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Science Technology and Mathematics (STM) constitute the basis of development in nearly all
facets of human endeavour. The field of STM is receiving a lot of emphasis today as a result of
its relevance to life, society and technological advancement of nations of the world. In realization
of the vital role of STM in national development, the Federal Government of Nigeria prescribes
as one of the national goals that education should be directed at “helping the child in the
acquisition of appropriate skills, abilities and competences, both mental and physical as
equipment for the individual to live in and contribute to the development of the society” (Federal
Republic of Nigeria – FRN 2009:29).
Apart from this, the government has taken some others steps towards the improvement of STM.
These include the launching of two space satellite systems, namely NIGER SAT 1 and
NIGCOMSAT. The review of the basic and senior secondary school science curricula to include
technology concepts is another area of significant achievement towards the enhancement of STM
education in Nigeria. Furthermore, the government has in addition to the existing universities in
the country established six new Federal universities of technology in each of the six geopolitical
zones to provide more access for students to STM courses at the tertiary level of education.
There is also massive investment in the provision of laboratory and workshop facilities and
technologies in tertiary institutions to boost STM teaching and learning.
Despite the efforts by the Nigerian government to ensure that STM is given the pride of place,
the situation of STM teaching and learning is still worrisome (Adeyemo, 2010) to the generality
of people particularly, STM educators and researchers. The low level of achievement of students
in STM courses at all levels of education in the country is at variance with the objectives of the National Policy on Education and the real situation of STM in Nigerian schools. This therefore
calls for a critical look at the likely factors bedeviling the teaching and learning of STM courses
in Nigeria, particularly at the tertiary level of education which is the engine room for production
of the nation’s workforce that will drive the Nigerian economy technologically in this era of
A number of factors have been identified as contributing to low achievement of students in STM
subjects at all levels of education. Akinbobola (2009), Okoli (2006), Ivowi (2011) and Ozoji
(2014) opine that the use of expository, ineffective and stereotyped teaching methods are
instrumental to students’ low achievement outcomes in STM. According to them, these methods
of teaching do not engage students in science processes or scientific thinking, and hardly take
care of students’ interests and individual differences. The West African Examination Councils
analyses of candidates performance from 2006-2011 in Nigeria indicated general poor
performance. The situation is not good enough for the country’s quest to become one of the big
economies of the world come 2020. Nigerian students’ particularly at the tertiary level of
education must as a matter of urgency strive for optimum achievement outcomes in STM
courses. The reason being that, that is the only means by which the needed workforce which will
drive the nation technologically can be produced.
Apart from teaching techniques, gender is also implicated in students’ achievement in STM and
has also been an issue of great concern to educators and researchers. This is apparent in the
reports of Okebukola (2002), Yoloye (2004), Ezirim (2006) and WAEC (2011) which show that
gender stereotyping and male supremacy have been some of the factors that influence students’
achievement in STM. Longe and Adedeji (2003) as well as Clewell and Braddock (2000)
further, assert that STM is a male dominated field and that females shy away from it. In the
same vein, Babajide (2012) posits that STM subjects are given a masculine outlook by educators.
This mentality, according to Barber and Aspray (2006) is carried by students into under graduate
years in tertiary institutions. To Okeke (2007), the consequences of gender stereotyping cut
across social, economic, political and educational development, particularly in the fields of STM.
Several studies conducted across African countries have also reported a disparity in the study of
STM by females (Inyang & Ekpenyeng, 2000). Again, studies by Grant (1998), Ogunneye and
Lasisi (2008) reported that more females were found in Chemistry and Biology than in Physics.
Gender gap in achievement in STM therefore, remains a controversial issue and a subject of scrutiny, not only in Nigeria but globally because of conflicting results by researchers. For
instance, Babangida (2010) and Ozoji (2010) in their independent studies found that gender had
no significant difference on achievement in STM.
