Background of the study

The technological advancement of any nation to a large extent is dependent on a sound scientific education. Science and technology being vital tools for development and productivity of any nation should be taken as a necessity at the classroom level. Mbajiorgu (2003), opined that science is very important for every nation that wants to maintain its independence, sovereignty, ensure its growth and self-reliance, and hold up its head among civilized nations. This is because science and technology provide the basic tools of industrialization and economic development of every nation. This science and technology advancement can be achieved through forming the right attitude to teaching and learning, using innovative methods and strategies of teaching science and creating conducive environment for learning science subjects in our schools. These science subjects include biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, health science, agriculture etc. which, when properly taught, will help the students solve personal and societal problems.

It has been evident that many students perceive science as abstract subjects; this may be due to their poor study habits or ineffective learning styles. According to Brown and Ciuffetelli (2009), sciences are meant for males while females are better as caretakers of homes and children. Inequitable treatment of male and female students creates a lot of gender barriers (dispositional, situational, and institutional barriers) as characterized in the traditional methods of learning science.

The Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSCE) results published by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) 2008-2010, showed that in 2008, 32.26% of the candidates obtained C6 which is the minimum entry for Biology into the nation’s Universities. In 2009, it was 28.42 percent and in 2010, it was 25.06 percent. This shows a decline in the percentage passes in biology at the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination. Despite the fact that biology and other science subjects are important to human endeavour, students still perform poorly in biology and other science subjects. This is evident in the chief examiner’s report of the West African Examination council (2009), which showed that students who sat for WASC Examination exhibited the following lapses: failed to write or answer their questions logically, systematically and convincingly; shallow understanding of most concepts in biology; including inability of the students to correctly spell many biological terms. The low performance of students in the sciences has also been evident in JAMB exams as indicated by the Registrar JAMB 2010, indicated that the performance of students in the University Matriculation Examination (UME), over the last three years has shown a steady decline. He pointed out that the candidates perform poorly in the sciences with low mean percentage score as follows: physics (31.48%), Mathematics (43.64%), Chemistry (45.18%) and Biology (48.98%).

Biology being one of these science subjects, when properly taught will help one to question superstitions, learning about the functions of the various parts of the body; help one to maintain good health through use of clean water, good sanitation; control the level of pollution in the environment, acknowledge the value of balanced diet, vaccinate against infectious diseases etc. (Aniodo, 2001). The importance of biology as a secondary school subject can be further illustrated by the fact that a candidate must

obtain a credit pass in biology, for admission into any Nigerian university to read such important science-based courses as medicine, pharmacy, biochemistry, microbiology, food technology.

The above account of a consistent decline in the percentage passes in

biology in the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination is an indication that meaningful teaching and learning had not taken place. The poor performance may be as a result of poor teaching methods that do not encourage students’ active participation and the resultant high achievement in the learning process.

Achievement means a successful performance or outcome in learning science using students efforts and the use of innovative strategies as opposed to traditional conventional strategies, which did not take into consideration, some cultures/environments that are in direct conflict with science culture. The innovative strategies of science culture are true for all cultures, places as well as for every group of individuals, male or female (Mbajiorgu, 2003).

According to Johnson and Johnson (2000), Quing Li (2000), and Okebukola (2002), achievement here entails meaningful interaction of students, male and female, working together to maximize their own and each others learning, towards a well focused set goal, gaining from each other (male or female) and sharing a common fate. This can not happen by being passive during the learning process. Achievement as opined by Wayne (1989), involves the need to master difficult challenges to meet high standard of excellence which can only take place as a result of active participation in learning without gender barrier. For learning to take place it will involve active participation of all the stakeholders in planning, execution, monitoring and even celebration of success of a learning task or problem solved.