Female pupils’ perspective on societal factors influencing their progression in advanced level science subjects in Zimbabwe
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The study is a gender-critical investigation into female pupils' progression in Advanced Level science subjects in rural secondary schools in seven districts of Matabeleland North Province, Zimbabwe. This study employed a multi-pronged theoretical framework approach in analyzing the research problem, formulating research questions, selection of paradigm and approach, deciding on methods, guiding on data interpretation and drawing answers to the main research question. A qualitative transformative study, where I was the chief tool aided by the literature method, critical policy analysis and interviews was used to generate data on the issue under investigation. The sample comprised of 45 purposively selected female pupils, of whom 20 were taking science subjects and 25 were not taking science subjects at the Advanced Level in secondary schools in the seven districts of the Matabeleland North Province, Zimbabwe. Data analysis consisted of a thematic approach where common themes were identified from the participants. From my study, several findings arose, firstly that despite the existence of the concept of gender equality in various documents (the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the National Gender Policy and the Education Act); inequalities persisted in participants’ progression in science subjects. Also, participants revealed that factors influencing their progression in Advanced Level science subjects were persistent and profoundly embedded in the patriarchal rigidity, cultural stereotypes, prejudices and discernments held by society. From the findings, it was noted that female pupils were brought up under distinctive parenting styles such as the autocratic style, which influenced their lived experiences. I, therefore, propose that besides the patriarchal system, the issue of parenting influences female pupils' progression in Advanced Level science subjects. In this context, female pupils with parents and guardians who offered supportive parenting had a better chance of progressing in Advanced Level science subjects at the Advanced Level compared to those with limited parental support. This work suggests a need for cultural transformation in education in general and Advanced Level science subjects in particular, rather than giving attention to prescribed gender equality only. Strategies are needed to alleviate the barriers among them to set up a gender-neutral, gender-sensitive approach and an evidence-based policymaking process. I concluded that from the female pupils’ perspective, their progression in Advanced Level science subjects was mainly influenced by societal factors grounded on barriers they had come across in this respect. This calls for a change of mind that allows for a process that runs concurrently with the patriarchal system until a time when female pupils are at par with their male counterparts in cognisance of their progression in Advanced Level science subjects. To add to the aspect of a gender-neutral, gender-sensitive approach, I move the notion of incorporating the concept of positive parenting when socialising children, without making differentiation concerning gender roles.