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Background of the Study
Quality education is the greatest legacy any country can bequeath to its citizens. To ensure quality education, government has tried to provide the National Policy on Education that addresses the needs and aspirations of the people. The need for National Policy on Education arose as a result of general dissatisfaction of the people with the educational system inherited from the colonial masters. The system failed to a large extent to support, growth and development of the nation. It became very necessary for the convocation of 1969 conference to evolve educational system that would cater for the needs of the people. With the subsequent seminars and workshops the National Policy on Education emerged. The National Policy on Education is the document of the government that contains information about the philosophy and goals of all levels of education in the educational system. It also contains the responsibilities of both the government and the stakeholders in the provision of education services. The document was first published in 1977 and revised in 1981, 1988 and 2004 (FRN, 2004).
The quest to provide education services for quality education, made the international community to hold world conference on Education for All (EFA) in Jomtien in 1990 and subsequently at Daker in 2000 (Obanya, 2000). In the conference, it was agreed on, to expand and improve comprehensive early childhood education among others by the year 2015 by all participants (Maduewesi, 2006).
The government responded to the demand of EFA by including in the National Policy on Education the establishment of pre-primary section in the existing public primary schools (F.R.N., 2004). Pre-primary education is the education given in an education institution to children prior to their entering the primary schools. It includes the crèche (0 – 2) years, nursery (3 – 4) years, and kindergarten (4 – 5) years (FRN, 2004). The present study focuses on the nursery schools. It is obvious that children who attend good nursery school will have better opportunity to transit easily to primary school and equally respond better to the demands of this level of education. This is because, according to Carnage Task Force on meeting the needs of children (1999), children raised in a stimulating environment such as good school and are provided with good nutrition have measurable better brain functioning. Good environment and food affect not only the number of brain cells and the number of connection among them but also the ways these connections are fixed. The process of connecting the brain cells is guided to a large extent by the child’s sensory experiences of the world (Ezema, 2009). Early Childhood education will promote the holistic development of the children and will equip them with knowledge, skills and competencies needed to meet the demands of everyday life.
In order to meet the demands and requirements for the development of children, the purposes and responsibilities of the government are outlined in the National Policy on Education (FRN, 2004:12) which includes:
- effect a smooth transition from home to school;
- prepare the child for the primary level of education;
- provide adequate care and supervision for the children while their parents are at work (on farms, in market, offices etc);
- inculcate social norms;
- inculcate in the child the spirit of enquiry and creativity through the exploration of nature, environment, art, music and playing with toys etc;
- develop a sense of co-operation and team spirit;
- learn good habits, especially good health habits, and teach rudiments of numbers, letters, colours, shapes, forms etc through play.
The purpose (objectives) of pre-primary education as contained in the National Policy on Education covered the curriculum of the pre-primary education. It contains all the learning experiences a learner has to pass through in the process of education. The curriculum as defined by Offorma (2000) is an organized knowledge, skills and attitudes presented to the learner in school. It covers ever element in the learning environment which includes subject matter, various educational policies, content and learning experiences as well as infrastructural provisions.
The curriculum components as contained in the FRN (2004:11) include:
- inculcate social norms;
- inculcate in the child the spirit of enquiry and creativity through the exploration of nature, the environment, art, music and playing with toys etc;
- develop a sense of co-operation and team spirit;
- learn good habits, especially good health habits, and
- teach rudiments of numbers, letters, colours, shapes, forms etc through play.
The curriculum of the pre-primary education was carefully designed for children at their formative years to acquire the right values and quality education that will enable them to adapt and respond to the demands of the time. This will enable the children to achieve self reliance and effective citizenry. In support of the above assertion, Okonja (2009) affirms that when nursery school children are introduced early enough to those ideals that will arouse their creative and innovative ability, scientific and technological discoveries will be enhanced.
Despite the effort of the government to provide the curriculum guidelines on the pre-primary education, the study of Ezema (2009) indicates that the learners in the nursery schools do not use the guidelines but rather produce their own curriculum. Ezema further rationalized that the teachers are not curriculum experts and may not include all the needed learning experiences that will enhance holistic development of children at this level of education.
