ASSESSMENT OF POLICY IMPLEMENTATION ON EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION IN OGOJA EDUCATION ZONE, CROSS RIVER STATE
The study assessed the extent to which the National Policy Education (NPE) has been implemented in Early Childhood Education (ECE) Centres in Ogoja Education Zone of Cross River State. Specifically, the study determined the extent to which the ECE programme has met with the stipulated policy statement in terms of: establishment of ECE centres, teacher specialisation, application of language and method of instruction among others. Six (6) research questions and one hypothesis guided the study. Methodically, the researcher employed descriptive survey design for the study. A sample of four hundred (400) respondents (300 teachers and100 head-teachers) drawn from all the primary schools in the study zone responded to the researcher’s designed questionnaire titled; Assessment of Policy Implementation on ECE Questionnaire (APIECHQ), which consisted of 30 questionnaire items in six (6) clusters. Mean and standard deviation with four point ranking order were used to analyse the data, t-test was used to test the hypothesis at 0.05 level of significance. The findings revealed low or unsatisfactory implementation of the NPE as evidenced among others by lack of adequate support to private efforts, failure in the application of the recommended language of instruction and method of teaching, ineffective supervision and maintenance of ECE facilities. This implies that ECE centres provide poor quality educational background for children at this stage. Based on this, the researcher recommended among others that maximum support should be given to private participation, provide and recruit professional ECE teachers, organize regular Seminars and workshops for teachers, intensify efforts to funds for infrastructural development and supervision of ECE activities.
Background of the Study
Most countries of the world have provided various educational programmes for their citizens because education is recognized as the cornerstone for sustainable development. In Nigeria, the Cross River state Education Sector Analysis (CRSESA), (2011) described education as the bedrock for national and personal development because the socio-economic development of any nation is wholly dependent on the level and quality of education given to its citizens. According to Olalaye and Omotayo (2009), education is the fulcrum around which development of any country revolves. In this context, education includes any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts. This is why developed countries always guard their educational industries with jealousy and total commitment. In order to address issues of holistic transformation, the Federal Republic of Nigeria (2004) referred to education as an instrument ‘par excellence’ for national development and has initiated several educational policies over the past decade. One of such policies is the 2004 edition of the National Policy on Education, which specify the objectives and guidelines of action on Early Childhood Education (ECE) (Agbo, 2008).
Early Childhood Education consists of varied formal or informal initiatives required for children from birth to pre-school age to make them thrive. These activities are intended to effect developmental changes in children prior to their entry into primary school. Mitchell (2011) describe ECE as the overall development of the child; physically, socially and intelligently. It is the foundation for a life-long education for children which provide for the physical, motor, health, nutritional, intellectual, aesthetic, emotional and social development of the pre-school child. According to Mezieobi (2006), if a child’s education can provide
these vital fundamental necessities, it is likely to have an important and strong relationship with the pupils’ performance at the primary school level and perhaps at the secondary and tertiary levels. Developmental ideologies and theories of Dewey, Montessori, Piaget, Chomsky, Vygotsky and so on influenced the practices of ECE (Bahago, 2010). Contextually, ECE is the bedrock upon which excellent basic and sound education is built for children through vigorous activities that lead to mental abilities at this stage.
Unprecedented attention to young children has created concerns on parents about their children’s learning, and readiness for school. Parents are more concerned than ever before about their children’s: learning, care, protection and readiness for school and values for life challenges and others . Early childhood teachers are taking on the challenges of serving all children equitably and well. And policymakers are looking carefully at the outcomes reported for children participating in early education programs. Motivated by these concerns and by the growing emphasis on accountability, parents, teachers and policymakers all want more information as they make decisions on how to foster children’s early learning a and development (Nakpodia, 2003). The World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and development of Children in 1990 undertook a joint commitment to make an urgent universal appeal to give every child a better future. In addition, the World Conference on Education for All (EFA) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC, 2005) emphasized urgent priority to ensure access to improved quality of education for all children. The Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act of 2000 cites ECE as an integral part of basic education. Bush (2001) consider this a step in the right direction in achieving the EFA goals. Prior to the introduction of Universal Basic Education, Nigeria had early childhood centres managed basically by private sectors, thereby making this educational provision inaccessible to every child. (Awoniyi, 2006).
