Gender Dimensions in the Teaching and Learning of Vocational Business Education in Nigerian Senior Secondary Schools


This study explores gender dimensions in the teaching and learning of vocational business education (VBE) in Nigerian senior secondary schools. The focus is on classroom participation of VBE boys and girls in commerce and economics class discussions in the schools. The study sets out to explore the VBE experience of girls, as compared with boys and was surprised to discover that although girls still experience gender inequality, they dominate classroom talk in many instances and have advantages from their role in their mothers’ petty trading businesses. The study is framed by three theories: schools’ gender regime, social role and cultural capital theories. Qualitative case study methods of participant observation, semi-structured interviews and reviews of documents were adopted. Data was generated from four mixed sex high schools. Sixteen boys and sixteen girls were interviewed to gain understanding of gender issues in their schooling processes within and outside the classrooms. Four principals, four heads of VBE departments and eight teachers of commerce and economics were also interviewed. Twenty-four whole class observation sessions were conducted with VBE teachers and students in the two school subjects. Thematic analysis of the data undertaken focused predominantly on the ideas about gender that VBE teachers and students brought to their classroom interactions; gender in both informal and formal curriculum and gendered VBE classroom interactions as well as the gendered views about the business labour market. The study conceives gender as a lived experience that males and females learned and produced through socialisation at home, in school and generally in the wider society. The study found that boys rarely dominate commerce and economics class discussions, especially in urban high schools where girls far outnumbered them. Moreover, it was discovered that school’s physical and organisational environment, stereotyped curriculum contents, methods of teaching and teachers’ and students’ behaviour affected classroom participation in the two subjects. The study challenges simple understandings of gender inequality in schooling as it found that girls acquire cultural capital from domestic tasks and from the petty trading businesses of their mothers which helps to equip them with verbal communication skills, ability to work with teachers and others and interest in business subjects. This enables them to interact freely during their lessons in schools and to participate much more than the boys. Girls also outperformed boys in the two school subjects under study. This challenges research which upholds that boys tend to dominate every lesson. Boys in this study were often reluctant and quite reserved during class discussions; girls took more turns than them in the majority of the lessons. They were regarded by their teachers as highly conscientious. They were praised more by both male and female teachers and received more attention from them.