Secondary sources that are relevant to female education


This chapter deals with several secondary sources that are relevant to female education in general and their academic performances in particular. Although the coverage is extensive in this chapter, selected factors are included in the conceptual framework for this study.

2.2 Comprehensive Views on Female Education

According to the report of World Bank (1996), 300 million children in school going age do not do so off which 60% are girl-children. Moreover, two third of the illiterates are women. Although the enrollment status of females in elementary and secondary schools is getting better in Ethiopia thanks to the new educational policies, there lie challenges with regard to their academic performances for several reasons

Women who are the backbones of the households and the nation remain underprivileged as they are not educated. Therefore, it is the duty of the society to help them get educated and, in turn, the society will get the maximum benefit form the educated women. Although the present condition of women and women education in Africa has improved in last few decades, much needs to be done in this regard yet.

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We have seen above several factors play key roles with regard to female students' performance at schools. They are, in fact, numerous. However, the following diagram put some key factors in a nut-shell that affect the academic performance of female students.

However, the following diagram put some key factors in a nut-shell that affect the academic performance of female students.



HH CHORUSFigure 2: Factors that affect Female Students' Academic Performance

The diagram cited above is comprehensive as it depicts several key factors that affect the girls' performance at schools. In the following paragraphs we shall discuss some specific factors that are relevant to this project.

2.3 Direct Costs of Schooling

The increasingly prohibitive school associated costs are the major reasons that parents offer for not encouraging their daughters that eventually results in poor academic performance of the female students. Several studies such as Asomaning et al. (1994); Graham 1991; Njema (1993) and Palme (1993) support this view. This is true to Ethiopia as well. Poverty is widespread in this continent and the extent to which parents have to cover the shortfalls due to the fiscal crisis has had a devastating impact on households that in turn reflect on the school going girls as traditionally girls are less preferred to get educated.

The trend to shift educational costs to parents in the name of cost-sharing is especially likely to work against girls' education (Kinyanjui, 1993; Namuddu 1994). When fees were introduced in Nigeria between 1982 and 1986, the enrollment of girls in schools reduced from the whooping 92% to 75% (Obadina, 1993). In Ethiopia, the construction of SIDA assisted Primary Village Schools that are dependent on community contributions, has been delayed or foiled because of the severe economic problems affecting local communities (TGE/UNICEF, 1993).

Even when primary and secondary education are free, households educational expenditure can be heavy. Apart from the registration fee payable at the beginning of each semester, the parents have to pay for increasing demand for various stationery items, incidental expenses of the children at schools, cost of uniforms, and local transportation. Many households could not afford these expenditures; eventually, the axe falls on the educational opportunities of the girls in the households (Cammish, and Brock, 1994). Moreover, it is mandatory for the households to spend more on the outfits of girls as they have to cover themselves appropriately while going to schools. It is more so with regard to their sanitary protection (Camfed, 1994)

2.4 Socio-cultural Factors

Another group of performance-determining factors are the social/family factors. The educational condition attributed to the family is beyond all doubt or discussion, as there is an ever-increasing awareness of the importance of the parents' role in the progress and educational development of their children. Schiefelbaum and Simmons (2000, as cited by Adell, 2002), consider family background the most important and most weighty factor in determining the academic performance attained by the student. Among family factors of greatest influence are social class variables and the educational and family environment.

With regard to social class, relevant researches tell us that one's results and expectations for the future are better for those who are on the higher social ladder. One of the latest studies carried out on performance in secondary schools in Spain (Marchesi, and Martin, 2002), informed that upper-class students show a better use of meta-cognitive strategies than those of a lower social class. The influence of social class is mediated by cultural level, which in turn determines family expectations, values and attitudes regarding education. In other words, motivation to achieve depends more on the parents' level of learning than on their level of income (Llorente, 1990). Castej¢n and P‚rez (1998) find that the child's perception of family support directly affects performance, while the mother's level of studies does so indirectly. Other researches indicate that the most influential family components on performance are not socio-cultural or economic, but rather those pertaining to the affective or psychological dimension; that is, although good academic preparation in the parents, especially the mother, and a positive cultural environment, favor scholastic performance, it is affective and relational variables stand out as factors in performance more often than not.

