An Investigative Study on the Effect of Gender Difference on Academic Performance of Chemistry Students in Secondary School

An Investigative Study on the Effect of Gender Difference on Academic Performance of Chemistry Students in Secondary School


The research study was aimed at investigating the effect of gender difference on academic performance of chemistry students in some selected secondary schools of Zaria Local Government Area of Kaduna State. Some schools within Zaria were chosen, 100 students (50 males, 50 females) were randomly selected from each school making a total of 100 students in all.

For the statistical analysis of the data, the mean performance of male students and the mean performance of the female students were calculated. The result showed that the male students performed better than female students in chemistry. The t-test was also used to see if there was any significant difference between the performance of male and female students. The results, showed that there was a significant different in their performance.

Based on the analysis of the data, various suggestions and recommendations were made for the improvement of the performance of both sexes in chemistry generally. It is hope that findings from this study would be of help to educational administrations, chemistry teachers, students of chemistry, parents, government and other science as a whole in Zaria Local government area of Kaduna state.



Background to the study

Gender related disparities have characterized Nigeria education system at the national level, between and at regional level and at all levels of education from primary to university in favour of males. This has been in the form of better performance in favor of boys at all levels (UNESCO, 2003; Republic of Nigeria 2007; Mondoh and Mujidi, 2006). Over the years, the top one hundred candidates at national, provincial, county, district level has been dominated by male candidates. It’s only in a few districts where the performance has been in favour of girls’ (NECO, 2011).

Academic performance or achievement is the mark and determinant of a student’s success (or lack of) and future. This is especially true in Nigeria and in the rest of the world especially developing countries that have adopted education as the main route to development. Academic achievement in chemistry or performance is the outcome of education, the extent to which a student, teacher or institution has achieved their educational goals. It is commonly measured by examinations or continuous assessment tests. In educational institutions, success is measured by academic performance, or how well a student meets standards set out by local government and the institution itself.
In the educational, there are at least three reasons for studying gender differences. These include identifying the source of inequalities, fostering average performance and improving our understanding of how students learn (OECD, 2009). The OECD report further notes that, in the past few decades the interest by researchers to study gender differentiation in education was fueled by a perceived lack of interest and success of girls in a number of areas of schooling notably mathematics and the physical sciences. In more recent times there has been a focus on the lack of engagement and success of boys, especially in the area of reading. Education policy makers have to be aware of the differences in academic performance between the sexes so as to ensure the success of any subsequent policies in achieving quality education and equity.

Gender equity means fairness of treatment for women and men, boys and girls, according to their respective needs. This may include equal treatment or treatment that is different but which is considered equivalent in terms of rights, benefits, obligations and opportunities. This is according to IFAD (2014). In education, this means the recognition by policy makers and educators of the inherent differences of both girls and boys in terms of ability and circumstances and acting accordingly to ensure that no one is left behind or is disadvantaged.The imperative for gender equity can be seen in a number of lights. Firstly there is a moral reason to ensure that one of the sexes is not disadvantaged compared to the other. The disadvantage may be the end result of many years of treatment based on culture, religion and tradition. The second imperative to raising the performance of one of the sexes to be similar to the other is the concomitant increase in economic and social benefits that this will bring.

Education has been described as the wealth of knowledge acquired by an individual after studying particular subject matter or experiencing life lessons that provide an understanding of something. Education requires instruction of some sort from an individual or composed literature. The most common forms of education result from years of schooling that incorporates studies of a variety of subjects (UNESCO, 2012). This kind of education is the basis of this research. Specifically, it will be education at the secondary school level. The issues of gender in education have been and are still evolving. Conscious efforts have been made towards gaining gender equality in education by ensuring that every child regardless of gender is in school. Below is a review of some of the efforts to see to this gender equality.

Eliminating differences in education between boys and girls has been a priority of development organizations and the international community for many years. One of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) targets is to “eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by “2005”, and in all levels of education no later than “2015”. This has been echoed by institutions like the United Nations and the World Bank. According to the World Bank, there is no investment more effective for achieving development goals than educating girls. Equality of educational opportunities between men and women is also acknowledged in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. It has been suggested that educating girls and achieving the MDG goal on gender equity will lead to a range of improved outcomes for developing countries (Schultz, 2002), including higher economic growth (Abu- Ghaida and Klasen, 2004).

The benefits of education for girls can be explained by the effect education have on girls’ achievement. Educated girls acquire and use new personal, social and economic behaviours that in turn affect societal change (Moulton, 1997). As such gender becomes a crucial factor in deciding who goes to school and for how long (Psacharopoulos and Woodhall, 1985). Before parents make the decision, considerations are taken concerning family priorities. In most cases, girls are more disadvantaged by factors operating within the home and school than boys. They include socio-cultural and economic considerations for example, parental level of education, occupation, family size, traditional division of labour, early marriages and negative perception by parents regarding girls’ education.

