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Exploring gender representations in selected science textbooks.

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South African education policies such as Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements of 2010, and legislation such as National Education Policy Act of 1997, and South African Schools Act of 1996, were established after 1994 to deal with (among other things) gender inequalities in education. However, women continue to be under-represented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) careers, while men dominate in these fields. This study provides the analysis of selected science textbooks that are used to teach science in South Africa, to establish if science textbooks could be the reason for women’s under-representation in STEM fields. This qualitative study was located in the critical paradigm and Critical Discourse Analysis was adopted as the method of data generation and analysis. The sample comprised of four purposefully selected science textbooks that are used for teaching and learning from the Intermediate Phase to Further Education and Training phase in the South African context. The Feminist Post-Structuralist Discourse Analysis was used as a lens to guide the interpretation of the findings. The implication of the findings is that science education continues to be permeated with patriarchy. Science teachers have the responsibility to critically evaluate science textbooks to verify whether they are gender inclusive or possess gender bias. In the cases where there is evidence of gender bias, teachers need to point out the bias to the learners. They must then work with learners to develop strategies of how to resist symbolic violence and political ideology presented by print media. This study concludes by proposing that science textbooks portray males and females as producers of scientific knowledge and as possessors of scientific inventions, to address masculinist science that is presented in patriarchal view. In this way conducive environments for science teaching and learning will be attained, and possibly advance women’s representation and participation in STEM fields.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.