The government, having provided the guidelines towards the smooth running of the nursery education, accepted to carry out the following responsibilities as stipulated in the policy:
- to establish pre-primary section in the existing public schools and encourage both community/private efforts in the provision of pre-primary education;
- make provision in teacher education programmes for specialization in early childhood education;
- ensure that the medium of instruction is principally the mother tongue or the language of immediate community; and to this end will develop the orthography of many more Nigerian languages, and produce textbooks in Nigerian languages;
- ensure that the main method of teaching at this level shall be through play and that the curriculum of teacher education is oriented to achieve this, regulate and control the operations of pre-primary education. To this end, the teacher-pupil ratio shall be 1:25;
- ensure full participation of government, communities and teachers association in the running and maintenance of early childhood education facilities.
The government accepted to ensure the implementation of the above stipulations. The purpose of establishing pre-primary education in the existing public primary schools by the government is to ensure that every child in the various localities has the opportunity of going to school. This is to give the children the firm base for further education. It seems as some schools in the rural areas lack most resources needed for effective education delivery. According to Ezema (2009), most schools in the rural areas do not have adequate human and material resources for effective learning. Both infrastructural and instructional materials are in short supply. Most of the teachers come to school late and some do not come to school on market days as they are involved in buying and selling in the markets. It is sad to note that in some urban schools, the situation is almost the same thing. According to Eze (2001), most school in the urban areas are dilapidated with blown off roofs and cracked walls. Most of the people living around the schools are less bothered about the degree of dilapidation but rather wait for government’s intervention (Ekpo, 2002).
Another important variables that influence the acquisition of education in the nursery schools is the issue of qualified teachers. This level of education is very delicate and crucial and requires specialist teachers who possess appropriate knowledge, skills and pedagogy needed in handling children at this level of education (nursery). The government has indicated in the National Policy on Education that provision would be made in teacher education programmes for specialization in early childhood education. Specialist teachers at this level of education are those that read early childhood education.
Furthermore, children at this level need specialist teachers who are patient, caring and tolerant so as to be able to attend properly to the needs and demands of the children. In order to give proper attention to children and attain success in the pre-primary education, Abia (2004) affirmed that only teachers with basic knowledge in early childhood development should teach in the nursery schools. It is worrisome to observe, according to Maduewesi (2006), that there is dearth of specialist teachers in the nursery schools. Maduewesi further asserted that teachers in the pre-primary schools read other courses rather than early childhood education and they may not have the appropriate knowledge, and skills required at this level of education to address the needs, interest and aspiration of the tender children. This situation may hamper the academic development of children in the nursery schools.
The method the teacher employs in the classroom interaction is very crucial. Teaching method is the ways or strategies the teacher uses in delivering lessons in the class. According to Okon (2004) the understanding of a given topic is largely dependent on the teacher’s method. In support, Aguokogbua (2005) maintained that teaching method plays a crucial role in harmonizing classroom instruction.
Teaching method makes the content of the lesson clearer, interesting, meaningful and understandable to the pupils. The FRN (2004) has declared that the method of teaching in the pre-primary education shall be through play method. This is because play is natural to children and they play spontaneously without persuasion. According to Nwodo (2004), when learning experiences are put in a play form, the children will learn effortlessly, with every amount of concentration and excitement. It is sad to note, according to UNICEF (2010), that pre-primary schools are dominated by teachers using rote method and teacher centered approach which are antithetical to learning. The children at the nursery school level are tender and need appropriate method that will arouse and sustain their interest for better comprehension of the lessons. This is because according to Ekpo (2002), if the appropriate method (play way method) is not used in the nursery schools, the interest, and desires of learners will be dampened if not destroyed.
Another important variable that is crucial in teaching and learning in the nursery schools is the medium of instruction the teacher uses in the class. Noting the central role the medium of instruction plays in the understanding of lessons, FRN (2004) declared that the medium of instruction shall be principally the mother tongue or the language of immediate community. The mother tongue is the child’s first language which is the language the child speaks at come. The implication is that the child has his own language before going to school. Using the language that the child is used to in the classroom interaction will not only make the child to understand the lesson easily but will enhance the proper integration of the child in the school system.
