Background to the Study
Qualitative education remains the fulcrum for global development and freedom. Therefore all hands must be on deck worldwide to formulate policies that will enhance qualitative education right from elementary school to tertiary institutions and continuous, effective monitoring must be well established to check all factors that may frustrate this global pursuit. Hence, most societies require children to attend school for a special number of years or until they reach a certain age. Many of the benefits of schooling occur in part because students learn some new knowledge or skills that enhance their ability to communicate solve problems and make decisions.
Education is widely regarded as a basic human right, a key to enlightenment, and a great tool for human and society development. Education is the key factor to industrial and technological development of any country in the world. Knowledge holds key to the attainment of the millennium development goals, which include, food security, eradication of child mortality, and reduction of the spread of HIV and AIDS among others. For any Nation to achieve her aims and objectives in education there must be good, dedicated and committed teachers. The teachers must possess characteristics that will enhance effective teaching and learning.
Class size refers to an educational tool that can be used to describe the average number of students per class in a school (Adeyemi, 2008). This varies from country to country. Consequently efforts have continuously been made to improve on its teaching and learning especially at the post primary level so as to ensure a sound foundation for later/future studies. Despite these efforts, it has been painfully observed that students’ achievement in this subject in Nigeria still remains low (Maduemezia, 1996; Okoye, 1997).
Adesoji, 1999) have identified such factors as: class size, school location, teacher exposure, poor instructional methods, negative attitude of teachers, in adequate/ lack of teaching facilities and poor student background. Talking about class size, parents and educators universally identify it as a desirable attribute of successful school system hence the widely implementation of class size reduction initiatives. Despite this and the plethora of studies available, investigators remain divided on whether smaller classes actually have positive effects on student outcomes (Averett and McLennan, 2011). For instance, Afolabi (2002) investigating school factors and learner variables as correlates of senior secondary Christian religious studies achievement in Ikere found no significant relationship among class size and students’ learning outcomes.
Thus the divergent view on the effect of class size on achievement continues. The purpose of this investigation is to add to this discuss by specifically examining the effect of class size on the teaching and learning of Christian religious studies in senior secondary schools in Ikere Local Government Area of Ekiti State. The data to be generated in this preliminary study will serve as baseline information for not only future but a more detailed investigation on this contemporary issue.
Therefore, teachers play a major role in the educational sector and their role is a major determinant of educational attainment of any student. However, for anyone to qualify to be a teacher he or she must obtain degree or National Certificate in Education, during the course of study the pre –service teacher will be exposed to both pedagogy and content knowledge in his or her field of study; psychology and philosophy courses that will prepare him or her for the teaching assignment.
As school population increases, class sizes also increase, the performances of students become an issue. According to Dror (2005), class size has become a phenomenon often mentioned in the educational literature as an influence on pupil’s feelings and achievement, on administration, quality and school budgets. In his words he noted, that class size is almost an administrative decision over which teachers have little or no control. Most researchers start from the assumption that size of the class would prove a significant determinant of the degree of success of students. In fact, with the exception of a few, many studies have reported that under ideal situation, class size in itself appears to be an important factor. Class size refers to an educational tool that can be used to describe the average number of students per class in a school (Adeyemi, 2008). This varies from country to country.
Kedney (2009) saw it as a tool that can be used to measure the performance of the education system. In relation to size, Stepaniuk (2001) reported that the rational utilization of classroom space depends upon class-size. This in turn would depend upon the area of the classroom. He argued that there are approved norms of class-size, 40 pupils per class for grades 1 to 8 and 35 pupils per class for the senior classes; while the standard allocation of class space per pupil is 1:25 square metres. In this regard, Dean (2004) compared class-size in some countries and found that Turkey, Norway and Netherlands had class-sizes of 20 more; the UK, USA, Japan, Canada and Ireland had class-sizes of between 15 and 20 while France, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Italy, Luxembourg and Belgium had sizes of below 15.
In Nigeria, however, Okoro (2005) reported that the class-size in secondary schools ranges between 35 or40 students. He argued that few pupils per class are uneconomical, as they do not make full use of space, teachers and teaching materials. Adeyemi (1998) reported that average class-size influences the cost of education while capital cost could be reduced by increasing the average class-size in schools while Nwadiani (2000) argued that the higher the class-size, the lower the cost of education. He contended however, that most classrooms are over-crowded spreading resources thinly and thereby affecting the quality of education.
Ajayi (2000) supported the viewpoints and argued that in order to control rising capital cost of education, the average class-size could be increased. These points were also supported by Toth and Montagna (2002) who reported that the increase in enrollment in many institutions which has become major concerns of students could definitely lead to an increase in class size. Commeyras (2000) however, disagreed with these arguments and reported that effective teaching seems impracticable for teacher educators having large class sizes of 50, 75, 100 or more. In terms of outcomes, Schultz (1963) classified the outcomes of education into two categories from the economic point of view. These are consumption and investment.
Cohn (1975) referred to the consumption aspect as that related to benefits derived by students. He regarded the investment component as including a variety of outputs related to the enhancement of an individual’s or society’s productive skills. Thus, Blaug (1983) argued that the extension of education tends to raise the earnings of those who benefited from it. In this regard, Simkins (1981) reported that output “represents the immediate results of the system’s activities.” According to Adarelegbe (2003), “the main outputs in education are expressed in terms of learning, that is, changes in the knowledge, skills and attitudes of individuals as a result of their experiences within the educational system.” He argued that the educational system is a productive system in the very sense that it produces outputs especially various forms of learning. He expressed that the components of the system could be represented in a model viz: Input Process Output.
