Avoiding the Issue of Gender in Japanese Science Education

  • Kathryn ScantleburyEmail author
  • Dale Baker
  • Ayumi Sugi
  • Atsushi Yoshida
  • Sibel Uysal


This paper describes how the patriarchal structure of Japanese society and its notions of women, femininity, and gendered stereotypes produced strong cultural barriers to increasing the participation of females in science education. Baseline data on attitudes toward science and the perceptions of gender issues in science education, academic major and career choice were collected from 175 university students (124 female, 51 male). Students responded to a Likert scale that included the option “I don't understand the question”. All respondents took advantage of the option for items related to gender issues. On some items up to 67% of the males responded that they did not understand the question. Females in science choosing this option did not exceed 19%. In Japan, gender is an invisible, pervasive construct that impacts females' participation in science and science education. In other ways, attitudes toward science among Japanese students mirrored those found in the United States and in other countries. Respondents held the most favorable views of science when they were in elementary school and females preferred biology while males preferred the physical sciences. The exception to the Western pattern of liking science and science teachers is that male non-science majors rather than female non-science majors reported poor academic performance in elementary school, declining attitudes in middle school, and they held the most negative attitudes toward their science teacher and science subjects.

Key words

gender issues Japan science education 


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Copyright information

© National Science Council 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathryn Scantlebury
    • 1
    Email author
  • Dale Baker
    • 2
  • Ayumi Sugi
    • 3
  • Atsushi Yoshida
    • 4
  • Sibel Uysal
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Chemistry and BiochemistryUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA
  2. 2.College of EducationArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  3. 3.Department of Science EducationHiroshima UniversityHiroshimaJapan
  4. 4.Department of Science EducationAichi University of EducationAichiJapan
  5. 5.College of EducationArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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