Exploring factors contributing to poor pupils’ performance in social studies at grade 9 in selected schools in Lusaka district, Zambia.

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Mutale, Prisca
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Social Studies is a beneficial subject to learners who take it, as it builds cultural awareness, develop critical thinking skills, gain citizenship skills and main more. However, learner performance in national examinations in Zambia has remained poor country-wide in general, and Lusaka District in particular as evidenced by successive Examination Council of Zambia (ECZ) reports of 2015 to 2019. The 2015 and 2016 Grade 9 Examination Results (Highlights), which inspired this study, reported a nation-wide failure percentage of 39.65 % while the 2017 reports by ECZ showed 30.03%. Thus, this study was conducted to establish the factors contributing to the poor performance of Grade 9 pupils in national social studies examinations in selected secondary schools in Lusaka district. To do this, the study sought to establish: the preparedness of teachers to teach the subject; the strategies teachers employ in teaching the subject; the attitudes of teachers and learners towards the subject and the factors leading to poor performance of learners. A qualitative approach, employing a case study strategy of inquiry, was adopted. The following data collection techniques were used: classroom observations, interviews and focus group discussions. The purposive sampling technique was used to select teachers and Grade 9 pupils a total of 55 respondents were selected distributed as; 40 Grade 9 pupils 10 from each school, 8 teachers of social studies and 4 Heads of social sciences. Data were analyzed qualitatively and identification of emerging themes. The study is based on the theory of constructivism which was espoused by Jean Piaget. The constructivism theory has relevance to this study, because the theory is particularly on Performance being an outcome of learning, and the manner in which leaners learn determines outcome or performance. Therefore, the academic performance in social studies observed from 2015- 2019 was the outcome of how the subject was being handled by teachers. The study established that teachers of social studies were mostly inadequately prepared to teach the subject, teachers using wrong teaching methods, teachers not being involved in curriculum development, negative attitude by both the teachers and the learners, teachers not understand the aims, purpose and goals of social studies, less time allocation on the timetable and learners not having access to educational tours. Majority of teachers lacked relevant subject background knowledge and were limited in terms of pedagogical practices. Additionally, the serious shortage of texts books in some schools, poor reading culture among learners, negative attitudes by some teachers and learners towards the subject were found to be some of the major factors affecting performance. The study recommends holding of periodic capacity building program, training of teachers of social studies, and use of interactive teaching strategies as possible remedial measures. Teachers need to be sensitized, motivated and supported on the importance of Social Studies for this will assist to develop positive attitudes in leaners towards the subject.