K.V.F. Fatokun                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Department of Science,Technology & Mathematics Education, Nasarawa State University, Keffi



I.A. Idagboyi

Department of Biology, College of Education, Akwanga



This study focuses on gender inequalities and the influence of parents on their girl-child performance in science in Nasarawa State. 100 students, 60 science teachers and 140 parents participated in the study. Questionnaire, oral interview and short objective test were used to generate data for this study. Results show that the causes of backwardness of girl-child in science education are poverty, ignorance, and illiteracy of their parents, cultural and religious factors were also detected. It was also discovered that parents tend to encourage their boys to choose science subject at their senior level while the girls are advised to choose commercial or Art subjects. It was also evident that boys perform better than girls in science. The negative effect of gender disparity was observed and methods such as collaborative strategies which can increase gender-friendly environment for learning science were suggested.


Key words: Gender disparity, collaborative strategies, parental influence, sex stereotyping.



Gender is important in that whatever concept of gender a society holds regulates all spheres of existence of the individual from cradle to the grave. In most societies, gender roles have shackled women to the floor preventing them from participating in and benefiting from development efforts. The society as a whole thus suffers from the marginalization of half of its population, functioning only on half stream, at it were. Research has shown that countries that have raised the status of their women, educationally, socially, politically, economically etc. generally enjoy a high standard of living.

Education is a fundamental right of all including girls and women, yet, despite significant effort made over the years on the issue, women are still less educated and more likely to be in many countries of the world (Olaleye & Ajileye, 2004). This situation is critical and disturbing as it has the tendency of affecting the attainment of the national objectives.


The problems confronting the girl-child in Nigeria are to a large extent multifarious, ranging from cultural practices and socio-political and economic constraints. Culturally, she falls victim of female genital mutilation commonly performed on young girls in the southern part of the country while compulsory/ early marriage and its attendant problem is the prevailing situation in the North. Economically, right from a tender age the girl-child is exposed to a variety of hazardous jobs like street hawking, begging-escort, baby –sitting, house help etc .Socially she is marginalized even within the family system, she is welcomed to the world with mixed feelings and her naming ceremony attracts less celebration and when it comes to education more priority is accorded to her brother (Bello, 2006).

Fatokun (2007) lamented on many parents’ carelessness and insensitivity to their children needs. She noticed that many parents often claimed to be ignorant and innocent while others easily defend themselves by asserting that they have all the right to treat their girl- child any how since they are more or less their properties. Report has also shown that girls are subjected to series of abuse more than boys in this nation.  

 Gender Stereotyping permeates the school system manifesting in both direct and subtle ways. For instance, there are masculine subjects such as science, Technology and Mathematics. There are also feminine subjects such as Home Economics, Secretarial studies, and Literature. The language and illustration used in textbooks also betray a gender bias. Boys are generally portrayed as brave, intelligent, decisive and adventurous, they returned to the home, expecting a well cooked meal and loving care from mother while girls on the other hand, are shown as shy and timid, they both look after siblings, do domestic chores and assist their mothers in getting the meals ready. Classroom interaction also favors boys because in mixed schools the undoubted class monitors and school captains appointed by teachers are boys (Okeke, 2004).

 Other manifestation of gender stereotyping in school are what Alele-williams (1986) described as “hidden curriculum”, which send out messages to girls to conform to role expectations. For instance, most teachers in institutions of learning are males, implying an absence of role models to inspire female students to achieve.

 The question of girls’ access to and participation in education has taken the front burner in various world summits. For instance the World Education Forum in Dakar 2000 had, among other goals: “Eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by2015, with a focus on ensuring girls’ full and equal access to and achievement in basic education of good quality”

 Ogunshola – Bamidele (2004) carried out a study with the main object of finding out the strategies for supporting girls learning in schools. She discovered that school learning environment tends to favor males more than females and that gender bias is associated with the content of various disciplines (subjects offered in schools). Hence, she opined that an effective teacher should as often as possible provide special compensatory learning activities especially in science and mathematics- related courses. Okeke (2004) also observed that socialization tends to make male aggressive, assertive and domineering while females socialization process tends to make them to be submissive, dependent and passive.

In qualitative terms, statistics (UNESCO,2003) show that at the secondary school level in Nigeria, the boys outnumbered the girls in enrolment generally apart from Lagos, Osun, Oyo, Rivers, Ekiti, Enugu, Imo, Abia and Anambra state. A critical analysis on the data on female access to and participation in education shows that the situation is worst in the northern part of Nigeria – a situation which has been in existence for nearly a century with little improvement and the same position is supported by ESA (2003) from its similar findings 


Statement of problem

Nasarawa State which is one of the states in the middle belt is also considered backward in terms of female access to and aspiration in science at secondary school level. Since 1976 when UPE and 1999 when UBE were launched and started. It is expected that all females in the entire state would have had access to education and possibly be participating in science education by now but researches have shown that limited number of school aged children enjoy these benefits. There is need for a study to detect the influence of parents on their daughter’s access to education and strategies to improve female participation in science at the secondary school level in the state. Parental attitude and influence on their girl- child performance in science which is a major factor that hinder female participation will be mainly investigated in this study.



Research design:

The design employed for this study is a correlational and descriptive survey type which involves the use of questionnaire for the collection of data for the main purpose of describing the influence/attitude of parents to their girls (students) participation and achievement in science.



The population of this study is comprised of all SSI science students, their parents and science teachers in all the secondary schools in Nasarawa state.


