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MANAGING LEARNING ENVIRONMENT FOR ENHANCED STUDENTS’ ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT IN OBIO-AKPOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA OF RIVERS STATE
Learning environment refers to the diverse physical locations, contexts, and cultures in which students learn. Since students may learn in a wide variety of settings, such as outside-of-school locations and outdoor environments, the term is often used as a more accurate or preferred alternative to classroom, which has more limited and traditional connotations—a room with rows of desks and a chalkboard, for example.
The term also encompasses the culture of a school or class—its presiding ethos and characteristics, including how individuals interact with and treat one another—as well as the ways in which teachers may organize an educational setting to facilitate learning—e.g., by conducting classes in relevant natural ecosystems, grouping desks in specific ways, decorating the walls with learning materials, or utilizing audio, visual, and digital technologies. And because the qualities and characteristics of a learning environment are determined by a wide variety of factors, school policies, governance structures, and other features may also be considered elements of a “learning environment.”
Educators may also argue that learning environments have both a direct and indirect influence on student learning, including their engagement in what is being taught, their motivation to learn, and their sense of well-being, belonging, and personal safety. For example, learning environments filled with sunlight and stimulating educational materials would likely be considered more conducive to learning than drab spaces without windows or decoration, as would schools with fewer incidences of misbehavior, disorder, bullying, and illegal activity. How adults interact with students and how students interact with one another may also be considered aspects of a learning environment, and phrases such as “positive learning environment” or “negative learning environment” are commonly used in reference to the social and emotional dimensions of a school or class.
In educational institutions, school facilities constitute essential inputs which could guarantee favourable learning environment and enhance the achievement of educational objectives. According to Asiyai (2012), school facilities include the entire school plant which school administrators, teachers and students harness, allocate, and utilize for the smooth and efficient management of any educational institution. In the school, educational facilities serve as pillars of support for effective teaching and learning thereby making the process meaningful and purposeful. School facilities include permanent and semi-permanent structures, such as machinery, laboratory equipment, the blackboard, teachers’ tools and other equipment as well as consumables. Educational facilities also refer to non-human and non-financial resources which include all movable and immovable materials which are used for teaching, learning and other school activities.
The provision of school facilities bring about a conducive teaching and learning environment for teachers, students and other staff members to perform their duties effectively; a good school environment fosters desirable behaviour, creativity, harmonious relationship and problem solving skills among students. In the same vain, the quality and standard of educational output depends on the extent to which school facilities are provided and managed. Hence Akinsolu, (2004) asserted that educational curriculum cannot be sound and well operated with poor and badly managed school facilities which include classroom, laboratories, workshops, libraries, equipment, consumables, electricity, water, visual and audio visual aids, tables, desks, chairs, playground, storage space and toilets.
Managing these facilities pose a major challenge for school administrators especially in public schools with its continuous increase in student enrolment without a corresponding increase in school facilities. This paper therefore takes an overview of educational facilities in Nigerian public secondary schools, challenges and strategies for effective management.
Educational Facilities in Nigeria Public Schools
According to Emetarom, (2004), educational facilities are material resources in the school which are physical and spatial enablers of teaching and learning which will increase the production of results. When combined with other resources in adequate quality and quantities, constitutes vital inputs for achieving desired educational goals. Owuamanam, (2005) noted that the inadequacy of infrastructural facilities is one of the major problems facing the Nigerian education system. Nwadiani, (2012) is also of the opinion that infrastructural facilities in public schools in Nigeria are inadequate leading to poor utilization. Studies on physical facilities in public schools have revealed that what is on ground in most public schools, both at the higher and lower levels is a far cry from the recommended bench mark for the provision of infrastructural facilities in these schools. Akinkugbe, (1994) revealed that everywhere you look, primary, secondary, special, technical, tertiary institutions, there is abundant evidence of crippling inertia, criminal neglect and a pervasive decay in value and standard.
