Science education policy as a determinant of students’ choice of biology at advanced level: A case of Mpigi District
The Uganda Science Education Policy (2005) made science subjects (physics, chemistry and biology) compulsory for all students up to the fourth year of secondary education and; over 70% of government sponsorship in tertiary institutions was mainly for science related courses. This was in response to the recommendations of a report by the Education Policy Review Commission of 1989. This study therefore examined the influence of Science Education Policy in determining students’ choice of science subjects especially biology at advanced level in Mpigi district secondary schools. Specifically, the study sought to examine the influence of the government policy on sponsorship in public tertiary institutions and; making sciences compulsory at “O” level on students’ choice of Biology at A’ level. The study further assessed other determinant factors of students’ choice of Biology at A’ level. A cross-sectional survey research design involving the mixed method approach with a bias on the quantitative was used. A total of 238 persons (103 secondary school teachers, 114 O’ and A’ level students, 10 teachers in charge of career guidance, 10 head teachers and one DEO) were consulted. Primary data was collected using questionnaires and interview guides. Data collected was analyzed by descriptive statistics. Research findings revealed that the compulsory sciences aspect of the policy resulted in increased student enrolment for biology at A' level. Furthermore, enrolment at tertiary institutions increased because sponsorship minimized costs encountered in attaining education. Other factors that determine choice of biology at A’ level included parents’ influence, desire for high remuneration after studies, school culture, availability of job opportunities and peer influence among others. However, several challenges hindered biology teaching and learning like students’ belief that biology is a hard subject, inadequate literature and laboratory equipment, a wide biology curriculum and shortage of biology teachers. The study concluded that the science education policy increased student enrolment for biology at A' level and tertiary institutions. In order to improve biology enrolment at A’ level, the study recommends improving science teaching and learning by making the teaching profession attractive through raising the status and satisfaction of teachers, popularizing science in schools at all levels of education through use of drama groups and use of print and electronic media; reviewing the education curriculum to make it less congested, and more practical and connected to everyday life and; improving science learning infrastructure among others.