UTILIZATION OF LABORATORY FACILITIES AND STUDENTS’ PERFORMANCE IN BIOLOGY PRACTICAL
1.1. Background to the Study
Science subjects have become a very important part of the school curriculum in Nigeria.
The three most popular branches studied in Nigerian secondary schools are Biology, Chemistry
and Physics. Practical work is the backbone of effective science teaching and learning. It has
been repeatedly emphasized that scientific enterprise is an activity packed one, involving
continuous exploration and verification of facts (Alebiosu, 2003).
Science is learnt by doing, dealing with investigation of nature, so the different schools
curricular adequately provide for practical activities at every stage of learning experiences.
Science is experimentation and its teaching especially focuses on making students learn through
the workings of hands, brain and the heart (Alebiosu, 2003). Biology however is known to have
the largest population of students. This is obvious from the students’ enrolment for their final
examinations in Nigerian secondary schools (Ndu, 1980). The students’ performances at external
examinations organized by both West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and National
Examinations Council (NECO) do not however show a positive relationship between the desire
to study biology and the students’ competences at the end of their studies (Sadiq, 2007).
However, education the world over has been identified as one of the vehicles for the
development of any nation. It is also an instrument for creating awareness and instrument for
future development of any individual, while school is a formal place where learners are being
taught and inculcated with various knowledge and skills necessary for capacity development
which eventually lead to national development (Yakubu, 2005).
The structure of Biology as a science subject is made up of two components namely content and
methods or practical techniques (Mogbo, 1992). In learning this subject therefore, a pupil is said
to be familiar with, and have a good grasp with the basic scientific concepts and principles. Also
abilities and skills with respect to basic scientific processes of observation, classification,
measuring, collection and interpretation of data, inferring, application, hypothesizing and
experimentations are supposed to be acquired in the course of learning Biology (Abdullahi,
1982). It is in the domain of methods of learning the science of Biology that these scientific
processes are learned.
Science and technology which are often recognized as the basic tools for industrialization
and national development could bring economic and social happiness by providing employment
and improving the welfare of the citizenry (Oyekan, 1993). For the development of individuals
and social life natural sciences were included in secondary education for specialized professional
studies which will also have a positive effect on technological growth The instructional value of
graphical illustrations lies generally in their capacity to attract attention and convey certain types
of information in condensed form (Onasanya and Adegbija, 2007). Similarly, Hofstein &
Mamlok-Naaman (2007) pointed out that: Both the content and pedagogy of science learning and
teaching are being scrutinized and new standards intended to shape and rejuvenate science
education are emerging. In Biology, theory and practical demonstration of knowledge are closely
linked in that deficiency in one aspect adversely affects competence in the other.
Science has become a very important part of Nigerian secondary school curriculum. The
more popular subjects are Chemistry, Physics and Biology. Over the years the enrolments of
students in public examination conducted by the West African Examination Council (WAEC)
shows that Biology is most preferred to the other science subjects (Sorunke, 1982).
The examinations organized by the two bodies that organize SSCE examinations West
African Examinations Council (WAEC) and the National Examinations Council (NECO)
demand that the candidates should respond to questions on both theoretical knowledge and
practicals. The results of such examinations have shown that the candidates probably lack the
competence expected of them since the rate of failure in the two organized exams is relatively
high (Sadiq, 2007).
It is necessary to note that mastery of practical techniques in Biology has a relationship
with availability of equipment and ability to use such equipment and other laboratory facilities
(Mogbo, 1992). This is so because the processes and skills in Biology can be carried out and
mastered by appropriate and adequate laboratory facilities (Pritchard, 1990).
The role of science is being threatened by poor performance of students in practical tasks in
internal and external examinations (Balogun, 1986). People however, have given various reasons
for this poor performance of students and these range from inadequate resources, non availability
of laboratory facilities, large classes, in adequate time allocation, poor science teaching due to
teachers’ incompetence and poor commitment to students’ poor attitude to learning (Sorunke,
1.2 Statement of the Problem
There is a relationship between theoretical knowledge (concepts, principles) and practical
techniques (methods) in Biology. The performance of students in Biology in SSCE over the past
few years in the study area has not been impressive. This is shown in the WAEC results of the
years 2008, 2009 and 2010 for Biology which has shown a considerable rate of failures in the
grades obtained during the years in review (see appendix F).
It is against this background that this research examined the levels of availability and
utilization of laboratory facilities for teaching Biology in senior secondary schools in order to
determine the effect of availability and utilization of laboratory facilities on students’
performances in practical Biology