The quality and quantity of facilities, has impact on educational outcomes, as well as the well-being of students and teachers. This perhaps necessitated the interest by many scholars, researchers, administrators and educational planners in this area. The consensus of opinion among them is that educational facilities in Nigerian public schools are inadequate due to astronomical increase in school enrolment. In a study carried out by Ikoya and Onoyase (2008), it was found that only 26% of secondary schools across the country have school infrastructure in adequate quality and quantity. Ajayi (1999) also reported that many public primary schools are dilapidated due to inadequate funding while many tertiary institutions are living in their past gloriesand have been described as “Glorified Secondary Schools’ as a result of the grossly inadequate facilities in that level of education. Students are admitted to study science courses and Computer Engineering with ill-equipped laboratories and without computers. They still need to enroll in roadside workshops to learn how to operate the computer after graduation or while still in school. This has led to a situation where some courses have had to be disaccredited in some tertiary institutions.
The state of instructional facilities in Nigerian secondary schools is generally poor; library facilities and books are grossly inadequate and so is provision of classrooms, furniture, laboratories and workshops, maps, pens, charts cardboards and so on. In a study carried out by Asiyai (2012) on the state of facilities in Delta state public secondary schools, it was discovered that they were generally in a state of disrepair. Similarly, Adeogun (2008) reveals that facilities in public primary schools in Ekiti State are in a state of disrepair. Before the current political dispensation in Edo state (The government of Adams Oshiomohole), many public primary and secondary schools were in a total state of decay and dilapidation. Though efforts are being made to rehabilitate these schools, many of them are still yearning for attention.
The onus of managing school facilities, rest on school administration in conjunction with other stakeholders whose responsibility among many others is to ensure that facilities are working efficiently for utmost learning achievement. At the building school level, Ehiametalor in Nwagwu et al (2001), assert that among other responsibilities, school administrators at the school building level, have a responsibility to keep records of plans, checks on facilities and how often maintenance is effected either to buildings or equipment. Without this information, type of materials required, materials used and cost cannot be ascertained. Adequate management as regards documentation, planning, implementation and evaluation is part of their responsibilities. School inspectors have key roles to play here to prevent wastages and ensure the achievement of educational objectives. Management of education facilities include planning, organization, staffing, controlling the processes of supply, utilization, maintenance and improvement. If facilities are well managed, they would be safe from danger, disaster, and theft. Safety measures will protect facilities from disasters such as flood and fire. Effective management of educational facilities entails provision of facilities by ensuring proper procurement of good quality materials (no diversion of money), serving as an advisory agent to government and other stakeholders on the type of facilities needed, using the curriculum of the school to provide school needs, safe keeping of facilities, record keeping and ensuring that facilities are handled by experts during usage, maintenance and improvement service.
Abdulkareem and Fasasi (2010) listed the four stages of facility management thus: provision, utilization, maintenance and improvement.
iii. Maintenance of Educational facility: in order to restore the physical condition and sustain the working capacity of facilities, they must be maintained. Maintenance enhances performance and durability and prevents wastages. Maintenance could be categorized as follows:
Challenges that can readily be identified in managing educational facilities in Nigeria public schools include:
III. Environmental factors: Abulu and Omorweh in Asiyai (2010) reported deposits on school building roofs as a result of gas flaring and excessive global heat warming as responsible for the rusting and dilapidation of school infrastructural facilities in oil producing areas. Erosion menace in the Eastern part of the country and other parts including Edo State has affected facilities in schools such that many of the school buildings have caved in; schools in flood prone areas have also resulted in a situation where lots of school facilities are lost to the flood, access road blocked, roof blown off and children made to learn under despicable conditions.
In a study of the relationship between administrative effectiveness of secondary school managers and maintenance of available school facilities in Oyo state of Nigeria, Durosaro (1998) found out that schools that planned, and maintained their facilities had a high rate of student retention. As a result of underfunding, government has been encouraging proper maintenance of available school facilities.
