Chemistry topics perceived as difficult to learn by secondary school pupils of Kasama, Luwingu, Mbala and Mungwi districts of Northern Province of Zambia

  • Moses Musonda Kasama College of Education
Keywords: Perception, difficult topic, reason.


Senior secondary school pupils have, for some time now, exhibited unsatisfactory performance in some chemistry topics that are perceived as difficult to learn in their school certificate and General Certificate of Education (GCE) Examinations. This study was a survey and aimed at identifying topics pupils perceived as difficult to learn in secondary school ‘O’-Level chemistry. It was conducted in 8 secondary schools in Kasama, Luwingu, Mbala and Mungwi districts. The study also established reasons for pupils’ learning difficulties. Eight heads of departments, 16 chemistry teachers and 221 secondary school pupils constituted the sample. Data were collected through questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. Heads of departments, chemistry teachers and pupils completed questionnaires. Sixteen (16) chemistry teachers and 68 pupils attended follow-up oral interviews. Qualitative data were analysed by noting patterns, themes and categories (Cohen & Morris, 2008). Quantitative data captured in this study were analysed by making use of software, Excel. This analysis made use of descriptive statistics which involved: frequency tables, charts and percentages. Cohen & Morris (2008) recommend this and state that numeric data analysis can easily be performed using software packages such as SPSS, Minitab or Excel. Results of the study revealed that the most difficult topics were: mole concept and stoichiometry, electrolysis, organic chemistry and Redox. The reasons for pupils’ challenges included: general learners’ difficulties referring to poor pupils’ mathematical skills, complex scientific terms and language, lack of teaching and learning resources, lack of practical work or activities and pupils’ poor attitude towards chemistry as a subject; teacher’s incompetence which embodies inadequate explanation, unsuitable pace of delivery, lack of knowledge, difficult language and terminology used and inexperience; inadequate infrastructure referring to lack of laboratories and equipment, apparatus and other materials, and unsuitable teaching methods used as the only teaching methods used were ‘question and answer’ sessions, group discussions, demonstrations and lectures.