A case study of girls' participation in physical science at a rural high school.
The study aimed to add to our understanding of why many girls in rural high schools were not choosing to study Physical Science. A case study of a local high school was used as the research method. Questionnaires to the 120 learners in grade 9 and 10 were the main instrument used to gather data. This was followed up with interviews of a sample of learners and some classroom observations. The science teacher was also included as a key informant in this study. The data collected aimed at answering the following key question: What influences girls in their decision to choose to study Physical Science at a rural school? The following sub questions guided the researcher in answering the key research question: (a) Are there any differences in participation between boys and girls? (b) What influences their choice in Grade 9? (c) Were Grade 10 learners happy with their subject package choices made in grade 9? The data were captured, coded, analysed and interpreted. The study produced evidence that the learners' family, the classroom environment, peer influence and the shortage of role models were the main reasons for the low • number of girls participating in Physical Science. The study found that these factors have a significant influence on girls' subject choices. Ofthe four factors found, the family was the most significant factor (i.e. where the family members tended to choose the subject package for girls). In the classroom the girls were involved in proportionally the same number of interactions but importantly the female teacher had a disproportionate number of interactions with the boys. In apparent contradiction to the teachers comments that the boys were the more active learners, the girls initiated more interactions with the teacher. However, the girls reported that they were uncomfortable in the class as boys mocked and intimidated them during the lessons. Unfortunately, a large percentage of the girls who did choose to take Physical Science were unhappy with their choice as they then found it difficult. The main recommendations of the study were that; teacher and community awareness programmes should be established to raise awareness of the gender issues and to promote girls taking science; career guidance should be given to learners so they could make their own informed decisions; and possibly specialist science girls schools could be established. Further suggestions for research were made. The findings of this study should provide policy makers, curriculum developers, and science teachers with valuable information about some of the factors that influence girls not to take Physical Science.