FACTORS INFLUENCING CAREER ASPIRATIONS AMONG GIRLS IN PUBLIC SECONDARY SCHOOLS IN NYANMIRA NORTH DISTRICT, NYAMIRA COUNTY-KENYA

CHAPTER ONE

                                     INTRODUCTION

1.1      Background to the Study

For effective women empowerment in today’s world, education is considered as the most essential element to acquire. It enhances her ability to access knowledge, acquire skills and accept changes. It also increases her employment opportunities. Empirical evidence exists to show that educated women provide better for the health, nutritional and care needs of their children, have fewer children and have delayed marriages. However, women and girls have many roles they are expected to perform, and which often militate against their access, participation, retention and achievement in education (Mullu, 2004).

Quality education for the girl-child in Africa is considered very poor particularly in Kenya. Statistics by the Department for International Development (DFID, 2007) reveal that although girls‘ primary school figures are improving in most countries in Africa and Asia, in absolute terms, 44 million girls worldwide remain out of school. Kenya is cited by DFID (2007) as among the countries with the highest numbers of out-of-school girls (that is, children of school-going age not enrolled in primary or secondary school). A number of factors have been attributed to lack of access to education for the girl-child, including early marriages, community attitude towards girl-child education, and female genital mutilation (FGM) (Kagunye, 2004). Girls are also affected by violence, gender discrimination in the classroom and poor enforcement of policies and laws regarding issues such as corporal punishment, child labour, school charges/fees and re-entry into school especially when girls have become pregnant.

Factors like home conditions are viewed as unfavourable to girl-child education in African society. Girls assist their mothers in carrying out all the household chores which include, for example, caring for the young ones, fetching water and fire wood, cooking, cultivating and washing. If the mother is sick or is away from home, it is the girls who miss school to attend to these chores. In the evening, the girl has less time to study because she has to assist the mother. This adversely affects her participation and achievement in school. Absenteeism may result in poor performance in school which will lead to repetition and finally dropping out of school, sometimes before the girl achieves basic literacy. For the majority of those who reach the end of their education cycle they often perform poorly in their promotion examinations hence they are forced to drop out of school (Njenga, 1999).

Career aspirations of girls of girls can be affected by vocational guidance in schools. Efficient educational and vocational guidance services are more and more necessary to guide young students and professionals to the choice of suitable learning paths. In the contemporary society, many young people have to face the problem of the career choice: this can often lead to offhand and wrong decisions, with negative consequences for the single individual as well as for society, either from an economic and a social point of view. The career choice of an individual is obviously related to the development of professional skills belonging to a specific didactic area and for this reason students must select at first a learning subject (Ricci and Boccardi, 2010).

The process of developing personal and vocational identity often requires monitoring by a specialized professional, able to discriminate the various components of the process of choosing a profession, above all, within a socio-cultural reality such as the current one, where transformations in the world of work are continuous and rapid. For Müller (2001), to carry out an effective Vocational Guidance process within this reality demands specialized training, an appropriate theoretical framework, and additional technical instruments, beyond continuous reflection on the emerging signals in each session. Without this, time may go by without appropriately reaching the intended goals, or rather, without adequate stimulus to assume a professional/occupational option within the individual‘s socio-cultural context. This is especially so for girls, whom have for long been disadvantaged especially in science and technology careers (Njenga, 1999 and Mullu, 2004).

Globally women tend to be under-represented in science and technology (Royal Society of Chemistry, 2000). This could be partly due to the choice of subjects they make at primary and secondary school levels of their education. In Kenya women constitute about 55% of the population (CBS, MOH, and ORC, 2004) and although an equal opportunity education policy exists in the country, the under-representation of women and girls in mathematics, science and technology oriented careers at tertiary levels of education is far too low (Mullu, 2004). A number of studies have been carried out on career aspirations of boys and girls.

In a study in primary schools in Guinea, Anderson-Levitt et al (1994) found that although primary school pupils showed fewer gender stereotypes in the first grade, by the fifth grade both boys and girls gave in to the gender stereotypes that generally favoured boys and that girls accepted self images of inferiority. Serpell (1993), while analyzing what school meant to parents, teachers and students in a rural area of Zambia found that at initial enrolment many students, teachers and parents agreed that any child could succeed in school. However, by the fourth or fifth grade at age 12 to 15, most girls drop out of school. The girls interviewed in the study felt that girls do not have the intellectual ability to cope with the curriculum. One girl felt that the most important challenge at that stage of her life was to get married and start a family and further schooling would be fruitless in attaining those goals.

Kibera (1993) carried a survey on career aspirations and expectations of secondary school students in Kajiado, Kiambu and Machakos Districts, Kenya. She found that male students have higher educational and occupational aspirations than females. Job attitudes of girls differed from those of boys. Girls largely preferred service jobs involving working with people than working with things, while boys preferred scientific fields. Her reason for lower educational aspirations and expectations of girls was that they are expected to be homemakers rather than full time workers. This could be influencing the low choice of physics by girls in form three.