Sample and sampling procedure

Stratification techniques were adopted in the selection of the samples. There are three senatorial zones in states, and samples were randomly drawn from some of the local government area in each of the zones. Three categories of people participated in the study namely; 140 parents drawn from the study area, 100 students (50 boys and 50 girls) from the sampled schools and 60 science teachers from the same schools.



Three sets of structured questionnaires on gender disparity tagged QGD type A B C. Type A questionnaire consisting of 22 items developed by the researcher was used to elicit information from the students while a 18- item questionnaire type B was used in collecting information from the teachers. Some of the parents were interviewed orally while the rest responded to a 24- item questionnaire. The instruments sought to find out the causes and effects of gender disparity and parental influence on girl- child performance in science on a four- point Likert scale. The sampled students were also given a 20 item objective test in science to compare the performance of both sexes.

The instruments were adjudged to have got high face and content validity from educational experts. The instruments were trial-tested on a small sample of students who shared similar characteristics with the target samples. The reliability of the instrument was estimated using Cronbach alpha. A reliability co-efficient of 0.78 was obtained.


Administration of the instrument and data analysis

The instruments were personally administered to the subjects by the researcher. An item-by-item analysis of the questionnaire was carried out. The number of respondents who picked the same type of responses was counted. Scores were assigned to each point on the Likert scale as follows: strongly agree=4, Agree= 3, Disagree=2 and strongly disagree=1. Then the mean response, standard deviation (SD) and t test statistics were computed from the data collected. Descriptive statistics was also used.



Table 1: Independent t- test analysis of the influence of parents on their girl- child enrolment and performance in science.




T Cal

T Crit

Parents with positive view and interest in their daughters learning science.






Parent with negative view and no interest in their girl- child learning science







At 0.05 alpha level of significance and p< 0.05, the t- value = 1.70. This shows there is a significant relationship between parents attitude and their girls performance; hence the null hypothesis is rejected.


Table 2: Frequency table on different reasons why some parents do not encourage their daughters to learn science




Apprehension that science is difficult for female children to learn.



Fear that education of girls leads to their pride which often result into their late marriages.



Lack of sufficient resources to finance their schooling.



Limited employment opportunity for female school leaver and graduates.



Women education ends in the kitchen.



Religious and cultural belief does not favor girls’ education.



Ignorance of parent on the importance of girls training.









Table 3:   t- test analysis for comparing the achievement of male and female students in science using their mean scores.




T Cal

T Crit

Achievement of boys in science using mean score of objective test in science subjects.






Achievement of girls in science using the mean score of objective test in science subjects.







At 5% level of significance and p< 0.05, t critical =.1.98 which is lesser than t calculated.  There is a significant difference and the null hypothesis is rejected.



It was discovered that the t calculated for the two hypotheses were greater than the t critical, hence the two null hypotheses were rejected and the alternate hypotheses accepted. Based on these findings, it is evident that there is a significant relationship between parents’ attitude towards their girl- child training in science and the performance of such children. This implies that positive interest of the parent can serve as encouragement and motivation for their daughters to excel in the sciences at any level of their education but particularly at the secondary school. It is at the secondary education one determines and starts the journey into any career in science related profession. It is impressive to note as observed from the responses of parents on their attitude to female participation in science that there is now a drastic change in their view as compared to what was obtainable before as 63.4% of them responded positively. This showed their willingness and it is an indication that they are now gradually coming out of their ignorance coupled with their cultural and religious beliefs. 


This finding is in conformity with Olaleye & Ajileye (2004) observation that in recent years, debate on the status of women has been thrust into national and international arenas. The imbalance in male and female opportunity has been a major topic of discussion in various conferences, non governmental organizations and women groups. Nigerians tend to favor male dominance over the feminine gender, sex- stereotyping is pervasive from birth, society fixes gender roles and conditions males to play and act within the fines of intellectuality and challenging tasks while women on the other hand are sentenced to the kitchen and related domestic chores, including child- rearing (King, 2000).The findings on comparing the performance of both male and female students agrees with this view.


From the mean score of the same short test administered to the same level of boys and girls (in the same class, that is SS1 but not intact class and within the same age range). It was observed that the male students perform well with a mean score of 125 while the female students got 75. Hence, it is instructive to note that despite all effort to bridge the gender gap, there is still a wide margin in the achievement rate of female in science and this call for concern. Mutemeri & Mygweni (2005) noticed that in schools, one often hear female students saying that science courses are for the boys and this low motivation may further widen the gender in scientific achievement.


The result from table 3 on student’s performances in science (t- test analysis) also confirms that male students perform better than female at the secondary school level. Female students tend to opt for subjects like home- economics and at most biology while chemistry, physics, mathematics and further mathematics are male dominated zones.


The study also showed that one of the major factors responsible for the backwardness of female in science is poverty where some girls engaged in child labor like hawking, house help, and sales girl to sustain themselves and their families as the case may be.



Though the enrolment rate of female at both primary and secondary level has drastically appreciated in the past two decades but their achievement which is basically determined through their interest and academic performance in science is still quite low in Nasarawa State. Effort should be made by both parents and teachers to motivate and encourage female students to aspire to learn science and further their studies at tertiary level on science related courses which will enhance their productivity and invariably national growth and development.



Based on the findings of this study, the following suggestions are made;

Government should be more committed to advocacy and sensitization on the import of girls’ education especially in science, legislate against child abuse in form of street hawking and engaging in house help by school age- girls, and ensure that the school environment is made girl friendly.

The teacher education curriculum should equip teachers with methods that could be used to mobilize school communities to send their girls to school while the gender issue should be incorporated into teacher education .effort should be made to minimize the use of the masculine pronoun “he” in illustrations.


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