The Effect of Biology Practical on the Secondary School Students Academic Performance in Biology

The Effect of Biology Practical on the Secondary School Students Academic Performance in Biology


1.1 Background of Study

According to Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary (2001) “Effect” means (i) a change produced by an action or cause; a result of an outcome; (ii) an impression created in the mind of a spectator, read, etc while watching a play, listening to music or looking at a painting. The effect, as used in the research topic, can then be defined as a positive change produced by an action, a desirable outcome or a result. Science is the study of the natural things around us (Modern Biology). Biology being a branch of science involves the study of living and non-living things (Sarojini, 2001) similarly, the World Book Encyclopedia (1995), defined biology as the scientific study of living things. Traditionally, biology is divided into two branches viz; botany, the study of animals. Some of the usefulness of biology were cited by Sarojini (2001), as follows: it helps in (i) scientific research and development of new tools and techniques which invariably improve the quality of our lives, (ii) finding applications in medicine, dentistry, veterinary science, agriculture and horticulture; (iii) biotechnology which include fields like genetic engineering and hybridoma technology (i) dealing with ecological problems such as overpopulation, food shortage, erosion, pollution, disease etc. Practical biology is the scientific study of the life and structure of plants and animals and their relative environments in real or experimental setup rather than dwelling in the theory and ideas (Opuh, Eze and Eze Magu; 2008). On its preamble to the international senior secondary school certificate examination syllabus; West African Examination Council WAEC (1998-2003), buttresses the need for biology practical in teaching and learning of biology in the secondary schools. The syllabus was designed to assess candidates in; i. Understanding of the structure and function of living organisms as well as appreciation of nature. ii. Acquisition of adequate laboratory and field skills to carry out and evaluate experiments and projects in biology. iii. Acquisition of necessary scientific skills. Example observing, classifying and interpreting biological data etc. In the previous edition WAEC Syllabus (1985), stated that great importance should be attached to experimental work and the use of control experiments. It was recommended that, whenever possible throughout the whole course, candidates should be aware of the practical application of what is being studied. From the foregoing, we can understand that biology practical lesson is most essential for effective teaching and learning of biology in secondary schools. According to Oxford Dictionary (2000), “Effective” in the context of the research topic means; having the desired effect or producing the intended result. Whereas, Akinpelu in Aguokogbuo (2002) defined teaching as a deliberate effort by a matured or experienced person to impart information, knowledge, skills and so on to the immature or less experienced person. Consequently, the National Teachers Institute NTI (2000) coursebook on education, defined learning as the acquisition of new knowledge, ideas, skills, value and experiences which enable the individual to modify or alter his actions. It also involves the utilization of newly acquired knowledge or experience as well. It further stated that learning brings about permanent change in the learner. The National Policy on Education (2004) defined secondary education, as the education children receive after primary education and before the tertiary stage. According to Post Primary School Management Board (PPSMB) statistical records PRS (2009). There are nine government secondary schools in Enugu North Local Government Area.

Enugu North Local Government Area is in Enugu East Senatorial District of Enugu State, Nigeria. The area is predominantly an urban settlement with a few rural communities. Some of the communities in Enugu North L.G.A include Enugu Ngwo, Iva-Valley, Coal-Camp, G.R.A, Independent Layout, Ogui and Asata.

1.2 Statement of Problem

According to Nnamonu (2003), students perform poorly in biology practicals leading to their failure in biology examinations. Similarly, WAEC Chief Examiners (1993) reported that performances of candidates in biology fell below expectation. The report discussed the candidate’s weaknesses under the following sub-headings: i. Poor spelling’ ii. Poor mathematical skills, iii. Poor deduction reasoning; iv. Poor observation v. Misinterpretation of question and vi. Poor knowledge of biology. The examiners lamented that “there were many candidates who could not answer correctly a single question in section A. In most cases, they have wild guesses and quite unrelated answers that were sometimes un-biological. Basically, on the academic performance, Obidiwe (1992) stated that the objectives of practical biology are not being realized to a satisfactory extent. He pointed out that the poor academic performance was caused by; lack of a well-equipped laboratory, lack of qualified science teachers, limited timetable hours, poor observation, poor drawing and labelling, poor comparison of specimens, etc. This poor state of affairs is disturbing. This study, therefore, intends to examine the effect of biology practical in effective academic performance of students in Enugu North Local Government Area of Enugu State. Specifically, one would like to ask, what effect has biology practicals have on the academic performance of;

i. Senior secondary school students?

ii. Female biology students?

iii. Male biology students?

iv. Students from an urban area?

v. Students from rural areas?

1.3 Purpose of the Study

Based on the background and problems of this study, the main purpose underlying the project is to investigate the effects of practical biology on the effective teaching and learning of biology in senior secondary schools in Enugu North Local Government Area. The study specifically seeks to determine the effects of biology practicals on students achievement in biology examination. We believe that the result of the research will be of significance with the reforms in Biology education.

1.4 Significance of the Study

The practical activities in biology are designed to help students acquire basic scientific skills and improve their performance and achievement as well. The study tends to uncover the benefits of practical biology to the students, parents, teachers, government and the entire society. If the result of this research is properly utilized, it will:

1. Promote the ideas that science is both a product and process in students by arousing their interest in practical work;

2. Motivate the parents to provide basic requirements of practical lessons for their children;

3. Convince the biology teachers that practical lessons are mostly essential for effective teaching and learning of biology.

4. Make the government, through the ministry of education to realize the need for provision of science equipment to schools and posting of qualified biology teachers to secondary schools, it is not the issue of lack of trades master of non-teaching has attained professionalism and specialization;

5. Help the Nigerian society in its quest for improved technology and industrialization.

1.5 Scope of the Study

The study is targeted at the senior secondary schools in Enugu North Local Government Area Enugu State.

The scope is also delimited on SSII biology students and the following contents of the SSII biology scheme of work.

The digestive, reproductive and respiratory system is animals.

1.6 Research Questions

The following questions were formulated to guide the study:

i. What effect has biology practicals had on the academic performance of senior secondary school biology students?

ii. What effect has biology practicals had on the academic performance of female students?

iii. What effect has biology practicals had on the academic performance of students from urban areas?