According to the Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) by Lent, Brown, and Hackett (1994), one‘s background (or contextual factors) and individual characteristics influence one‘s learning experiences and, consequently, self-efficacy. Self-efficacy then influences one‘s interests and outcome expectations, which eventually influence one‘s career aspirations. Factors such as parental level education, home environment factors, girls‘ motivation to learn, discipline and academic performance could have an impact on their career aspirations. The study aims at determining the factors influencing career aspirations among girls in public secondary schools in Nyanmira North District, Nyamira County, Kenya.

1.2   Statement of the Problem

The way that girls see their future beyond form four is a central influence on what subjects they choose to take at this pivotal decision point in their schooling. Previous studies indicate that girls are poorly represented in most careers that are considered prestigious and especially science-based careers. Similarly, although girls are well represented at the primary school level, the number of girls completing secondary education is far less than that of boys, and declines even further at the tertiary level of education. This shows that girls could be having low levels of career aspirations than boys. This study therefore found out the factors that affect career aspirations of girls in secondary schools in Thika West District. Previous studies on girl child education have concentrated on factors that influence access to education for the girl child (Gicharu, 1993; Odaga & Heneveld, 1995; Kirimi, 2007). These studies have identified factors like female genital mutilation, gender roles, early marriages, and school sanitation to be associated with access and retention of girls in schools. These studies have not addressed the issue of career aspirations of the girl-child. This is despite the fact that previous studies have shown that boys have higher career aspirations than girls (Kibera, 1993). Due to lack of research in this area, factors influencing career aspirations of girls in Kenya remain unknown. Therefore, the study aims at determining the factors influencing career aspirations among girls in public secondary schools in Nyanmira North District, Nyamira County, Kenya.

1.3   Research Objectives

The general objective or main objective of this study is to determine the factors that influence career aspirations among girls in public secondary schools in Nyanmira North District, Nyamira County, Kenya. The specific objectives are:

i)             To examine ways of improving vocational guidance for girls in secondary schools in North District, Nyamira County, Kenya

ii)           To investigate the influence of vocational guidance on career aspirations of girls in secondary schools in North District, Nyamira County, Kenya

iii)          To inquire the vocational guidance programmes available in secondary schools in North District, Nyamira County, Kenya, for assisting girls in career choice.

iv)          To establish the career aspirations of secondary school girls in North District, Nyamira County, Kenya

1.4   Research Questions

The following are some of the questions which this study intends to answer:

i)             What are the ways to improve vocational guidance for girls in secondary schools in North District, Nyamira County, Kenya?

ii)           What is the influence of vocational guidance on career aspirations of girls in secondary schools in North District, Nyamira County, Kenya?

iii)          What are the vocational guidance programmes available in secondary schools in North District, Nyamira County, Kenya, for assisting girls in career choice?

iv)          What are the career aspirations of secondary school girls in North District, Nyamira County, Kenya?

1.5   Research Hypothesis

The following hypothesis were postulated to guide the conduct of this study;

i)            There is a significant relationship between vocational guidance for girls in secondary schools and their career aspirations

1.6   Significance of the Study

The study may be of significance to school principals, career masters and teacher-counsellors, as it may reveal the factors that influence career aspirations of girls. Such information could be of use while planning career guidance programmes. The study may reveal where the principals and teachers in secondary schools fail to capture the interest of girls in various subjects, especially the sciences. The study may be of significance to stakeholders at the Ministry of Education so that they can come up with policies to help the education institutions to curb the problem. To the parents, the study may reveal the home related factors that influence girls‘ career aspirations, such as parental level of education and parental encouragement and involvement. The findings may form a basis upon which recommendations may be made to parents on ways through which they can enhance career aspirations of girls.

1.7   Scope of the Study

This study found out the factors that affect career aspirations of girls in secondary schools. The factors considered included school related factors like guidance and counselling effectiveness, availability of resources, and support from teachers; home background factors like parental level of education, parental support and involvement, and home setting (rural versus urban); and student-related factors such as girls‘ motivation to study.

1.8   Limitations of the Study

The study was carried out in secondary schools in Nyanmira North District, Nyamira County Kenya. Due to financial constraints and shortage of time, only a few schools in the division were covered, and therefore findings of the study cannot be generalized to the entire country. The study was also limited by the fact that some girls had chosen subjects for KCSE which were not in line with their career aspirations due to external factors, for example where the school does not offer subjects related to a given career.

1.9   Definition of Terms

Career Aspiration: Refers to the educational or job related ambition, goal, or target that one has set for him/herself in life.

Career: Refers an individual‘s course or progress through life (or a distinct portion of life). It usually is considered to pertain to remunerative work (and sometimes also formal education). Cluster: A combination of four selected subjects required for one to pursue a given degree programme.

Counselling is the process by which one individual, the counsellor, assists another individual, the client, to face, understand, and accept information about himself and his interaction with others, so that he can make effective decisions about various life choices.

Gender: Refers to the social roles assigned to men and women. For example, who looks after the family in our cultures, who builds the house, who takes care of the family, and so on.

Vocational Guidance: refers to the assistance offered to students by designated teachers or professionals in career choice and planning.

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