Strategies for Improvement
The following strategies by Hinum (1999) can be adopted to ensure effective management:
Education is the building block upon which every society’s foundation is laid. There is no education without teaching and learning experiences which in a formal setting takes place in a classroom under the supervision of a trained teacher that ensures that the learning environment is conducive. This is in agreement with a Global Monitoring Report on Education for All (2012), that learners in supportive environments have high levels of self-efficacy and self-motivation and use learning as a primary transformative force. In a quote from that Report “Welcoming the learner –child, youth or adult– in an environment where they can feel safe and nurtured for is very important for the development of each individual and the society as a whole.
In his view, Orlu (2013), assented that environment plays major role in the life of every individual whether a students, teachers, employer or employee. Though some people are yet to believe that environment brings about better achievement . In addition to this, he further cited Udoh (1980) in his article “The Environmental Health Problems in Nigeria Schools”, to have identified some unhealthy practices in our schools. These include sitting of schools, inadequate facilities, and poor ventilation and lack of teachers training on classroom management which hinders qualitative academic achievement in schools.
In a more elaborate stand point, Rohana et al (2009), opined that intelligence is not the only determinant of academic achievement of a student. Academic achievement of a student is always associated with many components of learning environment. This is in agreement with the views of Bosque and Dore (1998), as cited by Orlu (2013) that learning and teaching environment ought to implement six functions: inform, communicate, collaborate, produce, scaffold, and manage. They added that conceptually speaking, the learning environment refers to the whole range of components and activities within which learning happens. In citing the definition of Sandberg’s (1998), Rohana et al (2009), highlighted that the functions of a learning environment can be quoted as “Teacher component’s role in providing something between loose guidance and direct instruction. It can be a human agent (present or distant), an intelligent agent, and instructions like some text books provided for effective teaching learning experience.
In another perceptive, Duruji, et al (2014), opinzed that in Nigeria, the importance of learning environment to educational development was so upheld by the authorities and regulatory institutions that school inspectors were parts and parcel of the school system before the advent of military regime in the country. The neglect this aspect has received due to poor funding by the successive regimes of government in the country also reflected in paucity of studies that focuses on this issue. As such learning environment remains an important area that should be studied and well managed to enhance students’ academic achievement .
Equally, The Global Monitoring Report on Education for All (2012) while acknowledging the role of government in ensuring an enabling learning environment acquiesced that the issue is even more critical in countries with limited financial resources as well as countries with poor culture of maintenance of existing facilities in schools which has negatively affected the learning environment. The report while appraising various stages of education among UN member states, ranging from Primary Education, Secondary Education and Higher Education, placed greater emphasis on the secondary education as Secondary education is regarded as a bridge for young people from the world of school to the world of work. The report equally advocated the importance of extending access and improving the relevance of secondary schooling to ensure that all young people are equipped with the skills they need as they enter the workplace.
With such a responsibility that education shoulders, it is therefore imperative to create an environment suitable for both teaching and learning experience to foster which is a gateway to achieving quality academic achievement across board.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
In Nigerian educational system, the secondary school system is at medium level in the cadre of formal educational classification. The secondary school education is expected to last for a period of six (6) years classified into three (6) junior secondary and Senior Secondary, though the 9-3-4 system gives the three (3) years of junior secondary to the basic education, but secondary education lasts for a period of six (6) years. The expected result upon graduation from secondary school is that students would be self-reliant.
With this expectation stated, it is therefore important to create in the system a high ranking learning experience which is a guarantee to quality academic achievement by providing enabling learning environment by all stakeholders particularly by the teachers and the government.
It is on this note that the work is set to discuss managing learning environments for enhanced students’ academic achievement in obio-akpor local government area of Rivers state.
1.3 Objectives of the study
1.4 Research Questions
The following research questions were posed to guide the study:-
1.5 Significance of the Study
It will give an insight to the impact of proper management of learning environment on academic achievement of students in secondary schools. It will arm the government with the understanding of the importance of maintaining an effective learning environment in secondary schools.
It will also serve as a good literature for those that would choose to carry out further research on the learning
1.6 Scope of the Study
The scope of the study covered selected secondary schools. Content wise, it investigates the impact of learning environment and academic achievement of secondary school students in obio-akpor local government Area s of Rivers State.
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