Studies are replete on non-implementation of the language policy in the nursery schools. This is quite unfortunate as Maduewesi (2004), Ocho (2005) and Ezema (2009) observed that most teachers in the nursery schools use English language as a medium of instruction. As the child has his/her language (mother tongue), to begin to teach the child with language that is alien to him/her as soon as he enters nursery school will bring a lot of confusion to the child. The child may not understand the teacher coupled with the fact that the environment is strange to the child. Commenting on the crucial nature of the language policy, Ogala (2004) affirmed that the place of language as a medium of instruction in education enterprise is very apt. This is because no matter the preparedness of the teacher with appropriate teaching materials and methods, if the children cannot comprehend the language of the teacher, nothing of durable worth will be achieved.
To ensure the realization of the language policy in the pre-primary education, the government accepted to produce textbooks in many more Nigerian languages. According to Ibiam (2012) the government has failed to produce textbooks in Nigeria languages. The use of mother tongue as medium of instruction cannot be effective if appropriate books in various Nigerian languages are not available.
In addition to teachers in the nursery schools, the services of child caregivers are necessary. The caregivers help the teacher in class management and attend to the specific needs of the children as stipulated in FRN (2009). To give credence to the above assertion, U.S. Bureau of Labour and Statistics (2010) supports that the caregivers help children to explore individual interest, develop talents and independence, build self esteem, learn how to get along with others and prepare them for more formal schooling.
As the FRN (2004) has directed for the establishment of pre-primary schools in the existing public schools, there is every need to monitor the activities in the nursery schools. The monitoring will give the government first hand information on the extent of compliance in the implementation of National Policy on Education in the pre-primary schools. In the view of Maduewesi (2004) the government should carry out regular inspection to ensure strict compliance and to maintain high standard. Regular monitoring of the teachers in the nursery schools is one of the ways to enhance teacher effectiveness (Okon, 2004). In the observation of Ezema (2000) the government has failed to monitor adequately the activities in the nursery schools. The majority of the supervisors take gratification from the teachers, and fail to do the work appropriately. Ezema reasons further that the supervisors are more interested in what they will get from teachers rather than doing the actual work. The gratification will definitely influence the outcome of the supervision. It will make the supervisors not to be objective in their report or findings.
The stipulations in the National Minimum Standard (2009) indicated, among other things, the provision of infrastructure, instructional materials, play materials and other facilities such as playground, fencing the compound and adequate child size furniture. The place of infrastructure in teaching and learning cannot be over emphasized. When the children are well accommodated with child size furniture, classroom interaction will be facilitated. The size of each classroom ought to be 16cm2. This size will enhance free movement of both the teachers and the pupils. Despite the importance of infrastructure in teaching and learning, Eze (2001) and Onyishi (2008) attested that most public nursery schools do not have enough classrooms; and the existing ones are dilapidated and are threats to human life.
Furthermore, instructional and play materials are very indispensable in the nursery schools. The children at this level of education cannot think in abstraction and therefore need instructional and play materials. The instructional materials make learning to be real, arouse and sustain the interest of the children. They equally enhance comprehension of lessons. Play materials also stimulate the cognitive development of the pupils. They teach various skills such as endurance, precision, balancing, clutching, skipping, squeezing etc (Okon, 2004).
In the observation of Mohammed (2001) and Ezeoba (2007), there is a gross dearth of instructional materials in the nursery schools. They suggested that some of these materials could be improvised, and that the children may be involved in the collection of these materials. The observations of Obinaju (1994) and Ezema (2001) indicated that there is a paucity of play materials in the nursery schools and rationalized that their expensive nature might account for the paucity.
The government has made conscious effort to include all the issues that will bring about holistic development in the educational sector. It should be noted however that all these articulations of the government in the National Policy on Education on pre-primary education are laudable; the salient question is how far are they being implemented? Implementation is the realization of an application of a plan, idea, model, design, specification, standard, or policy (Okafor, 1994). Implementation is putting into use proposals, policies, articulations for the good of individuals and the nation.
