Gender Imbalances in enrolment and retention in Technical and Scientific training ,2000-2004: A case study of ZASTI and Lusaka business and technical college
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The study sought to examine gender imbalances in enrolment and retention in technical and scientific training at Zambia Air Services Training Institute and Lusaka Business and Technical College. An assessment was made of the relative performance of both male and female students and the attitudes of staff and students towards female participation in technical and scientific training. An attempt was made to explore the development of formal education and skills training and establish the factors that lead to gender disparities in technical and scientific training in Zambia.The genesis of gender disparities in technical education and skills training could be traced to the practice of subject specialization on the basis of sex which was highly marked during the formative stage in the establishment and development of mission schools and skills training centers in Northern Rhodesia. A sample of 66 student respondents and 20 administrative and academic staff was used. Enrolment lists were used to draw a random sample of 22 female respondents in non-technical courses and 22 males in technical courses. 22 females in technical courses were purposively selected. In-depth interviews were used for females in technical courses and administrative and academic staff, who were key informants. Questionnaires were administered to female and male students in non-technical and technical programmes respectively. Quantitative data was collected by reviewing enrolment and examination records. Statistical analysis was done using SPSS. Frequency distribution, percentages, graphs and tables were used to depict summaries of numerical data.A comparative analysis of female and male enrolment showed that female enrolment was particularly low in technical and scientific courses, making them traditionally male dominated fields. However, enrolment was predominantly female in nontechnical courses deemed feminine or domestic oriented, such as secretarial. The proportion of male students who dropped-out of technical and scientific courses was generally slightly lower than for females. The prevalence of social and cultural biases such as sex-stereotyped beliefs and practices constrained female participation and progression in technical training and occupations. The preference for non-technical courses and occupations among females was attributed to the poor background in science and mathematics, which instilled a sense of inferiority or lack of confidence among females. Domestic chores were also identified to be a major obstacle to female participation and success in technical and scientific courses and careers. Finally, despite the removal of formal and institutional barriers, informal barriers such as cultural biases and social expectations that domestic and care-giving roles were female preserves undermined female entry in technical and scientific courses and fields.Nearly half of the female respondents in technical and scientific programmes and a large proportion of administrative and academic staff contended that the relevant authorities had not instituted any effective measures to promote female participation in science and technological fields. The selection policy, which reserved 30 percent of places for females as well as sensitization campaigns or encouragement, were identified by nearly one-third of the respondents to be the most effective measures instituted to promote female entry and success in male dominated courses.