There has been a long history and tradition in Chinese culture of having females' career and education options limited. Translated into a modern and progressive Asian society such as Hong Kong, females in secondary schools continue to be denied access to technical subjects. Gender equity is guaranteed to Hong Kong people in areas such as employment and education (Equal Opportunities Commission, 1997). In fact, as stated in Part III, Section 18 "It is unlawful, in the case of a woman seeking or undergoing training... for any person who provides, or makes arrangements for the provision of, facilities for such training to discriminate against her". Yet, such discrimination exists in schools, often for reasons of tradition, efficiency and expediency. For subjects such as Design & Technology (D&T), often the only subject relating to technology that is available to non-vocational students, a common pattern of gender bias is practiced. Boys take "boys subjects", while girls take "girls" subjects". Males enter D&T to learn about technology, while females continue to be steered into their traditional roles through course offering such as home economics and secretarial studies. To supply critical evidence on the need for change within schools, the Hong Kong Pupils' Attitudes Toward Technology Study was conducted during Spring, 1997. Patterned after work pioneered by Ratt, de Klerk Wolters, and de Vries (1987) in the Netherlands, the instrument designed for Hong Kong consisted of 69 items. As D&T was seen as an important subject which specifically introduces pupils to technology through creative problem-solving activities involving the "tools of technology", and the largest gender differences in Hong Kong for the related subject of science was found to be in grade eight (Law, 1996), the researchers concentrated the study to students in Form 3. It was felt those students would have a significant exposure to a technical subject. Eighteen schools participated, enabling nearly 3500 students to complete the survey. Forty-three percent of the participants were female. Items in the survey were used to gauge student attitudes toward areas of a) career options, b) schooling required, c) consequences of technology, d) interest in technology, e) technology as an activity for both boys and girls, and f) the perceived difficulty of technology. Questions related to parents' careers and domestic influences were also asked. The analysis pointed out significant differences in many of the items. The implications of the study suggest a need for several changes in school policy. First, the excuse of relegating females to non-technical subjects in secondary schools for convenience and tradition must cease. Without equal access to, and experience with "technology", females will continue to be denied opportunities. What this requires is that all schools be equipped with adequate staff and facilities to teach subjects such as D&T. Second, the subject of D&T needs re-examination. Having activities which are craft-based and continue to represent hands-on skills may not appeal or be relevant to the needs of a changing economic and technologically-driven society. Perhaps all students would benefit from a study of technology that includes exploration, career awareness, social issues and true problem-solving. Finally, without a change in teachers, it will be hard to implement policy change. Not only D&T teachers will require in-service updating of technology skills and the development of inclusion strategies for all students, all teachers will need technology awareness and literacy. Perhaps this is no more important than for Primary teachers (mostly female), where studies have shown perceptions and confidence about teaching technology to be lacking (Holroyd & Harlen, 1996; Jarvis & Rennie, 1996). This paper will explain the background of the study, the data collected, the analysis used, as well as the results. Conclusions and recommendations will be made, especially in the aforementioned areas of school policy, curriculum revision, and teacher input. It is expected the paper will add to the body of professional knowledge about pupils' attitudes toward technology in Hong Kong.
|Published - Nov 1997