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The influence of the family educational climate is defined by the amount and the style of help that children receive from the family; this is determined by elements of the family context, like the dynamic of communication and affective relationships, attitudes towards values, expectations, etc. Along these same lines, Marchesi, and Martin (2002) tell us that parental expectations have a notable influence on academic results, even when controlling for initial knowledge and socio-economic context. Castej¢n, and P‚rez (1998) find indirect relationships with performance from the student's perception of how much importance his or her parents assign to study at home. Other studies show that the level of family cohesion Caplan et al. (2002) and family relationships Buote (2001) prove themselves capable of predicting performance. The parenting style (democratic, authoritarian, etc) is also influential both in the students' educational process as well as in family-school relations; research such as that by Rodr¡guez, ,and Castellano (1986) demonstrates that a positive family climate favors the development of well-adapted, mature, stable and integrated subjects, and an unfavorable family climate promotes non-adaptation, immaturity, lack of balance and insecurity.

Culture influences the education of women in various ways. One is the cultural division of labor. Zewdie and Judge (1990) study of four peasant associations in Ethiopia indicated that women spend about 15 or more hours on various chores important for the household. Under this circumstance, it is the girls who share the burden of their mothers by spending time on the chores instead of their studies.

Early marriage presented another cultural impediment to girls' education. Study in many developing countries indicate that the number of girls attending school abruptly drop when they reach the age 15 to 19. One major reason for this phenomenon is early marriage. In most developing countries early marriage and education are antithetical. Bach et al., (1985) reported that the more the education women attained, the older their age at marriage.

Family has a major influence in the upbringing of children. They are happy when boy is born and feel sorrow when girl is bon. Boys are expected to be strong, assertive and independent while the girls are expected to be weak, lacking confidence and dependant. The girl child takes the major share of the household chores; cooking, care of siblings and other details. The day-to day routine occupies her mind. The boy on the other hand grows differently being encouraged and supported (MoE, 2004b).

The family or the home is an important agency of education and has been exercising an everlasting and immediate influence on the behavior, character, conduct and personality of its members. Education of the child is not exclusive of the school. Parents can and should play an important role in shaping and building the career of their children.

According to Genene (1991) female students' poor performance at school can be related to their life style. Most of them do house work; cooking, taking care for their younger brothers or sisters, generally helping their over-burdened mother and training for their future role as wives and mothers these give them very little time for their studies beyond poor performance. Repeating in a class discourage female education as parent prefer their daughters to drop out and get married rather than spend another year.

Parent's educational background effects female students' educational performance for certain. For instance, if the head of the family is highly educated, his children are likely to receive same encouragement guidance and even help in their academic works. Almost all educated parents wish and expect better performance of their daughters.

The negative perception to educational values of girls and their roles in the society makes parents reluctant to invest on girls' education. The belief of the parents that higher education to girls eventually brings undesirable influence becomes remains dominant in areas where traditional outlook prevail (Hyde, 1993)

2.5 School Factors

School variables are the other determining factors that are made up principally of the students, the teachers and the peers. Marchesi, and Martin (2002) propose that the pupil's socio-cultural level and his previous aptitudes indirectly influence the results of learning since they delimit classroom procedures. As for characteristics of the teacher-tutor, this is considered a key element for the pupil's personal and academic development, the value given from teacher to pupil and vice-versa is usually reciprocal, highlighting additionally the personal relationship (Marchesi, and Mart¡n, 2002). Expectations significantly influence students' results. These same authors find that the teachers' assessment is mediated by two variables: (1) the student's intelligence, that is, the greater the intelligence, the better the academic results and the better reciprocal appreciation between teacher and student; (2) family support for study also makes the student value his teacher more highly (Castej¢n and P‚rez, 1998). Other studies find positive relationships between the teachers' motivation and that of the students (Atkinson, 2000).

