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56 Proceedings of epiSTEME 3

Gender Differences and Mathematics Achievement of Rural

Senior Secondary Students in Cross River State, Nigeria

Sam William Bassey

1

, M. T. Joshua

2

and Alice E. Asim

2

1

Cross River University of Technology, Calabar, Nigeria,

2

University of Calabar, Calabar, Nigeria

To contribute to the realization of the Millennium Develop-

ment Goal (MDG) by the United Nations on the promotion

of gender equity, the researchers sought to empirically verify

the existence or otherwise of gender inequality in the math-

ematics achievement of rural male and female students in

Cross River State, Nigeria; and whether parental socio-eco-

nomic status and school proprietorship, taken independently,

are significant factors in the achievement of the students.

By stratified and simple random sampling, 2000 students

(50% males, 50% female) were selected and a 30-item four-

option multiple choice mathematics achievement test (MAT)

was constructed (KR20 of 0.87 and item difficulty, 0.40

<

p

< 0.82) and administered. The independent t-test analy-

sis of significance revealed gender inequality in the entire

sample as well as among the low socio economic students

and within public schools. Educational implications have

been highlighted.

Introduction

Mathematics education is to a nation what protein is to a

young human organism. As a vital tool for the understand-

ing and application of science and technology, the disci-

pline plays the vital role of a precursor and harbinger to the

much needed technological and of course national develop-

ment, which has become an imperative in the developing

nations of the world. The choice of this topic is predicated

on the current world trend and research emphasis on gen-

der issues following the millennium declaration of Septem-

ber 2000 (United Nations, 2000) which has as its goal, the

promotion of gender equity, the empowerment of women

and the elimination of gender inequality in basic and sec-

ondary education by 2005 and at all levels by 2015. In

realization of the significant role of Mathematics to nation

building, the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

made the subject compulsory at the basic and secondary

levels. This was aimed at ensuring the inculcation of Math-

ematics literacy and the associated equipment with logical

and abstract thinking needed for living, problem solving

and educational furtherance. For full realization of this laud-

able objective of Mathematics education, subject mastery

and demonstrated achievement should be evenly distrib-

uted across gender. Unfortunately, gender inequality in edu-

cation has remained a perennial problem of global scope

(Bordo, 2001; UNESCO, 2003; Reid, 2003).

Mathematics is a science subject and some gender-based

science researchers have reported that what both the ‘femi-

nist empiricists’ and the ‘liberal feminist critics’ seem to

agree is that females in principle will produce exactly the

same scientific knowledge as males provided that suffi-

cient rigour is undertaken in scientific inquiry (Howes, 2002;

Barton, 1998; Sinnes, 2006). They also believe that initia-

tives that build on the assumption that females and males

are equal in their approach to science, and that inequality in

science and science education is caused by political, edu-

cational and social factors external to science, would be

expected to focus on removing these external obstacles.

There is need therefore to give boys and girls exactly the

same opportunities and challenges.

In Nigeria, gender-achievement studies include Abiam and

Odok (2006) who found no significant relationship between

gender and achievement in number and numeration, alge-

braic processes and statistics. They however found the

existence of a weak significant relationship in Geometry

and Trigonometry. Though globally the issue of gender

57Gender Differences and Mathematics Achievement of ...

(Hopkins, 2004), whereas others hold the view that there is

no difference between rural and urban education (Howley,

2002).

Hypotheses

The following null hypotheses are hereby stated:

Ho

1

: There is no significant difference between the

Mathematics achievement of rural male and female

students in Cross River State, Nigeria.

Ho

2

: Parental socio-economic status and school propri

etorship taken independently, are not significant fac

tors in the mathematics achievement of the rural

male and female students.

Methodology

This study used the survey design which involves the col-

lection of data at current status for description of phenom-

ena, without deliberate effort to control the variables. The

area of the study, Cross River State, is one of the thirty six

(36) states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, situated in

the oil-rich south-south geo-political zone. It has eighteen

local government areas and lies between latitude 5

o

32

'

and

4

o

27

'

North of the Equator and longitude 7

o

50

'

and 9

o

28

'

East of the Greenwich meridian. The state has Calabar as

its capital, and is a leading tourist haven in Nigeria, with

attractions like the Tinapa, Calabar Export Processing Zone

(EPZ), the International Obudu Cattle Ranch, the Old Resi-

dency museum and Agbokim and Kwa waterfalls.

From the population of 19,200 rural secondary school two

(SS II) students in the state, 2000 students, that is 10.41

percent (50% male and 50% female) were selected by the

stratified random sampling technique. By the simple ran-

dom process, 30 schools (ten from each of the three sena-

torial districts) were selected such that by the same proce-

dure 800 were obtained from the Southern senatorial dis-

trict, 600 from the central district and 600 from the north.

