Factors affecting female enrolment in Mathematics at Advanced level. A case of Makoni District High Schools
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The study focuses on factors affecting female enrolment in Mathematics at Advanced Level in Makoni district schools. The non-participation of girls in Advanced Mathematics has become a concern over a number of years. This study seeks to find ways of increasing female participation in Mathematics at Advanced level based on an understanding of the constraining factors to female participation in mathematics The study is of a mixed research design that employed both quantitative and qualitative approaches to gather the data. Questionnaires and interviews were used as data collection instruments. Questionnaires were completed by 60 female ‘A’ level students; 30 doing mathematics 30 not taking the subject. A questionnaire comprising of both close-ended and open ended questions was used to obtain information from the sample on factors affecting female enrolment in mathematics at Advanced Level in Makoni district. Interviews were conducted with three mathematics teachers; one from each school. Teachers came in as key informant’s individuals who have the knowledge and daily experience of handling learners. In addition, 12 ‘A’ level female students were interviewed; 6 doing mathematics and 6 not taking the subject. The results of the study have revealed the following factors as limiting female participation in mathematics: perceived difficulty of the subject, lack of self confidence, anxiety, negative teacher attitudes, negative stereotypes about girl’s math abilities, cultural belief that mathematics is a male domain and lack of knowledge about mathematics careers entail. The research findings also revealed that to promote female participation in advanced level mathematics, parents and teachers should: enhance girls’ confidence about their math abilities; create a conducive classroom climate that enhances interest and curiosity in mathematics; expose girls to female role models who have succeeded in mathematics and provide information advice and guidance on mathematics careers. The study recommends that gender and cultural biases attached to mathematics should be deemphasized at home and school and those mathematics teachers should adopt some of the more recent reform-based instructional strategies that actively engage students while the Government should give incentives to girls who study mathematics at higher levels in order to encourage young females to pursue mathematical careers.