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Teacher-pupil relations are also mediated by the teacher's attribution of poor performance to the student (Georgiou et al., 2002). Peer influence on the child's development occurs by similar mechanisms as those used by adults: reinforcement, modeling, and direct teaching and skills. Interaction with peers also promotes acquisition of social competencies such as controlling aggressive impulses and the expression of pro-social behaviors. In relation to academic performance, the socio-metric status of the student influences performance both directly and indirectly, since it is influenced by intelligence (Castej¢n, and P‚rez, 1998). Other researches also show that positive correlations exist between performance and peer relationships (Buote, 2002). Montero (1990) demonstrates in his study that students failing in school are those most rejected by their group-class. School constraints including the educational environment( availability of class-room, learning materials and facilities), distance to school, teachers' attitude and teaching practices, gender bias in curricula, and classroom culture (harassment, teasing and so on) invariably affect the performance of girls at schools(Teshome, 2003).

Tilaye (1999); UNESCO, (1970) Hill, and King (1993) have noticed that the geographical location of schools have a decisive impact on the chance of going to school and staying longer. Long distance from the school is therefore, one of the main causes for low academic achievements of the students in the high schools. In line with this, UNESCO (1970) noted that one of the first obstacles to be overcome is sheer mileage; once again, this obstacle is greater for country girls. Secondary school is to be found almost solely in towns: and one country in five has no secondary schools whatsoever in rural areas. Pupils are thus forced to go "out-side", and many of them will not do so.

As one of the school environment items, peer group, may impose pressure on female students' performance and career choice. Members of peer groups spent much of their time in sharing out different affairs including academic and future careers. The peer group is thus a source of influence for the students especially during adolescence and in urban areas. Such influence may help or impede his/her academic achievement and career choice depending on the value of the group (Datta, 1997).

Sexual harassment against school-girls is a common sight in a school. Its prevalence on the school campus seems almost part of common culture. As they are not considered as illegal acts, different forms of harassments (such as sexual comments, non-consensual touching or kissing and so on) are taking place as common mechanism of approach in schools and they remain part of their day to day lives. This happens in all walks of their lives outside the school as well (Mekonnen, and Asresash, 2007). Sexual harassment can take place when verbal remarks make the work or academic atmosphere offensive or stifling whereas sexual remarks which are not related to the work and at hand can interfere with productivity and performance. For example, female students may be forced to endure condescending, derogatory remarks of male instructor which focus on women's anatomy and on their inferior ability (Charles, and Karen, 1997).

The attitude of the teacher is one of the factors that affect female role expectations in school environment. It is believed that teachers hold little regard for the ability, character or potential of their female students and they often described them in negative terms such as irresponsible less hard working and less intelligent. Moreover teachers believed that boys had more potential than girls for academic success. According to Biraimah (1982) the secondary school teachers relegated girls to low status, kept them low spirited, stamped them as less skilled and maintained that they are useful for nurturing occupation and nothing else.

Students, according to Stephen et al. (2000), who are able to communicate with others more effectively, can understand relationships easily. They can also express these relationships accurately, using appropriate language in the sense that more effective communication is the product of the interaction of many forces. Language has now become an effective tool to adopt different environments, especially in the class rooms. Hence, the language used by the teachers towards the female student's right inside the class room, fair or foul, might influence the performance of the girls.

2.6 Factors Related to the School Situation

Many research findings pointed out that several factors that exist on school campus such as infrastructure, sanitation facilities, teaching aids, teachers' qualification and attitude, and the commitment of school administration play key role towards performances of the students in general and the girl-students in particular.

2.6.1 The Learning Environment

The poverty of African states is evident in the physical state of institutions of learning. The poverty of schools is apparent in the lack of classrooms, equipment and learning materials. Those facilities that are inadequate and dilapidated, often lack basic amenities such as water and electricity.