Intact classes were used, subject to the sample size de-

scribed above. Sample students have mean age 16.80 years.

The sample distribution is shown in Table 1.

inequality in Science, Technology and Mathematics Educa-

tion (STME) has produced inconclusive results, one meta-

analysis covering the period 1974 – 1987 on Mathematics

and gender led to two conclusions: the average gender gap

is very small (statistically insignificant), and the fact that

the differences tend to decline with time (Friedman, 1989).

Another meta-analysis of 100 studies in gender and Math-

ematics performance corroborated the above findings

(Hyde, Fennema & Lamon, 1990). Some scholars blame

the colonizers of Africa for applying direct transfer of West-

ern Science curricula, examinations and teaching methods,

which fail to address the continental challenges of Africa.

Yoloye (1998) submitted that the result of this direct trans-

fer of western curricula, is a science and mathematics edu-

cation in most African countries that is exemplified by

decontextualized knowledge being transmitted by poorly

trained teachers in under-resourced and sometimes over-

crowded classrooms. As a consequence, the situation in

Nigeria is that, academic performance in Mathematics edu-

cation is still deplorably low, both in certificate and non-

certificate examinations. Many researchers identify inher-

ent unfairness in school-based assessment (Grifith, 2005;

Njabili, et al. 2005; Asim, 2007) which may result from

teachers’ incompetency in assessment (Asim, et al. 2007),

as well as psycho-cultural factors among others as being

responsible for this anomaly (Enukoha, 1995; Obodo, 1997;

West African Examination Council, 2002). This poor Math-

ematics performance of students is further worsened by

gender imbalance leading to the problem which now con-

stitutes a major research focus across the globe (UNESCO,

2003). In a study by Opolot-Okurut (2005) it was found

that for all the attitudinal variables (anxiety, confidence and

motivation), males had higher mean scores than females.

That is, differences in student attitude toward mathematics

based on gender were confirmed. Attitudes are known to

have positive relationship with student achievement. This

may be an indication that males perform better than fe-

males mathematically as a result of their higher attitude

scores.

It is believed that bridging gender gap is one major way of

achieving egalitarianism and enhancing human development.

School location is a variable in achievement and rural stu-

dents, who constitute the majority group in Nigeria, tend to

manifest more simple social relationships than their urban

counterparts, probably due to greater interpersonal ties in

rural settings, Hence one is led to wonder whether gender

disparities exist in the Mathematics achievement of rural

secondary school students in Cross River State. It is also

the objective of this study to verify whether parental socio

economic status and school proprietorship are significant

factors in the rural students’ Mathematics achievement.

Popular cultures view rural education as a deficit model

Table. 1. Sample distribution by district and sex

58 Proceedings of epiSTEME 3

Instrumentation

A forty-five minute, thirty (30) item multiple choice math-

ematics achievement test (MAT) of four options, A to D,

was constructed by the researchers based on the prescribed

senior secondary two (SS II) curriculum to cover the basic

areas of number and numeration, Algebraic processes, Ge-

ometry and Mensuration, Trigonometry and Statistics/prob-

ability. Students were expected to encircle the option bear-

ing the answer.

The items were set based on the table of specifications in

Table 2.

Table. 2. Table of specification for MAT

Hypothesis 2

It is seen from Table 4 that, the achievement of rural male

and female students differ only for those in the low socio-

economic bracket and for public schools. At other levels

of the variables, there is no statistically significant differ-

ence.

The MAT has reliability coefficient (KR20) of 0.87 and was

certified to be content valid by three independent experts

(two of Mathematics education and one of educational mea-

surement and evaluation). The item difficulties, p

i

are such

that 0.40

< p

i

< 0.82. This instrument was administered by

the researchers with the aid of Graduate Students to the

sample of 2000 students across the state at the beginning

of the third term of 2007/2008 session (in early April).

Results

The results of the study are summarized as shown below:

Hypothesis 1

From Table 3, it is seen that there is a significant differ-

ence between the Mathematics achievement of the rural

male and female students. This is because the calculated t-

value of 5.43 is greater than the critical t-value of 1.645 at

.05 level of significance and 1998 degrees of freedom. The

null hypothesis, Ho

1

is therefore rejected and the alternative

upheld.

Discussion of Results

Interest in gender-achievement relationship among rural stu-

dents stems from the fact that these students are in the

majority in Nigeria as a heavily populated developing nation

in Africa. The first finding revealed the existence of signifi-

cant gender achievement gap in favour of the rural males

(t

cal

5.43, t

crit

1.645 at .05 level of significance).