In pursuant of the development and implementation of the ECE, Sub-sections 13 of the FRN (2004) National Policy on Education refers to ECE as the education given in an educational institution to children prior to their entering the primary school. It includes the crèche, the nursery and the kindergarten. It enumerated eight (8) objectives of early childhood/pre-primary education to include: effecting a smooth transition from the home to the school, preparing the child for the primary level of education, providing adequate care and supervision for the children while their parents are at work, creating individuals who are responsible citizens and so on. According to Napkodia (2010), the objectives cover adequately the three main aspects of developmental domains as recommended by Benjamin Bloom (cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains).
Using the whole- child concept, the objectives of ECE can be categorised as catering for social, emotional, mental and physical needs of the child. So the ECE centres could be regarded as an extension of the home because the primary concern of the home, namely, social, emotional and mental adjustment, is majorly pursued in the ECE centres. This implies that child-care facilities have to be provided, these facilities need to do more than just provision of safety of the children but also to cater for intellectual development as well, (Maduewesi, 2000).
To ensure the attainment of these objectives, the Government outlines its responsibilities and strategies in the National Policy on Education to include:
- Encouraging private efforts in the provision of pre-primary education;
- Making provisions in teacher education programmes for specialization in early child-hood education;
- Ensuring that the medium of instruction is principally the mother tongue or the language of the immediate community, and to this end, will develop and produce textbooks in orthography of many more Nigerian languages;
- Ensuring 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;
- Regulating, monitoring, controlling and setting a minimum standard for the operation of early childhood/pre-primary education;
- Ensuring full participation of government, communities and teachers’ associations in the running and maintenance of early childhood education facilities (FRN, 2004).
The FRN placed the child at the centre of learning activities, but left out execution mostly in the hands of ‘private owners’ most of whom lack knowledge of the national philosophy behind ECE (FRN,2004). One wonders, if these ‘private owners’ can implement the policy as was designed to be done (Borishade, 2009). The thrust of this study is find out the extent of implementation of the stipulated FGN 2004 edition of the NPE Guidelines of action on ECE. The guideline of action borders on: School establishment, teacher factors, language of instruction, method of teaching among others. This NPE serve as a guide to the current ECE and other levels of educational programme in the country. Eresimadu (2008) insists: for this educational level to be a reality in Nigeria, the aspects of the 2004 edition of the NPE, that stipulated government’s guidelines of action need to be considered seriously. Supportively, Adenipekun (2004) ensued: for a nation to develop quality ECE programme, faithful utilization of Government`s guidelines for such institutions is the only sure way. Adesina (2007) opined: in spite the glaring recognition given to ECE programme the real challenge will lie in the successful implementation of this educational policy guidelines by all
stakeholders. Certainly, objectives of ECE in any country can only be achieved if the policy is consistently and effectively implemented.
Implementation, simply put is the transformation of set plan or policy into action which links the policy plans to their actual performance. It is a critical stage in the policy planning process (Haddad, 2004). Policy implementation in this context refers to the activities that are carried out in the light of established policies. It involves the process of converting financial, material, technical and human inputs into outputs – goods and services. Implementation is a major problem confronting developing nations such as Nigeria. In implementing a plan, changes may be necessary due to unsatisfactory results or pressures emanating from outside. According to Gallagher and Maxwell (2004), the mere translations of abstract policy intentions into concrete implementation can cause redesign; qualifications of the personnel to implement the plan and clear description of expectations or actual performance expected in the specified task must be seriously considered. As such, Adamolekun (2003) insists that if the goal of this programme is to provide the best possible education for all Nigerian children, implementing personnel should be skilful and knowledgeable. It is therefore necessary to assess policy implementation on ECE. Assessment of policy implementation on ECE, in the context of the study, refers to evaluation of how the government course of action has been utilized towards successful Early Childhood educational programme (Ngwagwu, 2007).
