1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Education in Nigeria is an instrument “par excellence” for effecting national development. It has witnessed active participation by non-governmental agencies, communities and individuals as well as government intervention. Nigeria’s philosophy of education therefore is based on
· the development of the individual into a sound and effective citizen,
· the full integration of the individual into the community and
· the provision of equal access to educational opportunities for all citizens of the country at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels both inside and outside the formal school system.
Education is the most important instrument of change; any fundamental change in the intellectual and social outlook of any society has to be preceded by an educational revolution (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004).
It is widely contended that there has been an abysmal fall in the standard of education in recent times. Many people have faulted the educational system and identified various problems that characterize it (Ali, 2000). One area that has constantly witnessed a deteriorating performance among students and pupils is English Language. Parents and stakeholders in education have expressed dismay over this unfortunate situation and the Federal and State government have introduced policies which could not ameliorate the situation. Ibrahim (1999) and Omotala (2001) also expressed concern over this state of affair especially as it affects performance in English language primary and secondary schools in Nigeria and offered suggestions on ways of reversing the trend.
In Nigeria, English language is the language of the government and it is widely used in commerce, education, the mass media and social settings (Bamgbosa, 1971, Oluikpe, 1981). The position of English Language has further been emphasized in the National Policy on Education (2004) that English Language shall be taught as a subject in primary schools. It added that from the fourth year, English shall progressively be used as a medium of instruction and the language of immediate environment and French shall be taught as subjects (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004). In the secondary school curriculum, English language is listed number one in the core subject category A. The curriculum for Junior Secondary School (1985) clearly stated that English Language shall serve as
1. medium in which teaching and learning are carried out in schools and colleges, and a
2. medium for interpersonal, ethnic, government and business communication.
In view of the significant role of English language in Nigeria, it therefore becomes imperative that Nigeria learners of English language and the educated people in other disciplines should communicate in English and portray a reasonable degree of competence in the subject (Ekah, 1999). However, investigations have shown that the performance of pupils and students at the spoken and written proficiency levels in public schools reveal poor performance in the subject.
One of the noteworthy trends in recent years has been the increase of attention to and facilities for pre-school education in Nigeria, especially prior to the kindergarten period. Some countries such as the Soviet Union and Britain have placed considerable weight for social and economic as well as educational reasons on the years of early childhood. Evidence abound to prove that children raised in nursery schools tend to acquire more vocabularies and attain appreciable level of proficiency in spoken English than their counterparts in the public-primary schools and also demonstrate a better understanding and mastery of major components of English. This and more reasons account for the preference of nursery education among the elites in the society who desire nothing but the best for their children.
STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
English language possesses a unique position in the primary school and secondary school curricula and has contributed largely to national development and social integration. Such a subject demands for the right teaching approaches and facilities so as to produce individuals who would demonstrate competency in personal and public life. Unfortunately, evidences abound that the level of proficiency in spoken and written English in primary schools is generally poor. Given this unfortunate situation, some parents demand for the right type of education that would prepare the child to achieve certain goals and meet challenges in later life. This makes the demand for nursery education high among the educated parents and elite. The impression here is that in nursery schools children receive early training in spoken and written English and the child would carry the skills to the upper primary and secondary schools.
· PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The purpose of the study was to
1. examine the performance of pupils in English language in nursery schools
2. assess the influence of nursery education on pupils’ achievement in English language in primary schools, and
· compare performance of pupils in nursery/primary schools and public primary schools.
1. proffer measures for effective teaching of English language in primary schools in Itu Local Government Area.
1.4 BASIC ASSUMPTIONS
The study was conducted on the assumption that:
1. there was a disparity in pupils performance in English language attributed to attendance and non-attendance of nursery school.
2. Nursery schools have both human and material resources for effective teaching of English language
· The head teachers of nursery schools and public primary schools would cooperate with the investigators and give them authority to obtain responses from their pupils and teachers
1. The schools would be accessible enough to allow the investigators reach the schools by motorcycle or car, and that
2. The fuel situation in Nigeria would not create transportation difficult through increase in prices or fares.
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The desire of any government worldwide is to provide qualitative education for its citizenry. To this end, the Federal Government of Nigeria strives to establish pre-primary sections in existing public schools and encourage both community/private efforts in the provision of pre-primary education.
Although the policy clearly states that the medium of instruction is principally the mother-tongue or the language of the immediate community at this level of level of education, efforts have been geared towards setting the pace for sound foundation in English Language. Due to the rich programmes provided at the nursery level, the demand for education at this level has soared. Most parents even prefer poorly equipped nursery schools to the public primary schools, that much resources, human and material are put in place. Today, the number of nursery schools has increased in leaps and bounds.
This is an attempt to investigate the influence of nursery education on pupils achievement in English Language in primary schools in Itu Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. It is hoped that the findings will be of immense benefits to teachers and head teachers, professional organizations and associations, especially the Nigeria Union of Teachers and subject based associations, whose functions, among others is to advise governments on policy formulations and implementation, principals/head teachers and teachers in nursery schools and Ministries of Education (State and Federal) involved in formulating and implementing educational policies. Similarly, educational psychologists, philosophers, curriculum developers, (WAEC, NTI, NECO), researchers and indeed all stakeholders in education will find this study very useful.
1.6 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The following research questions were raised to guide the study;
1. What is the position of English Language teaching in nursery and primary schools in Itu Local Government Area?
2. Are parents/general public showing interest and preference for nursery education?
· Is it true that nursery education could influence pupils achievement in English language?
1. What particular aspect of English language has nursery education made impact?
2. How effective are nursery schools attached to public primary schools in the teaching of English Language?
3. How could nursery education be made more effective for English language teaching and learning?
1.7 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
Several factors acted against the attainment of the purpose of the study?
1. The dearth of information on curriculum, policy and operations of nursery education in Nigeria.
2. Lack of officially released English curriculum for nursery schools for uniformity of instruction.
· Inadequate finance to visit all nursery schools in Itu Local Government Area. Most of the schools are located in rural areas with poor roads making accessibility during the rainy season very difficult.
1. High cost of transport fare due to the hike in fuel price during the period of the study.
· DEFINITION OF TERMS
Primary School: Education given in institutions for children aged 6 to 11 plus for a duration of six years.
Pre-primary/Early Childhood Education: Education given in an educational institution to children prior to their entering the primary school. It includes the crèche, the nursery and the kindergarten.
Childhood: A period from birth to about 12 years of life.