Factors affecting the choice of science subjects among girls at secondary level in Mauritius
Brunel University, United Kingdom
This research attempts to identify the factors which influence the choice of science subjects in Mauritius among girls at the end of the third year of secondary education, the level up to which science is a compulsory subject. This low uptake of science subjects by girls beyond the compulsory level is a matter of concern. The study was undertaken in four purposely selected schools in Mauritius, two mixed-sex and two girls’ schools. Using mainly a qualitative approach, data were collected through: (i) non-participant observations of 60 science and 20 non-science lessons, (ii) 16 semi-structured face-to-face interviews of teachers, and six group interviews with pupils and (iii) 135 questionnaires administered to the parents of the pupils in the classes observed in the four schools. Based on the results of a pilot study, modifications were made for the main study. The data provided insights into teachers’ teaching approaches, the behaviour and interest of pupils in the lessons and other factors such as pupils’ perceptions of science, their self-identity and role models, and the extent to which parents and peers influence the choice of subjects among girls. The findings show that teaching approaches were mainly traditional and that both girls and boys prefer hands-on activities and contextual examples reflecting real-life situations. The majority of the girls’ experiences of science were negative and this deterred them from taking science beyond the compulsory level although they were aware of its importance. Teachers had positive opinions about girls’ ability to do science but stated that lack of infrastructure facilities did not allow them to involve the pupils in practical work as much as they would wish. However, brighter girls’ decisions to study sciences were not outweighed by these factors. Parents felt that they did not influence their daughters in the choice of subjects or eventual careers though they held science in high esteem.
Dr. Jayantee Naugah, FSB, CBiol, UK
Consultant on Science Education,