Exploring physical science teachers' views and understandings about gender equity in science education in high schools in KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa.
Mdlolo, Nokuthula Goodness.
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Gender inequity is a violation of basic human rights. Governments and a number of organisations have realised that focussing on the education of females is the most effective approach to eradicate global poverty. While the literature reveals that most gender studies have focussed on learner performance, teacher-learner interactions, post school science education, HIV and violence to achieve equity, this study acknowledges the substantial role science teachers can play in achieving equity in science education. The objectives of this study were to explore Physical Science teachers’ gendered experiences, and their views and beliefs about gender equity in science education. The study adopted a qualitative approach and was located within the interpretive paradigm. Purposive sampling was used to recruit male and female Physical Science teachers in the Umgungundlovu district. Data was collected through semi-structured individual in-depth interviews with six Physical Science teachers. The study draws from feminist theory in an attempt to explain teachers’ experiences of gender in their personal and professional lives. Thematic content analysis was used to analyse data from interviews. The findings revealed that Physical Science teachers understand the concept of gender equity in general, but had little understanding of gender equity issues in science education. However, they believed that women are still under-represented and marginalised in science-related fields, and that gender inequity still exists in science education. Furthermore, the findings indicated that the gender-related experiences of Physical Science teachers emanated from social exchanges (socialisation) as part of families, communities and schools as children, learners and professionals. Gender-related experiences included unfair treatment and unequal access to opportunities and resources from these agents of socialisation. Socialisation plays a huge role in shaping and providing a person with the necessary knowledge and skills to become an active member within a given community. The findings also indicated that parents and teachers promote gender inequity through their gendered and stereotyped behaviour and roles. This study concluded that there is a need to sensitize Physical Science teachers on gender equity issues in science education, and to equip them with gender-inclusive teaching strategies that would encourage both boys and girls to pursue science-related careers.