Background of the Study
The different levels of education in the educational system of Nigeria include; pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary levels (Ughamadu, 2006). Geography is offered as a subject at the secondary level of education and as a course of study at the tertiary level. The current secondary system of education in Nigeria known as the 6-3-3-4 is made up of the Junior Secondary School (JSS) and the Senior Secondary School (SSS) systems. Geography is offered at the senior secondary level and in the third tier of the current educational system in Nigeria. Generally, the secondary level of education is designed to expose the learner to as many disciplines as possible in the Junior Secondary School (J.S.S) and then allows them to make choices of subjects in the Senior Secondary School level (S.S.S).
The core school subjects for the senior secondary school education as outlined by Akintade (2011) are Mathematics, English; one Nigerian language; one of Physics, Chemistry and Biology; one of literature in English, History and Geography and Agricultural Science as a vocational subject. Geography is thus grouped under section 4 (6A) as one of the core subjects at the senior secondary level and also as part of the body of elective subjects (Olanipekun, 1998). The optional subjects include:- Economics, Bible Knowledge, Arabic Studies, Art, Commerce, Book-Keeping, French, Government, Home-Economics, Islamic Studies, Typewriting, Music, Technical Drawing, Physical Education, Health Science, Wood Work and Shorthand. It is thus glaring that geography as a school subject is one of the core and most important subjects in secondary school education. This is noted by Abegunde (1998) as a measure of its relevance as a subject which enters readily into combination with other pre-requisite school subjects needed for various advanced professional studies. According to Akintade (2011) geography is as well relevant for both the students who are likely to continue to tertiary and those who will not proceed, this is because it equips students with a body of knowledge to make them functional and socially relevant in the fast changing world; it is a distinct and dynamic science and or social science discipline that deals with the study of man and his physical environment and therefore helps young people to appreciate the value of their environment and its vast natural resources. Abegunde (1998) further notes that as a subject, the relevance of geography relates to its versatile field of application to the solution of problems of spatial planning and environmental resources management. Furthermore, geography is expressive and intellectually stimulating and as well exhibits a correlation with all other school subjects (Akintade, 2011). It invariably therefore instills in the students the need to appreciate and develop a sense of responsibility towards their own society.
The strength of geography as a subject in the senior secondary school lies in the background training and opportunity it can provide to students who want to pursue different types of professions, among which are careers in self-employment, professional establishments, paid employment in government and industries and specialised professions (Abegunde, 1998). Geography is an essential field to every human being because it consists of knowledge of the world around us. The study of the distinctive characteristics of geography contributes to the balanced development of the individual. Harm (1999) opines that education that does not include geography will have a lot of social cost among which include: deprivation of young students of early awareness of spatial relationships; denial of students their early exposure to maps and diagrams and their uses; and it engenders a geographic illiteracy that will last till adult hood among others. Knowledge of geography and the ability to think geographically aids the individual in understanding and interpreting the realities of the world. Among the different components of secondary school geography, mapwork and diagram stands out very significantly. According to Sarah (2001), maps and diagram are not the whole of geography, but there can be no geography without them. Knowledge, skills and competencies acquired in map and diagrams associated teaching/learning facilitate effective teaching and learning of other aspects of secondary school geography. Mapwork and diagrams provides the basis for critical thinking in geography and facilitates quick understanding of changes that occur in space over time. It is equally with maps and diagram that spatial relation and spatial forms can best been seen and analysed. It also facilitates the understanding of Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) and Global Information System (GIS) based systems which are the modern navigational technologies that appear in our everyday life (Wigglesworth, 2003). Maps are therefore very important in senior secondary school Geography.
The increasing importance of mapwork and diagram in the society notwithstanding, the trend of performance in the mapwork and diagram aspect of geography in secondary school examinations conducted by the West African School Certificate Examination body is generally poor. The consistent poor achievement of candidates in the mapwork has been partly attributed to the low level of geography teachers’ competence in teaching the mapwork and diagram among other factors. WAEC, (2004 and 2005) Chief examiners’ reports observed that different categories of teachers with varying academic qualifications, areas of specialization, and teaching experience teach geography in secondary schools. The reports further indicate the candidates could perform better if they are well taught and guided by qualified geography teachers. This tends to suggest that students’ performance in mapwork and diagram could be improved if competent teachers are involved in teaching the subject. The proper implementation of any curriculum depends on the competence of the teachers. The saying that “no education can rise above the quality of its teachers” is very apt here (Fed. Min. of Edu. 2000), since the teacher is the most important of all inputs that go into educational provision. Aaronson, Barrow and Sander (2003) assert that education of the highest quality requires teachers of highest quality. This is true in respect of geography education as the quality of its teachers determine the outcome of the teaching in terms of students’ performance.