The Making of an Engineer: Background Characteristics of Female Engineering Students in Kenyan National Polytechnics

By Richard Wambua.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Kenyan National Polytechnics produce middle level technical manpower. Women are underrepresented in the student composition of these institutions, especially in science and engineering courses. This impacts on their representation in industry. This study explored factors present in the upbringing of female students enrolled in engineering courses in these institutions. These factors are related to the effect of the family, society and school. It is hoped that results of this research will be useful to policy makers involved in efforts to increase female participation in engineering fields. The institutions that were considered were the Kenya Technical Teachers College (KTTC) and the Kenya Polytechnic, both located in Nairobi.
The sample consisted of 81 persons drawn from these institutions. Data was collected through use of questionnaires, document observation, and a focus group discussion. Results indicated that female engineering students are more likely to reside in urban area, in families considered as lower middle class. Though they registered above average academic achievement in their courses, they faced a number of challenges such as loneliness and subtle harassment from their male classmates. Lack of employment opportunities in industry for women, as well as fear of the Physics subject at high school were cited as some of the main reasons why there are few girls applying for admission to engineering courses. One of the ways of increasing female participation includes affirmative action in employment by engineering firms. There is definitely need to strengthen career guidance in high schools, to allow girls to explore the full range of occupations available. There is also need to establish clubs for female engineering students to help raise self-esteem, socialize, and network members.

Keywords: Gender, Enrollment, Technology, Tertiary Education

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp.31-40. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 562.879KB).

Mr Richard Wambua

Senior Lecturer, Department of Education, Kenya Technical Teachers College, Kenya Technical Teachers College, Nairobi, Kenya

I attended primary and secondary schools, where in the latter level, my schooling had a bias in science and technical education. Thereafter enrolled for a Bachelors degree course in Education at the Moi University, where I graduated in 1994 as a technical teacher. Thereafter, I was posted by the Teachers Service Commission of Kenya to teach in secondary schools. After four years I enrolled for a Masters degree course in the department of Educational Psychology at the Kenyatta University, and subsequently graduated in 2003. My thesis was titled; “Validation of a model of selection and classification model: A case study of the Faculty of Education, Kenyatta University”. I have been teaching in the Kenya Technical Teachers College as a specialist in Educational Measurement and Evaluation. My areas of interest are Gender and Technology, Social determinants of Academic Achievement and Public Examinations.


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