There are some factors that inhibit the proper implementation of the policy. According to Usoro (1993) some of these factors include paucity of specialized teachers and provision of facilities such as infrastructural provision, instructional materials and play facilities. According to Okpara (1993) for the proper implementation of educational policies, there is need for the proper development of needed competencies, knowledge and skills among teachers; providing instructional facilities and stimulating environment. The implementation of the National Policy in the pre-primary schools will not be effective if the necessary human and material resources are not available in the nursery schools. This prevailing situation calls for the evaluation of the implementation of the National Policy in the pre-nursery schools. Evaluation according to Ali (2006) is the qualitative values or judgment people make about something or someone based on qualitative data derived from testing, monitoring, measurement, appraisal and or assessment. The focus of evaluation is to study the entire system and identify the strength and weakness of a programme for decision making. This is done by gathering of data, processing and analyzing the data. The result of the analyzed data will help in the improvement of the system.
In Nsukka Education Zone, the implementation of National Policy on Education, in the nursery schools is rather very doubtful. Studies are abound on the non-compliance of the policy in most of the nursery schools due to abject neglect of the public primary schools by the government. In Otti and Nnadi (2012), Aleke Godwin, the Headmaster of Union Primary School in Ohebedim in Igbo-Etiti Local Government Area of Enugu State, decried the shocking state of dilapidation of most public primary schools which house the nursery schools in Enugu State. As a result of this, the children stay out of school during the rainy season for fear that the building might collapse. With leaking roof, paucity of desks and other essential facilities, the children have a cogent reason for staying away from school. In the central primary school, Ozalla, in Enugu State the story is the same thing. Otti and Nnadi further reported that the agonies of both the teachers and pupils are palpable. This is because the ramshackle structure that serves as the school building was built during the colonial days. The reporters described the school environment as a deserted war camp where all the school facilities are in short supply. The children sit on bare floor, and on planks in the class. The reporters conclude that their investigation in the fifty eight public primary schools in the locality in Enugu State is faced with dearth of basic facilities (see Appendix 1).
According to Agbo (2010), government has neglected and left public primary schools to rot. Most of the public primary schools in Enugu State do not have enough classrooms, library, seats, movable chalkboard, even chalk for teaching (Aguokogbue, 2006). In the view of Maduewesi (2005) there s shortage of both human and material resources in the pre-primary schools.
The shortage of the both human material resources in the primary schools in Enugu State is quite undesirable. The implication is that the children may not get quality education if educational services are in short supply. It should be noted, however, that the government that relentlessly struggle to cure illness and diseases instead of investing on the prevention and education of the children in their formative years will sooner or later contend with illiteracy, school dropout, under achievers and other related problems that would have been avoided if adequate attention has been given to the care and education of the children in the first five years (Maduewesi, 2005). When children at their formative years acquire the right values and quality education, to a large extent, the development of the nation is ensured. This is because children are resource pool from which the future generation is affirmed (Gye-Wado1990).
It should be noted that related studies conducted in the area of early childhood education in Enugu State have not focused on the evaluation of the entire nursery school programme. The present study is necessary to ascertain the extent of implementation of the National Policy on Education in the pre-primary schools in Enugu State.
Statement of the Problem
In the National Policy on Education (2004) the purpose and the responsibilities of the government towards the smooth running of pre-primary education have been clearly enunciated. Government accepted in the policy to train specialist teachers, ensure that the language of instruction is the mother tongue or language of immediate community, and shall produce textbooks in more Nigerian languages; the method of teaching shall be through play; among others. It is not very certain whether specialist teachers in the area of childhood education are available in the pre-primary school. Moreover, it is doubtful whether the teachers use mother tongue as well as play method as a means of instruction in the class.
Furthermore, the government is yet to produce textbooks in more Nigerian languages. It is not very clear the extent to which the government has persuaded the communities to lend support in the provision of educational services in the pre-primary schools.
It is against this background that the problem of this study focused on evaluating the implementation of National Policy on Education in the pre-primary schools in Enugu State.
