Investigating factors contributing to low female students’ enrolment in engineering fields at South African universities with reference to the Limpopo Province, Vhembe District

Booi, Shandukani Thendo (2014-12)

Thesis (MBA)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Scientific research that focuses on South African females’ success in engineering is limited. The South African engineering workforce and universities have been encountering challenges in attracting and retaining as many females as possible in these fields. This research assignment seeks to advance the understanding of challenges and reasons that contribute to most female learners shying away from engineering studies at tertiary level. To achieve this, Grade 11 and Grade 12 Mathematics and Physical Science female learners from six different schools, which are in a single educational circuit, were observed and interviewed. Mathematics and Physical Science are the two subjects which are prerequisites for engineering studies at any South African higher education institution. For this reason the research focused on female learners who were studying both these subjects. This study also includes a literature review of factors affecting South African women engineers in the labour market. This includes the factors that females around the world consider before choosing a career and the reasons why females stay in their chosen careers. The findings highlight a number of variables that contribute to females’ underrepresentation in engineering. These variables include societal expectations, perceptions of females in careers that are historically male dominated, the quality of education that female learners receive at school, female learners’ performance in Mathematics and Physical Science, guardians’ support of careers chosen by female learners, learners’ knowledge of the various career streams, the use of home language in teaching subjects assessed in English, family responsibilities, and university admission requirements for engineering. Suggestions on how some of these challenges can be mitigated have been highlighted in this research assignment. The main points are:  The need for career guidance workshops and companies’ exhibitions to be taken to the students’ schools where attention can be given to the students of one school at a time and companies can facilitate discussions with learners about the types of work that their companies offer.  Encouraging and advocating for greater parental involvement in the students’ studies as this can reduce the number of students who do not study on a regular basis.  Offering of teaching employment to candidates who fully meet the requirements for the positions they are applying for especially for core subjects like English, Maths, and Science.  Adding engineering faculties to the two universities in the Limpopo Province and giving bursaries or financial aid to help school girls who want to study engineering at university  Teaching school girls time management skills from an early age so as to help them know how to balance the time they spend on each subject. Further details on how some of these suggestions can be achieved are discussed in the last chapter of this research report.

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