finds that parental influence weakens as students progress through the educational system and that pupils' own choices become more important.
"There is a character developing literary educational culture among the highly educated and that culture goes from generation to generation," Ms Zeuner says. "Their children go to sixth-form colleges, which provide a liberal education, rather than to technical schools. Children further down the socioeconomic scale have no educational tradition at home and choose the security of technical knowledge."
Forty-two per cent aim at further education after sixth-form college. Fifteen per cent want a natural science education, 21 per cent a technical education and 16 per cent want a health sciences education.
After finishing further education, 29 per cent want to go into research, 20 per cent into teaching, 22 per cent aim at the health sector and 23 per cent will go into production, while 25 per cent will supply personal, technical or legal counselling services.
The education ministry-funded survey was initiated at a time when admissions to engineering courses had fallen by 45 per cent in five years and to the natural sciences by 20 per cent in one year.