Summers (1992), asserts that girls’ education empowers women to bring about necessary changes and helps to break through the vicious cycle of poverty and deprivation. He concludes that once all the benefits are recognized, the investment in education of girls may well be the highest return investment available in the developing world. Salisbury and Riddell (2000) in their research in Britain argue that women can and do achieve academically as well as men. She asserts that this ‘gender divide’ in formal education has been caused by issues such as bias in assessment, differential access to the curriculum as well as attitudinal predisposition, peer group pressure and family socialization pattern. In Nigeria, gender issues that affect their performance include social, cultural and religious beliefs, attitudes and practices, poverty, child labour, poor learning environment, lack of role models, curriculum pedagogy and learners’ attitudes, among others (Kimani et al., 2011).

The stated issues affecting the various genders more so the girl’s has resulted in the need to carry out such a study. Much as it is based on gender (male: female), focus will be on how the girl is affected as well as the extent of the performance among boys variably.

Statement of the problem

The recognition of the importance of educating girls has been stated by many. The literature shows that countries specifically Nigeria still has a long way to go in terms of improved outcomes and higher economic growth, more so academic performance. There is need to emphasize on new approaches to educating girls such as those stated by Moulton (1997) of personal – self, social and economic behaviors that will influence performance and social change. Factors operating in the home and school. Programmes that target girls need to be reviewed and revamped. Further issues arising such as bias in assessment, and classroom practices that marginalize girls while learning need to be explored further. This is because these issues despite being addressed over time have continued to plague the educational system. The gender divide that arise must be explored more so due to the social, economic and political effect on the gender affected which over the years has been the female gender.

To do this, there is need to determine specific aspect that arise by looking at critical categories of educational dispensation and uniqueness regarding gender performance in education. It’s important to move away from general statements to determine exactly where the divide lies and begins. So trends and specifics of what is predominant about gender and performance needed to be explored. Issues of region, groups, and categories of performance needed to be analysed to narrow into the challenges as to why disparities have continued.

Gender issues are ever so crucial more so as the world paradigm change even as we begin to re- evaluate human circumstances within the framework of “21st Century”, “Climate Change”, “Terrorism” issues that are already redefining education, pedagogy, curriculum, the learner and assessment practices. There is need to review the past concerns and trends so as to determine the present with a view of charting the course towards redefining educating of the future. This study intends to do just that by contributing towards better understanding of gender within the frame of a critical outcome in education; that is, academic performance. More studies are required that seek sources of inequality, fostering of average performance and improving understanding on how different genders learn.

Objectives of study

1. Ascertained the difference in effect of learning activities between male and female students achievement in Chemistry.

2. Determined the interaction effect between methods and gender on students’ achievement in Chemistry.

Research Questions

The following research questions guided this study:

1. What is the difference in the mean achievement scores between male and female students taught Chemistry using learning activities?

2. What is the interaction effect between methods and gender on students mean achievement scores in Chemistry?


The following null hypotheses were tested at 0.05 level of significance:

1. There is no significant difference in the mean achievement scores between male and female students taught Chemistry using learning activities.

2. The interaction effect between methods and gender on the mean achievement scores of students in Chemistry is not significant.

Significance of the Study

The study will be of use to educators in determining the issues that have created “gender divide” in academic performance over time differently leading to more strategic approach to reducing this divide. The Ministry of Education would be able to review their policies on gender education more so girls’ education, classroom learning practices, more so pedagogy and assessment in most affected areas can be highlighted and made available to schools more so the teacher. Further the community can be better informed as well as the legislature so as to rally and advocate for the change desired.

Assumptions of the study

The study was based on the following assumptions:
a) The researcher would have access to the National Examinations Council data base to collect the data needed for the study.

b) That the data in the data base would be valid, complete, reliable and sufficient enough for a thorough analysis to allow for conclusive findings.

Operational Definition of Terms

Below is a definition of the terms that appear frequently in this research report:


The process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university: a course of education.


This is a test that is offered to students or pupils who have gone through a specified course of study to assess their level of attainment of the expected learning competencies.

Academic Performance

This is the mark and determinant of a student’s success (or lack of) and future.


This is the economic, social, political and cultural attributes and opportunities, associated with being either male or female.

National Examinations

These are examinations that are managed and administered by state run institutions to students countrywide who have studied an agreed upon curriculum.

Examination Board

This refers to a body charged with the responsibility of offering national examinations in a country and in Nigeria it is the Nigeria National Examinations Council.

Nigeria Certificate of Secondary Education

This is a document issued by the Nigeria National Examinations Council showing results obtained by a particular candidate in the secondary education.

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