Regrettably, eight years after the last revision (2004) of the NPE, most of the measures and proposals seemed mere formalities. Nakpodia (2010) observed, the government proposed encouraging private efforts in the establishment of ECE centres but what is obtainable now is a far cry from all expectations. These private individuals open these institutions without adequate planning, and the aftermath being a systematic mal-adjustment of our young ones. Similarly, where even standard ones exist, they are relatively few and concentrated within the urban centres and hence elitist. Presently, there are so many ill-equipped, sub-standard kindergarten and nursery institutions scattered all over the urban centres and some in the rural centres of Nigeria (Amakievi, 2013) ). Standards or quality is an anathema to most of these ECE centres. Most ECE centres even charge higher fees than what many model secondary schools and even Federal universities do charge. The extra-ordinarily prohibitive high cost has not been reciprocally matched by an encouraging provision of facilities and basic equipment (UNESCO, 2009). The ECE being the ultimate background needed by the child to smoothly transit to the formal school system need a solid foundation, any shaky foundation naturally will affect the other levels .
The consequences of the above type of learning environment include; poor academic performance , low enrolment, school drop- out and so on. Depemu (2004) stated; the Federal Ministry of Education (FME) has been a concerned over the fate of pupils in public schools, the past few years. Schools have been performing poorly in the national and placement examinations in tests administered by state Education Service. The report by the FME recently is that 16 million Nigerian children are not enrolled in schools across the country is not a cheering news. Of that figure, 11 million should be in primary schools while the other five million ought to be in secondary schools, (The Tide,2013). This situation has, for sometimes now, remained a big challenge to the education sector and amounts to an indictment on government’s inability to do all the right things. There is need for a lay down solid foundation for future growth of the country children. Amakievi, (2013) argued that with underperforming education sectors (heavy repetition rates and poor quality) early dropouts might be perfectly rational in developing countries even in the absence of financial constraints.
There has been observed wide disparities in children educational standards and learning achievements as a result of substantial rates of drop out – non-completion of school programme. School Drop outs are children who start but do not complete a cycle of basic education. Such children are leaving schooling without acquiring the most basic skills. Their brief schooling experience consists frequently of limited learning opportunities in overcrowded classrooms with insufficient learning materials and under-qualified teachers (Alexander, 2008). Children of different ages and abilities are mixed together in single classrooms without proper adaptation of teaching methods to improve learning and to induce school engagement . Such schooling circumstances, jeopardise meaningful access to education for many children for many children are registered in schools to participate but fail to learn, enrolled for several years but fail to progress and drop out from school,( Ejieh .2009).
Qualified teachers who are equipped with the desired knowledge, skills, competence commitment, and are empowered to perform their tasks professionally are needed in schools so as to prepare and equip learners for all aspects of life (Onyeachu, 2008). Actually, the FRN (2004) affirmed that no educational system can rise above the level of its teachers, thereby, identifying the fact that laudable educational initiatives can collapse simply because the ‘teacher factor’ is not taken seriously. Policy implementation guidelines clearly emphasized teacher specialization on ECE through teacher training colleges. Ironically, this policy statements on this level of education seem to be a failed one as it is handled largely by the Private Sector Who cannot afford to maintain professional personnel. Number of teachers as reported by National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (NSCDC2004).; is about 124,727 pre-primary school teachers for the 2004/2005 academic year for the entire nation, (NSG, 2005). Nakpodia (2011) decried that currently the students participating in the National Teachers Institute (NTI) programmes (Grade II as well as NCE) and the teeming population of students in most Nigerian colleges of education studying primary education studies (PES) are not trained for early child education contexts. The training these students receive makes them adequate for primary schooling only so there are no qualified ECE teachers (Yusuf, 2010).