Explaining the model, he alleged that the various inputs are processed in the production of outputs. Examinations in Nigerian schools dated back to the advent of formal education. Since then examinations have occupied a central place in the Nigerian educational system .According to him, examination has been “the sole criterion of quality” in Nigeria and once a higher percentage of the pupils pass their external examinations, the school is considered to be of a high quality. The importance of examinations in Nigeria even extended beyond this point. This importance as entrenched in the Federal Government of Nigeria National Policy of Education was in the fact that all secondary schools should gear their programmes to meet the requirements of model, he alleged that the various inputs are processed examinations being conducted for the School Certificate.
Fafunwa (1974) argued that “it is an educational truism that examinations control the curriculum and whoever controls a country’s examination system controls its education.” The WAEC Ordinance emphasized the importance of standards in its examinations. According to the Ordinance, standards must be such that the certificates awarded on the basis of performance in the examinations shall not represent a lower standard of attainment when compared with equivalent certificates of other examining authorities. These examining authorities were the Cambridge and London Universities Examinations Boards for the WASC and GCE examinations respectively. Although the SSC examination has replaced the WASC and GCE examinations in Nigeria it still uses the GCE ‘O’ & ‘A’ level standards as its norms since it was pitched between the ‘O’ & ‘A’ level standards. The pattern of grading candidates’ score in the examinations was such that the distinctions grade was represented by A1 to B3. The credit grade was represented by C4 to C6. The ordinary pass grade was represented by D7 and E8 while the failure grade was represented by F9. It needs to be mentioned however, that the distinction and credit grades are the only requisite qualifications for admissions into universities in Nigeria and candidates must have at least five credits in five subjects including English Language in order to qualify for admission .The foregoing review has shown that class-size is a controversial educational tool that has varied from one country to another.
Several other related studies have tended to put more emphasis on the various predictors of student learning or achievement. Siegfried and Walstad (1990) found that study effort, age of a student, and a good match between student’s learning style and instructor’s teaching style have positive influences on student’s performance. Hancock (1996) in a study involving nine sections of a college statistics course (6 ‘normal’ sections and 3 ‘mega sections’ averaging 118 students) found no evidence that grade distribution was affected by class size, supporting the hypothesis that achievement was independent of class size. Hill (1998) investigated the effect of large sections (120 students) on student performance in an Accounting course and found that the size of the class did not have a significant effect on student performance. Contrary to expectations, the large class outperformed the small classes when controlling for attendance and university GPA. Hill concluded that large class size may be more of an expectations issue rather than a performance issue, since students reported that they felt the class size was too large.
Papo (1999) found that the size of the class taught does not have an impact on teaching effectiveness and the selection of teaching strategies by instructors. He concluded that teaching in large classes is not seen or perceived as a problem by students since the teaching and learning success may depend, in part, on what is taught. What the optimal size of class is for a particular course and teaching task remains a problem for continued research.
Okpala, et al. (2000) used the concept of the ‘education production function’ to analyze the effects of students’ study habits and academic effort on students’ performance in a Principles of Macroeconomics course. It was found that academic effort and study habits were significant in explaining academic achievement in four different sections of the course taught by the same instructor.
Skoro and Payne (1993) investigated whether assigning problem sets in economic principles courses increased learning and found no evidence that numerous short problem-set assignments had a direct effect on learning in a college economics course. However, the authors found a strong positive effect for class attendance in the experimental group.
Siegfried and Fels (1979) found that a student’s general aptitude is the most important determinant of learning and that socioeconomic background, prior economic courses, mathematical preparation, class size, textbooks and study effort did not seem to matter very much. Tay and Kennedy (1994), in a study involving large lecture classes, found that prior economics courses, gender, age, ethnic background, and being well prepared for classes significantly affected performance.
Durden and Ellis (1995) found that attendance did not matter for academic achievement in Principles of Economics course unless a student had missed four (or more) classes during the semester. The results also show no gender-related differences in student performance. Henry (1997) examined class schedule as a variable in student performance in a financial management course and found that students had a better chance of passing the course when a class was scheduled to meet more than once a week.
Academic performance of students especially at the secondary school level is not only a pointer to the effectiveness or otherwise of schools but a major determinant of the future of youths in particular and the nation in general. The medium through which the attainment of individuals and the nations educational goals can be achieved is learning. Learning outcomes have become a phenomenon of interest to all and this account for the reason why scholars have been working hard to unravel factors that militate against good academic performance (Aremu and Sokan 2002).
Statement of the Problem
Schooling has multiple purposes, for instance, higher levels of schooling are associated with higher earnings and economic mobility, better health, lower mortality rates, and greater participation in the leadership process in one’s immediate and the global community. In an attempt to put sound education on ground worldwide, many factors have been incriminated as being responsible for falling standard of education where it is perceived and established. Among such factors is the issue of classroom size. Fabunmi and Adeniyi (2007) pointed out that classroom congestion and low utilization rate of classrooms are common features of secondary schools in Nigeria. They have negative impact on both secondary school teacher productivity, student learning input and thus secondary school student academic performance. In particular, poor scholastic achievement can influence the reputation of a school because academic success is associated with the quality of the school. The alarming rate of failure in Ikere Local Government secondary school is highly embarrassing.
In view of the points above, the study focuses on class size and students’ academic performance of Christian religious studies students in Ikere Local Government Area of Ekiti State.
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