Factors influencing girls' negative mathematics self-concept at Chipembi girls' secondary school in Chisamba District of Central Province, Zambia

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Chongo, Nachivula
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This study was centred on establishing factors which influence the development of girls’ negative Mathematics self-concept at Chipembi Girls’ Secondary School. The study aimed at ascertaining the individual factors, family and community factors, as well as school factors, which influence the development of negative Mathematics self-concept in the girls. The research was based on a single case study and utilized mainly the qualitative research approach. In-depth interviews were conducted with selected girls in grade eleven, parents to the girls as well as teachers of Mathematics. A focus group discussion was held with pupils and a document review to understand pupils’ status and their past academic performance was employed. Data was analysed with the use of the Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) Method. The results of this study suggests a number of indicators that revealed a number of factors influencing low Mathematics self-concept in girls. These factors were categorized into three themes namely: Individual factors; Family and Community factors; and school factors. Each of these themes had sub-themes. Individual factors included: Girls’ negative perceptions about the subject and poor Mathematics background. Family and Community factors included the following subthemes: culturally motivated practices of family and community; parents’ Mathematics related gender stereotypes; uneducated family and community; parents’ low socioeconomic status; and bad influence from peers. School factors comprised the following subthemes: bad personality qualities of teachers of Mathematics; lack of consistent support from teachers; teachers’ Mathematics related gender stereotypes; few females in the field of Mathematics; lack of adequate and consistent guidance and counselling programs in the school; and poor organisation of the Mathematics club in the school. In a nutshell, these findings show that to understand the low self-concept girls have in Mathematics one had to understand the whole environment in which the child is raised and hence a holistic approach rather than an atomistic one is more appropriate for such a study. Among other recommendations, the report suggests that chores, toys and games should not be assigned to children on gender lines as this encourages the erroneous belief that relatively harder things are for boys and much simpler ones are for girls. As such, Mathematics is one of the things they take to be difficult and thus it is for boys only. Teacher-training institutions should have in their curriculum gender issues so as to sensitize would-be teachers about Mathematics gender stereotypes and the dangers thereof before they are deployed. The Ministry of Education, Science, Vocational Training and Early Education also should train more female teachers in Mathematics and Science subjects who will act as role models to the girls in these male dominated subjects. Lastly, but not the least the Guidance and Counselling department should devise more consistent and proactive programs to meet the needs of the girls with low Mathematics self-concept as most of them were found to have come from poor socioeconomic backgrounds and broken homes as well as not knowing the importance of Mathematics in their future careers!
Girls Education , Mathematics-Study and teaching , Girls Psychology