In several countries, governments are unable to pay teachers' salaries regularly. The funds allocated for running the schools are disbursed intermittently. These factors result in teacher absenteeism and lack of motivation for both teachers and students. Schools and teachers are both forced to look for alternative sources of income. Consequently there is a greater demand for financial support from parents and for the use of student labor to generate income. The situation has a negative impact on the quantity and quality of time spent on teaching and degrades student performance and attainment. Some parents are increasingly discouraged from sending their children to school (World Bank, 1988; Grant et al., 1990; Brock, and Cammish 1991; Fleuret et al., 1992; Kapakasa, 1992; Hyde, 1993b; UNICEF 1993, Moskowitz et al., 1999,). Such a situation adds more economic burden on the shoulders of the parents in addition to those mentioned in 2.3 of this chapter. Ultimately, girl students suffer the consequences.

2.6.2 Type of School

Access to education is lower for girls than boys at all educational levels in general in the developing world. There is much commentary on the educational outcomes related to the type of institutions girls have access to, particularly at the post-primary level: single-sex or coeducational, private, government or community-funded institutions. In several countries in Africa, girls in good-quality coeducational schools generally came from better socio-economic backgrounds than boys, and also performed academically better than their male classmates in both science and language (Kilo, 1994). It is found out that the girls in single sex schools performed better than those in co- educational schools, particularly in science subjects and mathematics (Ministry of Health/GTZ Support Unit 1988; Lee, and Lockheed 1990).

In Tanzania, private secondary schools have a pupil-to-teacher ratio and a larger proportion of low-quality teachers than public schools. More girls than boys are enrolled in private schools. As a result, the performance of students in the private sector is poorer than that of students in state-subsidized schools (Mbilinyi and Mbughuni 1991, World Bank 1991). Similarly in Kenya government, schools have a wider catchment area, better-qualified teachers and score better results in national examinations than Harambee (community) schools. Harambee schools may receive government assistance. A study suggests that girls in Harambee schools are from poorer homes, have less promising educational prospects, and are more susceptible to pregnancy. With regard to persistence in school, drop-out rates were found to be higher in rural areas, especially at the primary level, and were twice as likely to occur if the institution was coeducational. The study further suggests that the smaller the female population in a school, the larger the number of female drop-outs due to poor performance (Ministry of Health/GTZ Support Unit 1988). However, in case of Ethiopia girl students perform better in private schools in towns and cities and girls in government schools perform better than those in private schools in rural areas as privately owned schools that have senior grades are very few in rural areas (Endesha, 2006)

2.7 Parental/Familial Perceptions of the Irrelevance of Schooling for Girls

Children's educational outcomes are a direct result of how much resources and priority parents and families attach to each child. To a large extent the decision of which child to invest on is governed by prevailing gender ideologies. These may be described as socio-cultural attitudes; behavior and expectations that the society has of women and men. When households and families make educational investment decisions, the decisions are often gender-differentiated and related to birth-order and number of siblings. Educational costs are often shared by parents, and even in households where fathers are responsible for paying school fees, mothers contribute substantially to education costs. Older siblings and relatives may also be responsible for covering educational expenses. A recent study in Cameroon showed that relatives contributed to the education of 17% of secondary students, the majority of whom were girls (Kilo, 1994). Attention has recently been drawn to the complex web of networks and relationships that affect human capital investment behavior in the African context. These are determined by high fertility levels, high marital instability, polygamy, child fostering and a wide variety of living arrangements and family ties, gender of the child in question, birth-order, and number of siblings (Bledsoe, 1990; Fleuret et al 1992; Lloyd, and Gage-Brandon, 1992; Asomaning et al., 1994; Kilo. 1994,).

