Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Influence of Type of School on Self Perception of Mathematical Ability and Achievement among Girls in Secondary School in Harare

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Influence of Type of School on Self Perception of Mathematical Ability and Achievement among Girls in Secondary School in Harare

Article excerpt


The study explored the influence of type of school on fourth-year secondary school girls' self-perception of ability and achievement in Mathematics. The study sample comprised of 90 girls from one girls-only school and one co-educational school in Harare district, who were selected using stratified random sampling techniques. Girls' perception of their ability in mathematics was measured using a self-administered questionnaire with both open- and closed-ended questions Mathematics achievement was assessed using document analysis of the two schools' national examination results over an eleven year period.. The findings indicate that the self-perception of mathematical ability of girls in the single-sex school is higher than those in co-educational school. However, there is no significant difference in the achievement of ordinary level girls in mathematics attending either the single-sex or the co-educational school (x^sup 2^ = 0.4368 p < 0.05).


The gender gap in mathematics achievement has been a topic of considerable research over the past decades. As our world grows even more dependent on technologically driven competencies, girls' participation in mathematics affects future career and economic opportunities. Mathematics is perceived as the 'critical filter' creating access for women into equitable higher paying professions such as engineering (Sells, 1973). According to Maple and Stage (1991), over recent decades women have made increased strides in pursuing mathematically oriented college degrees, yet men outnumber women two to one in quantitative university concentrations. The United States Bureau of Labour and Statistics (2007) has asserted that in mathematics-related fields such as engineering, women's participation is still below 20%. They go on to say that the gender imbalance of women's participation in engineering seems striking as the demand for engineers over the next several years is projected to grow between 10% and 20%.

Zimbabwe has had impressive successes in educational development since 1980 notwithstanding, as Runhare and Gordon (2004) put it,

"there remain challenges in realising the goals of gender equality and equity in education, which are critical to the achievement of EFA (Education For All). The key indicators on enrolment, access, attrition, and completion in Zimbabwe in 2001 indicated that there had been stagnation in educational development since 1990. Serious disparities and inequalities persist in the system with gender being a key contributory factor." p. 2).

Whilst there is a multiplicity of interrelated barriers to gender equity in education in Zimbabwe, Runhare and Gordon (2004) have identified three distinct areas requiring attention if equity is to be achieved:

* A gender-insensitive school environment.

* A home and community environment that is not adequately supportive.

* A policy environment that is insufficient to address the education needs of girls.

Much of the research into gender issues in education reveals that girls do not achieve as much as boys in Mathematics. (Levin, Sabar and Libman 1991; Young and Fraser 1990; Becker 1989). Furthermore, it appears that girls do not enjoy the subject as much as boys, lack confidence in their ability in mathematics, and that ultimately, fewer numbers of girls than boys choose to study mathematics at tertiary level (Spielhofer, OTDonnell, Benton, Schagen and Schagen, 2002). This may in part, be due to the stereotypical belief that many students, parents and teachers have that mathematics is a masculine subject

It might be possible to act positively to counteract this stereotyping in single sex schools. By educating girls in mathematics classes where only girls are present, and by presenting mathematics courses in a way that overtly dismisses the claim that mathematics are for boys, girls may be able to achieve better results in mathematics, and may develop a more positive attitude towards the subject. …

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