A STUDY OF PERCEPTIONS OF FACTORS INFLUENCING ENROLMENT OF FEMALE STUDENTS IN SCIENCE COURSES IN NIGERIAN UNIVERSITIES
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Science plays a pivotal role in the development of an individual and the nation at large. It is very obvious to state that without science, there will be no advent of technology that has helped in the advancement of the society (Ukeje, 1997: 4). Therefore, science goes a long way in the sustainable development of a country.
However, for the national development of a country, science must be taught at all levels of education. To achieve this, the Nigerian government through its recent policies on education has come up with policies to promote science and technology in Nigeria. This policy stipulates a 60:40 ratio for the admission of students into tertiary education who want to study science related courses (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1998). The results of this policy seem positive as the statistics of students that have been into arts and science faculties are ratio as follows 27: 72, 35: 66 and 33: 69 for1992/93, 1993/94 and 1995/96 academic years respectively (Aguele and Uhumuavbi, 2003). From the data, there seem to an improvement compared to what it used to be in the previous years.
Meanwhile, the major factor militating against the proper implementation of science in Nigeria is the gender factor. Females in Nigerian universities do not fully participate in science related courses. This gender disparity is quite obvious in females studying science-related courses. Not minding that females’ access and participation in education in Africa greatly improved right from the 1960s’, the current problem is that boys are preferred to study science than the girls (Odaga & Heneveld, 1993). Due to this, the benefits attached to female education are forfeited, as there is a saying that “if you train a woman, you have trained a nation”. The lack of females’ participation in science has the propensity of slowing the pace of science and technology in the country. Many African governments have made claims on improving the participation of girls’ education, but less is witnessed (no impact) (World Bank, 2000).
Moreover, there are certain factors that influence enrolment of female students in science courses in Nigerian universities. Attitude is a major factor. A study carried out by the USA discovered that attitude determines a person’s willingness to learn and what to learn. Lingren (1980) added that the right attitude towards learning guarantees success. Fishbein and
Ajzen (1975) in their studies carried out in the USA and Europe asserted that attitude is the feeling a person has towards achieving one’s goals and objectives.
Thus, there is need to pay attention to the attitudes of students towards learning, most especially female students as some of them exhibit fear in learning or studying certain courses. It is equally pertinent to note that negative attitude towards learning hampers a person’s ability to assimilate what is taught (Tobias, 1978). It is a common knowledge that Nigerian students generally have hatred for some science subjects or courses like mathematics, most especially female students (Fakuede, 1973). A related study carried out in East Africa, particularly in Uganda and Kenya proved that females have negative attitude towards learning.
Based on a study by Mukherjee and Umar (1989) of Kano state polytechnic, Nigeria, attitudes can be changed. Therefore, females’ negative attitudes towards learning science subject can actually be changed.
According to Kerka (2000), several factors influence enrolment of female students in science courses in Nigerian universities to include globalization, socialization, role model, social support, personality, interests, self-concept, cultural identity and available resources such as information and financial.
Similarly, Bandura et al (2001) added that environmental factor, personal ability and nature of friends are factors that influence enrolment of female students in science courses in Nigerian universities.
Data from series of studies carried out in Africa shows that there is a gross misrepresentation of females in science courses and career (FAWE, 1997). In a conference organized by the Federation of African Women Educationists (FAWE), it was reported that females in African countries are restricted to learn “soft option” subjects; thereby hindering their further studies of science and technical courses in tertiary institutions (Ramani, 2004).
Aside from the aforementioned factors, another notable factor is the poor coaching of students from the secondary schools on career choice. It is only the teachers or school counselors that show concern in helping the students out of this dilemma. Thus lays the purpose of the study to examine perceptions of factors influencing enrolment of female students in science courses in Nigerian universities.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Some of the problems associated with enrolment of female students in science courses in Nigerian universities include:
- Poor implementation of education policy: The education policy of Nigeria states that “every child has a right to education”. This policy is not properly implemented as still in some parts of the country only the males are sent to school.
- Gender factor: This implies that Nigerians have this wrong notion that there are certain courses that should be studied by females and males.
- Lack of proper orientation of students: Across various primary and secondary educations which are the bedrock of education, there seem to be no proper orientation of students on subject and career choice. Due to this, students are either misled or left with the wrong information they have about certain disciplines.
These are some of the problems this study seeks to proffer solutions to.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The major objective of this study is to examine perceptions of factors influencing enrolment of female students in science courses in Nigerian universities.
Other specific objectives include:
- To examine the significant relationship between gender and science courses in Nigerian universities.
- To examine the role played by the government in enrolment of females in science courses in Nigerian universities.
- To investigate ways Nigerian students’ notion on science courses can be improved.
- To determine the extent Nigerian female students are cut-off from studying science courses.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The following research questions are generated to guide this study:
- What is the significant relationship between gender and science courses in Nigerian universities?
- Has the government played any role considering the enrolment of females in science courses in Nigerian universities?
- What are the ways Nigerian students’ notion on science courses can be improved?
- To what extent is Nigerian female students’ cut-off from studying science courses?
1.5 RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS
H0: There is no significant relationship between gender and science courses in Nigerian universities.
H1: There is a significant relationship between gender and science courses in Nigerian universities.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study is meant to inform the general public, the government, school administrators of various levels of learning and policy makers.
This study aims at informing the general public, especially parents (literate parents) that they have the responsibility of giving their wards informal education on the choice of subject and career. This duty should not be left to their teachers alone.
The government is expected to fully implement the education policy, alongside put measures in place that will promote gender equality in the education sector.
Similarly, school administrators at all levels of education have a greater role to play. As academies who are well enlightened, it is expected that they inform, educate and enlighten students on career and subject choice.
Finally, policy makers are meant to map out right policies that will promote gender equality in Nigeria.
This study will be of immense benefit to other researchers who intend to know more on this topic and can also be used by non-researchers to build more on their work. This study contributes to knowledge and could serve as a guide for other work or study.
1.7 SCOPE OF THE STUDY/LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
This study is restricted to perceptions of factors influencing enrolment of female students in science courses in Nigerian universities.
Limitations of study
- 1. Financial constraint- Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).
- 2. Time constraint- The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
1.9 DEFINITION OF TERMS
PERCEPTION: Is the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the environment. All perception involves signals in the nervous system, which in turn result from physical or chemical stimulation of the sense organs.
ENROLMENT: It is the act of putting yourself or someone else onto the official list of members of a group, course, or college or the process by which individuals register to become a plan participant with a government or employer-sponsored benefits plan.
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