Parental and familial attitudes have a strong influence on the decision to invest in children's education. The literature highlights ambivalence towards investment in female education, based on many negative perceptions of girls and women: these perceptions need to be challenged. Some parents believe that boys are more intelligent, that they perform better in school and that they are a better educational investment than girls. A factor often ignored in discussions of parental preference for boy's education is the prevalence of patrilineal inheritance systems. As the prime beneficiaries of family assets, boys are favored in human capital investment decisions. In addition, parents worry about wasting money on the education of girls who are likely to get pregnant or married before completing their schooling. There is a strong belief that, once married, girls become part of another family and the parental investment is lost (Long, and Fofanah, 1990; Prouty, 1991; Davison, and Kanyuka 1992; Kapakasa, 1992; Davison, 1993). Some communities and parents hold a negative view of educated girls. For example, in Chad, some parents believe that schools push girls to prostitution, make them unfaithful to their husbands and make them difficult to be controlled by parents (Bello et al., 1993). In some regions of Cameroon, educated girls are perceived as being too independent and demanding and being likely to challenge the traditional submissive role expected of them in marriage (Cammish and Brock 1994).

However, in Kenya, and Rwanda, and parts of Ethiopia significant number of the mothers interviewed preferred to invest in boy's education for more family security and old age support (Prouty, 1991; Davison, 1993). In Zimbabwe, a group of rural parents stated that education for all their children was important, stressing that daughters were future mothers who would require money to look after their families, and even look after us (daughter's parents) as our sons are deserting us going for South Africa" (Graham-Browne, 1991). On the other hand in Zambia, increases in female primary and secondary enrollments, despite drought and acute economic hardship, are attributed to peoples' belief in the value of education and their awareness of the importance of educating girls to achieve progress (Kelly, 1991).This awareness is true to Ethiopia as the government is relentlessly working towards gender equality as of 1991.

Across the region, formal education has historically been linked to employment opportunities in the labor market, particularly in the civil service (UNICEF, 1992). Families tend to judge the value of education by the returns from the labor market. Given the historical exclusion of girls from education and the formal labor market, it seems prudent for families to invest in the formal education of boys because they will always be better placed to explore formal labor market opportunities, The tradition of poor female participation and performance in school and the labor market reinforces this familial and community bias (Appleton et al., 1990; Brock, and Cammish, 1991; Davison, and Kanyuka 1992; Kapakasa, 1992; Davison, 1993; Dundow, and Howuth, 1993).

Other educational agencies are viewed by society as more efficient than the formal education systems at preparing girls to be wives and mothers. Apprenticeships continue to provide practical entrepreneurial skills to young people across the region. Such programs are popular with parents who often want to ensure that their daughters acquire some practical skills before they get married. Sewing and trading are particularly popular in several developing countries in Africa (Akpaka, and Gaba 1992; Niane, et al, 1993). In some instances girls leave school of their own accord to engage in economic activities, `Enough education to set up as a hairdresser or to run a chicken parlor may encourage bright girls to drop-out of school in order to earn. Moreover, this kind of perception of the girls make them perform at low level in grades nine and ten as they believe that they will soon be out of the school and get involved in those ventures.

Parents and families often give the excuse of lack of resources for not educating daughters and girls. Although poverty is a very real constraint to education and economic costs of education are prohibitive to some parents, research findings suggest that this categorization needs to be held to close scrutiny. Researches in Malawi and Uganda suggest that `lack of money' may in some cases be an excuse for the reluctance of parents and families to invest in the education of girls because they do not perceive the value of education for girls and also because of the socio-cultural perceptions about the role of women in society (Fleuret et al., 1992; Kapakasa, 1992).This is true to the parents of girls in rural Ethiopia.

2.8 Religion and Female Education

Religion is usually associated with low female participation in schools (Appleton at al., 1990; Colclough, and Lewin 1993, Lange, 1993). The history of the imposition of formal western education, which is associated with a particular religion, and the pressure to convert, is still very much an issue in some regions. It is evident that some parents prefer one kind of religious education for their daughters, as the fear that western education promotes values and behavior for girls which are contrary to cultural norms (often articulated as religious edicts) remains strong in the developing world (Robertson, 1986; Niles, 1989; Pittin, 1990; Brock, and Cammish, 1991; Kane, and de Brun, 1993;).

