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MANAGING LEARNING ENVIRONMENT FOR ENHANCED STUDENTS’ ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT IN OBIO-AKPOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA OF RIVERS STATE

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MANAGING LEARNING ENVIRONMENT FOR ENHANCED STUDENTS’ ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT IN OBIO-AKPOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA OF RIVERS STATE

 

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

 

  • Background of the study

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.

Management Challenges

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.

  1. Provision of education facilities: successful implementation of education programmes entail the provision of adequate facilities in school. Stakeholders; school head, proprietors, parents, and the community are expected to provide the facilities for their schools.
  2. ii. Utilization of educational facilities: this is the extent to which facilities in the school have been put into effective use. According to Adeboyeje (2000), various degrees of utilization include: non-utilization (when a facility is not put into use at all), under-utilization (when a facility is not used to full capacity), maximum utilization (when a facility is put into effective usage in line with primary objective), optimum utilization (when facilities are used for many purposes by the school and members of the community to help in achieving educational objectives) and over utilization (when a facility is used more than its capacity).

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:

  • Preventive measures: this involves regularly checking and rechecking the available facilities and taking necessary measures to prevent malfunctioning which is a better and cheaper measure.
  • Corrective measures: reactivation and replacement of facilities in order to normalize their performances. This applies when a facility breaks down completely. It may require a major repair or replacement. Natural disaster might lead to this situation, in which case, the school might be closed for a while to effect repairs.
  1. Improvement of educational facilities: this involves the alteration or modification of existing facilities to suit a new demand, situation or programme. As a result of the changing needs of the society, school curriculum are constantly evolving and whenever these changes occur in any part of the system, the existing facilities will require modification or replacement.

Challenges that can readily be identified in managing educational facilities in Nigeria public schools include:

  1. Inadequacy of facilities: Administrative leaders in educational institutions at all levels are faced with the problem of inadequate infrastructural facilities which could pose a lot of challenges. With inadequate or lack of infrastructural facilities, school heads, whose role it is to ensure quality education would be handicapped as these facilities, are the tools with which teaching and learning can be truly effective.
  2. Maintenance culture: Poor supply and poor maintenance of facilities are regular features in many primary and secondary schools. This will not encourage a conducive environment for knowledge and skill acquisition. It has been observed that where available, public school facilities are either inadequate or poorly maintained. Maintenance of available facilities is a step towards keeping schools in good and up-to-date condition. Pupils/Students are put at risk when school buildings are dilapidated or in poor condition. A lot of funds have been spent in the construction of school buildings, purchase of equipment, machineries and furniture to enhance teaching and learning, but very little has been made available for maintenance, Ehiametalor in Nwagwu et al (2001). He went further to state that school facilities are usually considered to have a perpetual life span’ irrespective of the vagaries of weather, natural disaster and the unpredictable wear and tear due to handling. Hence many of these facilities have been left to rot away. No sooner are schools commissioned, they are abandoned; no renovation, even where they become affected by nature’s elements (wind, rainstorm and so on) for several years. The culture of maintenance is obviously lacking in the Nigerian polity as other government agencies and parastatals and even roads are equally neglected, both at the state and federal levels. Reasons preferred for the lack of maintenance culture in public schools include:
  • Lack of clear policy on maintenance – schools and administrators through enabling laws need a policy to back up their actions on the level of maintenance responsibility expected of them. The policy should equally empower them to carry out some maintenance operations on school facilities.
  • Finance – finance is one of the greatest albatross of any project and a big limiting factor in maintenance. Little attention is paid to infrastructural maintenance by government at all levels as it is on buildings and equipments. Since government resources can never be enough to adequately fund all sectors, some should be channeled to maintenance of established structures. On the long run, this will be cost effective.
  • Information there is need for adequate information on available facilities and their physical condition before any maintenance operation can be carried out on them. At every point in time, the state of equipment, furniture and machines must be known; otherwise, they could be used till they are no longer able to perform their functions. School inspectors must do on-the-spot assessment of facilities along with other inspection activities and report to the appropriate quarters. Efficient maintenance lies squarely on school administrators who should spend part of the allocated resources to their school on maintenance. Corrective and preventive maintenance should be adopted to ensure that school facilities are kept near their original state as much as possible.

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.

  1. IV. Social factors: some school communities pose problems to the safety of school facilities, especially when they are not fenced. Street hooligans use them as hide outs at night to engage in all sorts of social vices. Reports have been made of vandalization of school facilities both in urban and rural areas. In Edo State for instance, reports of vandalization of the newly renovated and reconstructed school buildings were reported. Until members of the school community start seeing themselves as major stakeholders in the public schools in their area, safety of school facilities will continue to be a problem.
  2. Inadequate Funding: this has always been the Achilles hill of every laudible policy. Funding is never enough and the situation is worse now with the nations’ dwindling resources. Fund allocated and disbursed to manage public schools is not sufficient to either provide or maintain available facilities. Corrupt tendencies of some government officials, school proprietors and school managers also constitute a major problem; funds are diverted, misappropriated or stolen.

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:

  1. 1. Accurate information about the condition of the facilities and the scale of funds needed should be readily available. This will help in keeping the condition of the facilities and resources under regular review.
  2. 2. Define priorities for expenditure (funding).
  3. 3. Ensure adequate financing by convincing authorities.
  4. Establish resource and funding allocation mechanism.
  5. Stick to planned maintenance schedules.
  6. 6. Act promptly to repair damage.
  7. Give responsibility for the condition of the facilities to people who are close to the facilities concerned (Community participation).
  8. 8. Involve the users in the management of the facilities.
  9. 9. Traditional sources of funding should be explored; tax, grants, gifts foundations, school fees, loans (from financial institutions), or parents-interest subsidy, commercial sources, and running cost savings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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. To ascertain the effect of managing learning environments on academic achievement of students in selected public schools of obio-akpor local government Area s in Rivers  State
  2. To examine the role of teachers in ensuring an enabling learning environment in secondary school students in Obio-akpor local government Area s of Rivers State?
  3. To examine the role of government in ensuring an enabling learning environment in secondary school students in Obio-akpor local government Area s of Rivers State?

 

1.4   Research Questions

The following research questions were posed to guide the study:-

  1. Is there any significant relationship between effective management of learning environment and academic achievement of secondary school students in Obio-akpor local government Area s of Rivers  State?
  2. What is the role of teachers in ensuring an enabling learning environment?
  3. What is the role of government in ensuring enabling learning environment?

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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