This corroborates popular research findings in gender lit-

erature (Ezeameyi 2002; Asimeng – Boahene 2006). Nur-

ture in Nigeria tends to favour male dominance over the

feminine gender. Environmental provision for male students

makes them fit and able to cope with tasks requiring high

intellectual challenge, computation and rigor. This phenom-

enon is further compounded in Africa where sex-stereo-

typing is so pervasive that from birth, society fixes gender

roles and conditions males to play and act within the con-

*p < .05

Table. 4. Independent t-test analysis of significance

between the Mathematics’ achievement of rural male and

female students of Cross River State, Nigeria, by SES

and School Proprietorship

*p < .05

Table. 3. Independent t-test analysis of significance

between the Mathematics achievement of rural male and

female students in Cross River State, Nigeria

59Gender Differences and Mathematics Achievement of ...

fines of intellectually and physically more challenging tasks

like construction, moulding, football, palm-wine tapping,

climbing, agriculture, fishing and the like. Women on the

other hand, are ‘sentenced’ to the kitchen and related do-

mestic chores, including child-rearing. By extension, fe-

male students in the school tend to opt for subjects like,

Home Economics and at most Biology. Chemistry, Phys-

ics, Mathematics and Further Mathematics are male-domi-

nated zones (Graham, 2001). In school, one hears female

students saying that further Mathematics is for the boys

and this low motivation may further widen the gender gap

in mathematics achievement (Mutemeri & Mygweni, 2005).

In fact, a typical informal survey in the Nigerian classroom

will readily show a greater proportion of female students

opting for non-Mathematical subjects if given the opportu-

nity. This may explain why Mathematics is made compul-

sory in both primary and secondary schools. Yet, till date

many students still offer the subject not by conviction of its

significance but on the basis of the compulsion.

The second hypothesis revealed that parental socio-eco-

nomic status (SES) and school proprietorship as correlates

of Student’s Mathematics achievement are only partially

gender sensitive. That is, whereas there is no significant

achievement difference between male and female Mathemat-

ics students from the high socio-economic parents, signifi-

cance is established for the achievements of male and fe-

male students from the low socio-economic parents. Also,

whereas, male and female students exhibit homogenous

Mathematics ability in the private schools, there is a signifi-

cant difference in the ability of the male and female stu-

dents from the public schools. All cases of significance

favour the male students.

These phenomena could be justified by the fact that stu-

dents of high socio-economic parents enjoy such motiva-

tional intervention as extra home coaching, enriched home

environment with tutorial disks and programmes available

in video, good library and better state of mental health. Their

less fortunate counterparts are highly stressed and exploited

at home through engagements in domestic tasks leaving

little time for studies. Private schools on the other hand are

characterized largely by effective teaching, good instruc-

tional supervision and the other advantages of small-scale

operation and more manageable teacher-pupil ratio. The

consequence is that learner inadequacies including gender

defect is over shadowed by strengths from other sources,

thus bridging gender gap. This cannot be said of public

schools. It is very likely therefore that the environmental

disadvantage, coupled with persistent sex-stereotyping typi-

cal of African cultures tend to keep the girls below the boys

in mathematics achievement.

Conclusion

It is concluded that there exists significant gender differ-

ences in rural students’ Mathematics achievement in Cross

River State, Nigeria.

Educational Implications

A lot needs to be done to bridge the observed gender gap in

the Mathematics achievement of rural students in Cross

River State, Nigeria. More co-educational institutions for

instance, should be established to foster greater healthy ri-

valry in Mathematics instruction. Male and female stu-

dents need to compete, collaborate and gain from one an-

other in Mathematics teaching and learning.

Guidance machinery in the school should be energized to

encourage more women participation in effective mathemat-

ics learning. The female students should be informed that

mathematics could be studied and passed just like other

subjects, and that the subject is an essential tool, a prereq-

uisite for further education in a host of vocations. Failure in

Mathematics is therefore a serious set-back in capacity

building and human development.

The current poverty alleviation programme in Nigeria should

be sustained and made practically more effective to bridge

the gap between the rich and the poor. This will improve

child education and foster national development.

Greater collaboration in school funding should be pursued

by the government at all levels so that the public schools

which are so poorly funded could improve their capacity

for productivity. The government should apply itself to the

United nations prescribed minimum budgetary allocation for

education. The situation whereby governors release less

funds than they budgeted for will keep the public school

permanently impoverished, and paupers are educational

under-achievers.

Mathematics teaching and evaluation strategies should be

gender bias-free. This way, males and females will tend to

see themselves as equals, capable of competing and col-

laborating in classroom activities.

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