However, religion is often a proxy for cultural views about appropriate female roles and it is necessary, although difficult, to distinguish between factors. For example, the Fula of Northern Sierra Leone were a poor society twenty-five years ago. Today they are a strong entrepreneurial force in Freetown, investing in real estate and property development. They are also using their wealth to invest in the education of their children. They have established schools and encourage their children to seek professional occupations. Twenty-five years ago, there were few Fula girls in formal schools. But as families fortunes have changed, the education of Fula girls has increased significantly (Brock, and Cammish 1991). In Northern Nigeria, despite government efforts to promote Universal Primary Education, rural parents still hold negative attitudes towards western education and prefer religious education for girls. However, the influence of an urban setting is demonstrated by the sample of urban women in a study that supported western education for their daughters and had high aspirations for their education and employment (Niles, 1989). In case of Ethiopia, the general attitudes of parents with regard to religion and female education are in the process of changing towards thinking that education is an essential requirement for boys and girls although the religiously based attitude of parents towards girls' education might prevail in some parts of the nation.

2.9 Psychology of Young Female Students in Schools

The psychology of the girls at school plays a key role in their academic performance. Their thinking and their day to day activities are mostly influenced by the order of the day, the on going changes in the society they live in and the influence of their neighborhood on them. Most students in secondary school are in the age range of 14 to 19 years. This is the period of "adolescence age" where a higher complex transitional period from childhood to maturity takes place. During adolescence period students manifest a broader and sophisticated interest, many personal, social and emotional problems which arise from home, boy-girl relationship, difficulties to get on with peers and so on. Since adolescents in secondary school are subjected to complex life difficulties, the situation causes poor performance on the part of the student (UNESCO, 1987).

Many young women are less whole and androgynous than they were at age ten to twelve. They are more appearance-conscious than sex-conscious. They are quieter, more fearful of holding strong opinions, more careful of what they say and are less honest to many. They are more likely to guess on themselves and to be self-critical. They have bigger worries for the days and months ahead and are effective people pleasers trying to be in the good books of all concerned. It is believed that they are less likely to play sports, be interested in mathematics, natural sciences and plan to be a celebrity or a leader. They hide their intelligence. Many must fight for years to regain all the territory they lost (Pipher, 1994, as cited in Stephen et al. 2000).

Moreover, a large number of female students believe that they being females are not supposed to take any greater interest in studies as their primary duties are to look after their would be husbands, run their families effectively, rear children, involved in household chorus and reproductive activities. Although many of them are academically brilliant and capable of reaching great heights in academia, their self proclaimed low esteem stand as a big barrier in their way to success both at school and their lives at large. (Rose, 2003).

2.10 Conceptual Framework

The literature review cited above give some insight on the factors that are responsible for the performance of female students at schools in Ethiopia and elsewhere. Moreover, researcher like Emebet (2003) and many others believe that the major factors responsible for low performance and high drop out rate of girls were family related, cultural and school related factors, besides economic constraints, marriage by abduction, load of household chores, school distance, sexual harassment and early marriage. Further, Wiere, 1991(as cited in Yenenesh, 2007) says the value of boys' education is perceived higher than that of girls by parents. The parents fear sending their girls to schools that are far from home for security reasons. Additionally, the domestic demands and responsibilities of girls are the culprits for their poor academic performances at schools. More importantly, the parents with low income have to make priorities whether it is profitable enough to send girls to school. This very thinking of the parents plays havoc in the performance of the girls as the girls fear that at any given point of time, sooner than later, they may have to leave the school.

Based on the literature cited above and the personal observation of the ground realities that existed at different schools in and around the study area by the researcher, the following conceptual frame work was developed for this project. Data were collected from the household heads of the selected female students from Hamaresa High School on these independent variables shown on the framework below that were hypothesized to affect the academic performance of the female students in the study area.






Family Size


Households' Perception towards Female Education

Early Marriage

Household Chorus of Female Children



Livestock Ownership

Land Holding

Educational Expenses


Roll Models

Job Opportunities for Female High School Graduates

School-Parent Linkage

Figure 3 Conceptual Frame Work Used for Data Collection from Household Heads

Source: Researcher's Own development based on Literature Review and Personal