The school administrative structure affects the whole policy implementation and functioning of the ECE programme. With the head teacher occupying the leadership position Makinde, (2003) recommends that , he/she must possess adequate knowledge and technical capability in facing the task ahead. Though as a school administrator, he/she is a teacher, possessing teaching skills. He/she must be able to demonstrate the teaching ability and other teachers should learn from him/her the techniques of teaching. According to Bahago (2010), most school heads in Nigeria have no regular training courses , because it is believed that he/she does not require any special training and all that is needed is experience on the job. With rapid expansion of educational system, Schools are now becoming more complex and projected increase in school sizes. It is now important that teachers in training who will eventually head the school need to be knowledgeable in rudiments of ECE administration, there is need to equip the teachers who will handle the situation and the accompanying implementation problems effectively, (Akinbote, 2001).
The Nigerian Policy on Education of the FRN (2004) in its provision for pre-primary education stipulated that : the government shall regulate and control the operation of pre-primary education but a look at most of our pre-primary schools show that this is done by people that are corrupt leading to a mess of whole exercise. There is evidence of low monitoring, regulatory and controlling exercise, ( Hamza,2004). The FGN recommended that a Minimum Standard Package be developed and approved to ensure quality of service delivery. It is still unclear how this package is being utilised as most the publc and private ECE centres does support effective learning. Yusuf (2010) regretted that many ECE centres are substandard as they lack minimum standard package document for positive guide to the operation ECE centres. Consequently, Ejieh,(2009), observed wide disparities in children academic standard and learning achievements.
Additionally, it would appear that the use of mother tongue or the language of the immediate environment for language of instruction as well as play-way method for teaching are mere theoretical provisions that are not to be strictly adhered. Up to date, there are no sufficient textbooks on many Nigerian language orthography to facilitate teaching and learning in mother tongue for children at this level. The majority of those available are foreign-based and expensive (Afolayan, 2010). Recent school census data disseminated by the Federal Ministry of Education showed increase in participation in ECE programme with more than 1.4 million young children enrolled nationwide in 2003, (Agbo, 2008). According to the Summary of Cross River State Universal Basic Education Commission, school attendance among children aged 0 to 5 is increasing especially in Ogoja Education Zone. In 2006, the percentage of children aged 0 to 5 enrolled in ECE programs reached 43% compared to 27.5% in 1996 (CRSUBEC, 2007). However, Bahago (2010) observed that there are significant differences regarding access to school between these age groups. Only 15.5% of children in the 0-3 years group attended nursery schools in 2006, compared with 76% of children aged 3-5 that had access to pre-school in the same year.
Play is enjoyable and spontaneous and helps the children learn social and motor skills and cognitive thinking. The play method of teaching that is advocated in the National Policy on pre-primary education is not effectively used in most of the schools, as most of the teachers are not trained on the use of it. According to Agbo, (2008), Proprietors and teachers provide the children with toys to play with mainly for recreational purposes and not for instruction. Very few, if any, nursery school teachers in the country have received formal training in the use of the play method. Through play, children learn family rules, develop language and socialization skills , communicate emotions, think and be creative and solve problems. As they grow, play helps them learn how to act and what is expected of him or her. Even Parents, need to make time to play with their children. Toys, materials, and sports equipment should be provided so that they can play with others (Baker, 2002).
Despite the enunciated objectives of ECE programme and Government’s commendable efforts towards realizing the objectives, the objectives of ECE has not been fully realized. There exist indications of implementation pit falls evident in proliferation of sub-standard ECE centres which result to the school dropout, low enrolment of pupils in the primary school level. Regrettably, Ejieh (2009) decried: public schools in most states of the federation are either in poor states of disrepairs and overcrowded or lack basic infrastructural facilities necessary to aid learning. Addressing low school enrolment , The Tide (2013) regrets a situation where children sit on bare floor for learning or study under the trees. It is unthinkable to imagine how such a scenario can encourage school enrolment. Forty per cent of Nigerian children aged 6-11 do not attend any primary school with the Northern region recording the lowest school attendance rate in the country, particularly for girls.