Apart from gender influencing achievement in STM, the issue of a personality trait referred to as
locus of control has been advanced by researchers as a possible factor that influences students’
achievement in school subjects. However, research findings on this issue are inconclusive. Locus
of control has to do with the extent to which individuals believe that they can control events that
affect them. An individual is conceptualized as either having an internal locus of control, in
which case he accepts responsibility for his decisions or actions; or having an external locus of
control in which case the individual believes that his decisions and actions are controlled by
environmental factors which he has no control over. Internal locus of control has been shown to
be associated with greater academic achievement than the external and internal types. There is
however another type of locus of control that has to do with a mix of the internal and external
types people who are in this category are referred to as Bi-locals. They are known to take
responsibility for their actions and resultant consequences but in addition to them, they rely on
Locus of control is based on the theoretical frame of Rotter’s (1954) social learning theory of
personality. The tenets of the theory are that there are two dimensions of locus of control namely
internal locus of control and external locus of control. Internals according to Rotter, attribute
outcomes of events to their own control, that is to say that people who have internal locus of
control believe that the results of their own actions are outcomes of their own abilities, and that
their hard work would result in positive outcomes. Internals also have the belief that actions have
External or people who have external locus of control according to Rotter (1975) believe that
events that occur in their lives are out of their control. In other words, their own actions depend
on the external factors which are beyond their control. Rotter suggests that people with external
locus of control have four types of beliefs including: powerful others, such as doctors, nurses,
fate luck and a belief; that the world is too complex to predict its outcomes and that externals
tend to blame other people for the outcomes rather than themselves.
Internality is therefore attributable to effort while externality is attributable to luck or fate.
The theory implies that there are differences in terms of achievement school subjects between
people with internal locus of control and those that have external locus of control. The theory
further implies that internal locus of control is associated with higher levels of need for
achievement unlike the external dimension.
Locus of control has been related to a wide array of variables (Duke & Nowicki; 1992). One of
such variables is race. Schultz and Shultz (2005) suggest that locus of control is linked to cultural
stability. The question of whether people from different races/ethnic or cultural groups differ in
locus of control has been of interest to educators and researchers. Japanese, for instance have
been shown to have the tendency of being more external in locus of control orientation than
Americans, but differences within Europe and between United States and Europe tend to be
small (Berry, Portingal, Segel & Daseri ,1992). Berry et al. further posit that African American
in the United States are more external than whites and that research in other ethnic minorities in
the United States such as Hispanics has been ambiguous. Blacks, according to them, have also
been found to be more external than whites in locus of control.
The situational analysis of STM teaching and learning in Nigeria has established the need to
investigate the relationships among the variables of locus of control, gender, ethnicity and
students’ achievement in STM in University of Jos as a case study, where students come from
different ethnic and cultural groups. Moreover, there appears to be dearth of studies in the area
of locus of control and academic achievement particularly as it affects the study of STM in
tertiary institutions in Nigeria. None of the studies available to the researchers investigated the
interaction of the variables in this study. It is against this backdrop that the researchers
investigated the correlation among the variables of locus of control, gender ethnicity and
achievement of students of University of Jos in Science Technology and Mathematics.
The following research questions were formulated to achieve this objective:
1.What locus of control do STM students possess?
2. What are the mean scores of male and female students in STM achievement test?
The following hypotheses were tested for significance at 0.05 level:
1. There is no significant relationship between gender and locus of control of STM students.
2. There is no significant relationship between ethnicity and locus of control of STM students.
3. There is no significant relationship between gender and STM achievement of students.
4. There is no significant relationship between students’ locus of control and achievement in STM.
5. There is no significant relationship between students’ ethnicity and STM achievement.
6. There are no interaction effects of ethnicity, gender and locus of control on students’ STM
The study employed the correlation research design. The population for the study comprised one
hundred and twenty two, 200 level students in the Department of Science and Technology
Education of the University of Jos, Nigeria. The convenience sampling technique was employed
in the selection of the students due to the nature of the study.
The modified Locus of Control Questionnaire (MLCQ) was used to collect data from the
students. The questionnaire consisted of 22 items adapted from Rotter (1966). It was employed
to determine the locus of control of the students used in the study. Students’ achievement scores
in a general course, GST 104 were collected from the four units in the Department of Science
and Technology Education (STE) for the 2011/2012 academic session, namely, Biology,
Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics.
GST 104 was used because it is a compulsory course in the Department of Science and
Technology Education. It comprises historical development of STM education, concepts in
physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, logic, technology and information and
communications technology. The MLCQ and STM Achievement Test items were validated by
experts in Measurement and Evaluation, Science, Technology and Mathematics Education and
Psychology by means of content and construct validity, respectively. The STM Achievement
Test items were adjudged as reliable because they were standardized tests moderated by the
Examinations Department of the University of Jos. The MLCQ was administered to the students
in the named units of the department by the researchers and four research assistants, who were
class coordinators of those units. The research assistants were coordinated on the mode of
administration of the questionnaire by the researcher. The MLCQ was administered in one hour.
The STM Achievement test used for collecting data from the STM students consisted of 25
multiple choice items which were scored over 25 by the course lecturers and each score was
assigned 1 mark. The overall score per student was later converted to percentage. The converted
scores were collected from the Examinations Department of the university and analyzed by the
researchers. Students responded to a series of two options (yes/ no) of items on the MLCQ.
