Background of the study
The significance of Geography as a school subject cannot be over emphasized. It combines with many school subjects – Arts, Social Sciences, Pure Sciences, Mathematical Sciences, Languages and Technical Education to make a child qualify for tertiary education in Nigeria and outside the country as well. Similarly, it has led to making of professionals in various fields of human endeavour – planning, administration, academics, catographic, hydrologic, climate, environmental and others – just to mention but a few. But there are complaints about the large scope and abstract nature of the subject. The complaints are widespread among students and teachers alike. That the subject is abstract is accentuated by the assumption that it is difficult to teach and learn about. More importantly, class size was one of the major problems been faced by teachers and students, and there are no readily available teaching aids for effective teaching and learning of geography.
It seems that geography teachers have no doubt that large size of classes is a prime impediment for the efficient geography teaching and learning. With more students enrolling in schools, large classes in a country like Nigeria and other developing countries like Egypt, India and Pakistan tend to be obligatory rather than exceptional. Therefore, the problem seems to expand widely. As a matter of fact, large classes are not in and of themselves an issue to look forward to with dread. Admittedly, they require a great intention and careful preparation from teachers before the teaching process takes place. Heppner (2007), views large classes as a small business which should be set up and handled carefully. Generally speaking, experienced geography teachers in general and teachers beginning teaching in particular find it onerous to manage a class with a big number of students with various levels and different personalities. Therefore, it is helpful for teachers to divert a lot of class responsibility to students and back up a little and that will give students space to teach each other.
Ozochie (2009) opines that class size is to be one of the crucial elements that are often considered by education planners in order to achieve the set out objectives in any educational system. This is because of the obvious negative implication of a crowded classroom on the teacher and the learners. He further reveals that to make the correct estimate of the resources needed is the function of population. This point suggests that the essence of having a definite number of learners in a classroom is to ensure that the resources (the teacher, the instructional materials, class space, seating arrangement) are adequately provided for smooth teaching and learning of geography.
Apart from the need for adequate provision of resources, effective teaching and learning seem to be the function of the teacher understanding the individual differences of each of the learners as this forms the basis for the appropriate teaching skill to be applied. Onah (2008) apparently notes in this regard that the essence of having a manageable class-size is to ensure that the understanding rate of each of the learners and their respective general background are put into consideration by the teacher in the course of his teaching.
The national policy on education revised in 2010 stipulates that the maximum teacher – student ratio is one teacher to thirty students (ratio 1:30). The obvious reason for this standard is to ensure that the teacher not only controls the class but also understands the learning capabilities of each of the learner in the classroom. Ozochie (2009) affirms that there is a limit to which a teacher can effectively control an overcrowded Classroom. Mulryan-Kyne (2010) defines an overcrowded or large class as “a class that is too large for effective teaching to occur”. Teachers’ perception of large class-size differs from one context to another. Hess (2001) assumes that a class is considered large if it has 35 students or more. As regard to Nigeria context, a class of 50 students is considered to be large, while in some far countries, such as Japan, China, Pakistan and India, a class of 80 students and more is deemed to be large. In contrast, small class-size is a class in which there is less or no concentration on class control and management of students’ delinquencies and deviances (Pong. et al, 2001).
Teaching and learning of geography, like every other subject requires observation and learners centered activities. In order to achieve the desired result, the teacher should ensure that he monitors the activities of the learner. As Heppner (2007) rightly notes and portrays class size as the entire instrument to ensuring child centered purposeful set of activities within a coherent and structured frame work. This cannot be achieved unless it can be translated into meaningful action. For Heppner, this requires more than simply presenting children with organized activities, rather, such becomes meaningful when the purpose of the activities becomes meaningful, explicit and shared between students’ and teacher under a class that could be managed effectively by the teacher.
In an overcrowded classroom, the learner-centered activities would pose great challenge to the teacher; hence the desired behavioral changes may not be easily achieved. It is therefore the focus of this study to examine class size and teaching / learning of geography in Ikere Local Government Area of Ekiti State.
Statement of the Problem
No one is absolutely certain whether small classes are inherently better than the large once in regard to the roles both classes play and their effectiveness on the process of geography teaching and learning. Therefore, finding a definition to an idealistic class size which could be applicable in almost all teaching and learning environment tends to be difficult. As school population increases class sizes also increase, the performances of students become an issue. Class size has become a phenomenon often mentioned in the educational literature as an influence on student’s feelings and achievement, on administration, quality and school budgets. Class size is almost an administrative decision over which teachers have little or no control. It is expected that students should be within the range of 25 and 30 in a class. 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 itself appears to be an important factor. Secondary schools in Ikere Local Government Area of Ekiti State today, the teacher – student ratio in some schools has gone far beyond the stipulation in the national policy on education. There are places where students stay more than fifty in each of the classes. The seating arrangements are altered, thereby making teaching and learning of geography difficult, add to what other researchers have written on class size, this study is set to investigate class size and teaching/learning of geography in Ikere Local Government Area of Ekiti State.