Background of the Study
The future of every nation including Nigeria lies in the quality of education given to the citizenry. For every developing nation to attain and sustain national development, a well planned and implemented science and technology education remains the only essential tool for her national development (Tafi, 2016). This is because individuals who acquire scientific and technological literacy, think innovatively and rationally, thus enabling them to conduct themselves within the global acceptable standard. Science is therefore an integral part of every educational endeavour. This was the main idea why the Federal Republic of Nigeria in her National Policy on Education (FRN, 2004) emphasized the teaching and learning of science at all levels of educational system across the country. Biology as a natural science subject, deals with contents from microscopic organisms to the biosphere in general, encompassing the earth’s surface and all living things (Okwo and Tartiyus, 2004). Looking at the fundamental characteristics and importance of biology, it is today viewed as a standard subject of instruction at all levels of our educational systems, from pre-primary to tertiary. It is the only core science subject at Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSCE), whose study is very relevant to man’s successful living (Akindele, 2009).
Biology is the science of life it studies organisms, their interactions with one another and their environments. All living organisms share several key properties such as order, sensitivity or response to stimuli, reproduction, growth, development, regulation, homeostasis and energy. Biology is related to many things in human’s daily life, it is a perquisite for certification at the senior secondary school level (SSCE) and for admission into the tertiary institution for most science oriented courses that will pursue careers in science related fields such as medicine, nursing, pharmacy, nutrition, medical laboratory etc. Biology as a science subject is studied or taught by using different methods which employs the use of all sense organs including olfactory (smell), gustatory (taste), auditory (hearing), kinesthetic (skin),and optical (seeing) of which only the application of theory in teaching and learning could not yield 100-percent accuracy without the use of laboratory resources. Thus, effective teaching and learning of biology in secondary schools with the use of laboratory resources is very necessary if biology teachers must gainfully achieve stated objectives.
Laboratory is a room, building or part of a building that is specially built for teaching by demonstration of theoretical phenomenon into practical terms. The laboratory experience enables students to translate what seems to be abstract into practical realities, thereby enhancing their understanding of the learning process. The study of biology in secondary schools takes place in laboratories. This is to enable easy access and usage of material resources stocked in the laboratories for teaching and learning, not only during practical classes but also during normal classroom teaching. Biology adopts laboratory method of teaching. The laboratory method is an individual or group activity involving two-way approach namely: the exercise approach and the experimental approach. Okoli & Osuafor (2010) pointed out that this method offers students the opportunity to develop scientific skills and attitude such as objectivity, communication, questioning, formulating hypothesis, analyzing data, critical thinking, carefulness, open-mindedness, making inference and analyze data. Scientific skills can only be effectively developed if biology laboratory resources are effectively utilized.
Science is a special type of discipline with peculiar characteristics, the prominent among which is the approach through which knowledge is sought. This approach is known as scientific method. Scientific method is a logical, rational and systematic process by which knowledge in science is acquired. The steps involved in scientific method are observation, hypotheses, predictions, experimentations, conclusion and host of others (Ezeh, 2013). Science is both a process (scientific method) and a product (knowledge, fact and principles) (Ezeh, 2013). Both the process and product of science are acquired through education and this is specialized type of education such as science education. Science plays important roles in the society because it relates to our daily life and career. The importance of science in our society made the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Federal Ministry of Education to introduce science subjects in the nation’s secondary school curriculum. Biology is one of such subjects introduced. Biology is a branch of science that deals with the study of living things, which includes human-beings (Michael, 2012). Biology has many branches which include; zoology, botany, ecology, genetics, morphology, anatomy, physiology, histology, microbiology, evolution, cell biology to mention but a few. Many societal issues are biology-based. These include biodiversity, genetically modified organisms, reproductive technologies, prolongation of life, food production, tourism industry (biological gardens) and processing industries. All of these issues have involved improvements that meet human needs and so this twentieth century has been considered as ‘the age of biology’ (Reiss, 1998). The knowledge of biology helps in checking environmental degradation such as desertification, erosion, water hyacinth, land, air and water pollution. The cardinal objectives of biology education are to prepare students to acquire: adequate laboratory and field skills in biology; meaningful and relevant knowledge in biology; ability to apply scientific knowledge to everyday life in matter of personal and community health and agriculture; lastly reasonable and functional scientific attitudes (Federal Ministry of Education, 2004). Despite the importance of biology, students’ achievement in the subject from West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) has been poor (Glasson, 2009). Available data on students’ performance in biology in School Certificate revealed that on the average, more than 80 percent of students scored below credit level in the past three years in the WASSCE; the aspects of biology which students find difficult in WASSCE are practical questions on food test, examples carbohydrates, proteins and fats/oils, this indicates that students lack basic practical principles such as observation, and interpretation of the specimens provided for the examination (WAEC Chief Examiners Report, 2011, 2012 & 2013).
Statement of the Problem
Teaching and learning of biology ought to be simplified, comprehensive and concrete. Extensive use of laboratory resources makes biology interesting, stimulating and understandable to the learners. The success of biology students in secondary schools largely depends on the availability and effective utilization of available human and material resources.
Biology as a science subject is faced with some problems, such as: the increasing number of students’ enrollment in science subjects in secondary schools which puts pressure on the limited qualified teachers available to reduce the time allotted to practical classes to the minimal or even omit practical activities .Teachers find it difficult during laboratory activities to supervise and teach large classes and combine the practicals effectively with normal class lessons. Students on their part have the problem of comprehending what is taught without the complementary laboratory activities in biology. Most laboratory resources are either lost, damaged or carelessly stored. Storage facilities are not even available in some secondary schools. In some cases, students are not allowed to make use of biology laboratories due to fear of losing valuable materials through stealing in the laboratory, the number of professional teachers in secondary schools are limited whereas competent and experienced teachers cannot give hundred percent of their time, energy and resources to biology practicals due to limited quantity of materials
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