Students’ responses to the MLCQ items were scored over 22 by the researchers and each scored
item was assigned 1 mark. The research questions were answered using means and standard
deviation while the hypotheses were tested for significance at 0.05 level with Pearson product
moment correlation method, Eta statistics, Phi and Analysis of Variance. The results are
presented as follows:
The results of the study revealed the following:
82.20% (106) of the STM students used in the research had internal locus of control 8.90% (11)
of them had external locus of control while 4.90% (06) of them were bi-locals, respectively (see
Male students had an overall mean score of 47.83% while female students had an overall mean
score of 50.63% in STM Achievement Test (See Appendix II)
There was no significant relationship between students’ gender and locus of control. The
calculated value of Phi (0.02) was less than the P-value of 0.98 at 0.05 level of significance (see
There was no significant relationship between ethnicity and locus of control. Calculated value of
Phi (0.11) was less than the P.-value of 0.89 at 0.05 level of significance (see Appendix IV).
There was no significant relationship between students’ gender and STM achievement. The
calculated Eta value was 0.12 against the P-value of 0.88 (see Appendix V).
There was no significant relationship between students’ locus of control and STM achievement.
The calculated value of r was 0.07 against the P- value of 0.45 (see Appendix VI).
There was no significant relationship between students’ locus of control and STM achievement.
The calculated Eta value (0.11) was less than the P -value (see appendix VIII).
There were no significant interaction effects of ethnicity, gender and locus of control on
students’ achievement in STM (See Appendix VIII).
Discussion of findings
Results of this study reflected no significant differences in the locus of control among students
from the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria used in the study. The results however showed that
generally, the students possessed more internal locus of control than the external type. Moreover,
a few students (4.90%) were found to be bi-locals. This finding appears to be consistent with that
of Meyehoff as cited in Schultz and Schultz (2005) which shows that, locus of control becomes
more internal with age and, that, as people grow older, they acquire more skills which give them
the capacity to have more control over their environment. This might be responsible for 80.20%
of the students used in the study having internal locus of control.
The study revealed that female students had a higher mean achievement score in STM than their
male counterparts although the difference was not significant. The finding was further confirmed
by the Eta results in Table 5 which revealed that gender was not a significant factor on students’
achievement in STM. The result agrees with the findings of Babajide (2010) and Ozoji (2010)
who found no significant differences in the achievement of male and female students in science.
This finding appears to be an indication that the much desired 50:50 ratio in achievement
between male and female students in STM which has been a challenge in Nigeria is attainable.
The result further refutes the widely held belief that males have higher cognitive abilities to
study STM courses than females. It therefore, means that if appropriate environments are
provided for effective teaching and learning of STM, Nigerian females are capable of
experiencing and excelling in STM and related courses as well as careers in science and
The findings of the study also revealed that there were no significant relationships between the
following pairs of variables: gender and locus of control, locus of control and ethnicity, and;
locus of control and achievement in STM. Even when the factors were combined to find out if
there were significant interactions of the variables, achievement was shown not to be
significantly related to locus of control, gender or ethnicity. This was confirmed by the ANOVA
results presented in Table 7. The findings of this study therefore, show that the long standing
problem of poor achievement outcomes of students in STM which is apparent at all levels of
education in Nigeria and other countries in the sub-saharan region could be as a result of factors
other than locus of control, ethnicity and gender, such as environmental factors.
Implications of findings of the study
The most prevalent mode of locus of control should be overly borne in mind while providing
learning environment for teaching and learning of STM particularly at the tertiary level of
education. The environment that favours or promotes the study of STM that is in tandem with
students’ dominant locus of control (that is internal locus of control) should be the focal concern
of teachers. Moreover, science, technology and mathematics teachers should in the cause of
instruction, identify students’ locus of control in order to map out appropriate teaching and
counseling techniques to re-orient their beliefs in external factors determining their academic
achievement in STM courses.
Again, the results of no relationship and no interaction effects among the variables of the study is
instructive for teachers, in that, no primordial considerations such as gender, ethnicity and
religion should be taken into consideration in teaching STM courses. This finding is a blow on
apologists of male dominance and supremacy in the study of STM or people from particular
ethnic extraction in Nigeria are more gifted to study STM than others.
Recommendations and conclusion
In the light of the findings of the study, it was recommended that appropriate learning
environments should be provided for effective teaching and learning of STM courses in Nigerian
universities and other tertiary institutions. Moreover, every individual irrespective of
circumstance should be encouraged, assisted and motivated to study STM in view of its vital role
in scientific literacy, social transformation and technological advancement of nations of the
world, among others.