Purpose of the Study
The main purpose of this study is to evaluate the implementation of National Policy on nursery education in Enugu State; specifically, the study seeks to determine:
- the extent of availability of specialist teachers in the nursery schools in Enugu State;
- the extent of implementation of curriculum related components in the nursery schools in Enugu State;
- the extent of to which government has implemented the stipulations in the National Policy on Education in the nursery schools is Enugu State.
Significance of the Study
The theories of both Jean Plaget and Albert Bandura are relevant to this study; and of immense benefit to the government teachers, curriculum planners, parents and pupils. The theories presented the wholestic development of the children.
Both theories stressed the need for stimulating learning environment for the children. The government while building schools will take into consideration those facilities that are child-friendly such as enough and spacious classrooms with adequate child-size seats and tables; adequate and appropriate instructional materials, play materials and clean environment with lawns that contain beautiful flowers.
Both theories indicated that children are cognitive beings, the teachers should expose the children to those experiences that will enhance their cognitive development.
The theory of Jean Praget presented that the children develop in sequence or stages. The curriculum planners while planning the curriculum of nursery schools will take into consideration those learning experiences that will enhance the cognition of the children and at the same time commensurate to the level of the children.
The knowledge obtained from both theories will enable the parents to provide stimulating environment by providing adequate learning materials and having quality time with the children at home.
Having provided both human and material resources as stipulated in the theories, wholestic development of the pupils will be enhanced.
In practical terms, the findings of this study will be of benefit to the government. It will give the government information on the extent of compliance in the implementation of National Policy on Education in the nursery schools. The findings will reveal the strength and weakness of the programme. It will give the government the opportunity to know where and how to intervene in ameliorating the identified problems in the programme implementation.
The study will present the extent of establishment of pre-primary schools in the existing primary schools. The result of the study will make the government to enforce strictly the establishment of pre-primary schools in all the schools.
The study will reveal the training needs of the teachers. It may lead to either sending the teachers to in-service training to read early childhood education or organizing conferences/workshops for teachers. In this regard, the teachers will upgrade their knowledge and will be in a position to teach the children better. Both the children and the teachers will benefit from the present study.
The study will indicate the extent the curriculum related components are being implemented. The study may reveal the aspect of the curriculum that are not properly addressed or neglected by the teachers. This may sensitize the teachers to teach all the aspects of the curriculum. When all aspects of the curriculum are taught to the children, they will benefit as they will gain more knowledge that will prepare them for further education.
The study will show the extent the government has implemented the acceptable responsibilities as contained in FRN (2004:11 – 12). The findings of this study may be such that will persuade the government to live up to its responsibilities by using appropriate organs to achieve the stated responsibilities. For instance, if the study reveals that the medium of instruction is not principally mother tongue and the method of instruction is not play method (among others) the government will be in better position to intervene appropriately to achieve better results for the benefit of both the children and the society.
The study will serve as a reference point to other researchers that may wish to embark on similar study. It will serve as a base and guide in sourcing and collation of information by researchers and others who may wish to consult the study.
The pupils are the focal point in education enterprise. The findings of the study will be of immense benefit to the children. The problems inherent in the programme will be identified and when they are tackled will strengthen the programme for the benefit of the children. The children will be exposed to worthwhile learning experiences that will prepare them for further education. it will also prepare them for the future role they will play as resource persons that will build a virile and progressive society.
Scope of the Study
The study focused on the evaluation of the implementation of National Policy on Education in nursery schools in Enugu State. The study examined the availability of specialist teachers, extent of implementation of curriculum components of the policy, provision of instructional materials as well as the extent of implementation of government accepted responsibilities in the nursery schools in Enugu State.
The following questions guided the study
- to what extent are specialist teachers available in the nursery schools in Enugu State?
- what s the extent of the implementation of curriculum related components of the National Policy on nursery schools in Enugu State?
- to what extent has the government implemented the stipulated responsibilities in the National Policy on Education in nursery schools in Enugu State?
HO1 : There is no significant difference (P<0.05) between the mean ratings of urban and rural schools in the implementation of curriculum related component of National Policy on Education in the nursery schools in Enugu State.
HO2 : There is no significant difference (P<0.05) in the government implementation of its accepted responsibilities in the National Policy on nursery schools between the urban and rural schools in Enugu State.