Clearly, benefits that may be accrued from ECE and the commitments made by the government notwithstanding, there still exists poor performance of ECE sector characterized by low enrolment of children and high rate of dropouts of children who have phobia for schooling. Similarly, the report of the Cross River State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) supervisory committee showed that in spite of all the laudable goals of NPE and efforts made to improve the quality of ECE schools, there exists significant low academic achievement of children who transit from ECE in most Local Government Areas in Cross River State, especially the northern area, (SUBEB,2007). The situation has deteriorated to the extent that primary school administrators doubt the preparedness of children promoted from ECE centres to primary schools. It seems that children who go through ECE are not adequately prepared for entry into primary schools. This may cast aspersion on the way the FGN policy guidelines on ECE are being implemented. Given the foundational and basic importance of this level of education, it becomes pertinent to investigate the extent to which government have actually aligned itself to the guidelines on the implementation of the ECE programme in Ogoja Education Zone, Cross River State.
Statement of the Problem
Globally, Early Childhood Education (ECE) has been recognized as the fulcrum for future education of children. The 2004 edition of the National Policy on Education is a foundation guide to the establishment and management of early childhood services so as to meet up with society’s expectations for children. Significant innovations on ECE has been made in during the last eight years including; UBE Act of 2004 which expanded the scope of ECE as an inclusion of Basic education, all primary schools must have a linkage of ECE to carter for under school children. This approach is developmentally appropriate as planning was based on observations of what children could do in the areas of physical, social, emotional, language and intellectual development.
In spite of government declaration to participate actively in ECE, there is disparity on the extent to which ECE policy has been implemented. This is a major gap that has left most ECE centres in various parts of the country no more than mere exploitative mills where children are gradually led to their intellectual deaths at such an early age. They lack material resources, the facilities, personnel and so on, and where they are available they are grossly inadequate. Consequently, there exist indications of implementation pitfalls characterized by proliferation of substandard ECE centres, high rate of dropouts, poor performance, and low enrolment of children in the primary schools among others. Cross River State as one of the 36 states in the Nigerian , and one of the six states in the South-South geo-political zone has not been insulated from the various efforts at implementing ECE. Though successive governments in the state have tried to address the issue above, the effect of the policies and programmes on reducing poor educational background among the populace has been that of doubt.
The above trend portends danger not only for ECE pupils but also for their parents and the nation as a whole. If ECE must play its role then the need to assess the extent of the implementation of its policy strategies, becomes imperative. Hence, the question that the study addresses: to what extent has the ECE programme been implemented in Ogoja Education Zone of Cross River State?
Purpose of the Study
The general purpose of this study is to assess the extent to which the 2004 edition of NPE Guidelines of action on ECE has been implemented at ECE centres in Ogoja Education Zone of Cross River State. The study intends to determine specifically, the extent to which:
- Government has encouraged private efforts in the provision of ECE.
- Provisions in Teacher Training Institutions for students who want to specialize in early childhood education have been made.
- The mother-tongue or the language of the immediate community has been used as the medium of instruction.
- Play method of teaching has been used in ECE centres in Northern senatorial District , Cross River State.
- Government has been regulating, controlling, monitoring, supervising and enforcing educational laws at ECE centres;
- ECE facilities have been provided and maintained by the government.
Significance of the Study
The study has both theoretical and practical significance.
Theoretically, the outcome of the study will contribute to the general understanding of the cognitive development of children. This will allow all stakeholders to fully appreciate the cognitive, emotional, physical, social and educational growth that children go through from birth and into early adulthood. Attention will be focused on the idea of developmentally appropriate education— an education with environments, curriculum, materials, and instruction that are suitable for students in terms of their physical and cognitive abilities.
Practically, the findings of the study will be of immense benefit to all stakeholders of early childhood education: government, parents ,community, administrators, teachers and care-givers and others who are concerned with the effective implementation of childhood education. This is because assessment of the implementation of this policy remains vital yardstick to ensure realization of the objectives of Childhood Education.
The findings on the extent of government encouragement to private efforts in the provision of ECE would enable the government to know the extent its promise has been fulfilled, and thus, be poised to adequately fill any gap. The private sector would be enable to be poised at adequately demand for government’s assistance towards provision of ECE. It would enable childhood education policy makers to formulate appropriate policies all geared towards ensuring that the government adequately encourage private efforts in the provision of ECE.
By providing information on the extent to which provisions has been made for specialization in ECE carrier in Teacher Training Institutions, the attention of the government will be drawn towards ensuring the establishment and provision of requisite resources for students who want to specialize in early childhood education. The would equally discover areas of need and give necessary assistance. Such Institutions would also utilize the information to be poised at ensuring their continuous existence and sustainability by maintenance of the facilities in their possession. Also, students, Parents and the community would appreciate this government’s effort and sought out ways they can complement government efforts.
Information generated on the extent to which mother-tongue or the language of the immediate community has been used as the medium of instruction would enable early childhood educators to ensure that mother-tongue is effectively utilized as a medium of instruction. Further, the information would guide FME in formulating appropriate policies that facilitate the mother-tongue is effectively utilized as a medium of instruction. It would enable various agents of socialization such as the family ensure that mother tongue is effectively used in communication. It will further help the governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in providing assistance where necessary. Also, the study would help the government to intervene and to help improve early child education through the education of well qualified teachers and caretakers for the nation’s futures of tomorrow.
The findings of the study on the extent to which play method of teaching has been used in ECE centres in Ogoja Education Zone,, Cross River State would enable childhood educators to adequately utilize play method of teaching. It would enable Ministry of Education to formulate and implement appropriate policies all geared towards ensuring that play method of teaching is adequately used in ECE centres. ECE administrators would also utilize the information to adopt appropriate strategies towards ensuring that play method of teaching is adequately used in ECE centres. It would enable school psychologists/guidance counsellors to adopt appropriate strategies in rendering their services. Government and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) will further utilize the information in providing assistance where it is felt necessary.
By providing information on the extent to which government have been regulating, controlling, monitoring, supervising and enforcing educational laws at ECE centres, government will in no small measure be poised at ensuring regulation and enforcing educational laws at ECE centres through their various ministries of education. Also, the government would intensify regular supervision and monitoring of activities of ECE through inspectorate units for the sole purpose of supervisions and standardization of ECE centres with regard to curricula, personnel, inspection, provision, maintenance and control of quality facilities will be establish.
Information generated on the extent to which ECE facilities have been provided and maintained by the government would enable the government through their various ministries of education ensure that facilities are adequate properly maintained. ECE administrators would also utilize the information to adopt appropriate strategies towards ensuring adequacy and proper maintenance of ECE facilities by the government. It will enable parents and guardians to complement government’s efforts in providing and maintaining ECE facilities. It will further help the governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in providing assistance where it is felt necessary.
Scope of the Study
The study, assessment of policy implementation on Early Childhood Education (ECE), will be carried out in all public and approved private primary schools in Ogoja Education Zone of Cross River State using the head teachers and teachers as respondents. The content scope is to determine the extent to which the government has participated in terms of: management/administration of ECE including to: encourage private effort, provide for training of specialist teachers, regulate the operation, provide and maintain facilities of ECE, and also curriculum issues such as language of instruction and method of teaching.
The following research questions will guide the study:
- To what extent has government encouraged private efforts in the provision of ECE centres?
- To what extent has the government made provision for students who want to specialize in ECE?
- To what extent has mother-tongue or the language of the immediate community been used as a medium of instruction at ECE?
- To what extent has play method been applied as a method of teaching at ECE centres?
- To what extent has the government participated in regulating, controlling, monitoring, supervising and enforcing the educational laws with regard to the establishment of ECE schools?
- To what extent has the government provided and maintained ECE facilities?
The study was be guided by one hypothesis to be tested at P<0.5 level of significance:
There is no significant difference between the mean responses of head teachers and teachers and on the extent of government participation in the implementation of early childhood in Ogoja Education Zone, Cross River State.