1.1 Background to the study
Biology is one of the major subjects offered at both the senior secondary school level and
higher institutions in Nigeria. Generally defined, Biology is the study of life. Biology as a subject
is of paramount importance to any nation, including the developing ones. It is an important
science subject in the Nigerian school system. According to the National Policy on Education
(NPE), of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in 2013, Biology belongs to the core subjects that
must be offered by students at the Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE). Also, a sound
working knowledge of Biology is a prerequisite for entrance into such professions as Medicine,
Pharmacy, Agriculture, Nursing and Biochemistry, to mention a few.
The importance of Biology, as a science subject in Nigerian schools, cannot be
overemphasized. A sound theoretical and practical knowledge of Biology is very necessary for
the management of our natural resources, provision of good health facilities for the masses,
adequate food supply and favourable life environment (Chukwuemeka, 2011). Among the so
many concepts learnt in Biology are environmental concepts, such as the natural environment,
natural resources, interdependence, pollution, solid waste disposal, degradation, population,
famine, health issues, energy conservation, global warming, deforestation and desertification,
and ozone depletion.
From time immemorial, human beings have focused on the environment for sustenance
and survival. From the agrarian period up to the industrial, and now to the revolutionary, human
beings have greatly focused their attention on harnessing environmental resources for survival
and sustenance/development. Thus, this has led to great strides in the area of technological
development and advancement over the years. There is no doubt therefore, that technological
advances in agriculture, industry, and transportation have greatly improved human life.
However, these activities, while providing the raw materials for production of goods and
services, have also resulted in pollution of land, atmosphere, vegetation and rivers. As in most
other countries of the world, the Nigerian environment today presents a grim litany of woes.
Every state of the federation suffers from one form of environmental problem or the other in
varying degrees, from wind erosion in the northern part of the country to water erosion in the
southern part of the country. Urban cities and towns in Nigeria are increasingly threatened by
pollution of air and water as well as an improper disposal of solid waste while the rural areas are
plagued by soil erosion, deforestation, and bush burning (NEST, 1991).
The interaction of man and his environment has resulted in the imbalance within the
ecosystem. This imbalance is manifested in various environmental problems like air pollution,
water pollution and land pollution, oil spillage, gas flaring, desertification, flooding, soil erosion,
bush burning and indiscriminate waste disposal (Ogunbiyi, 2007). The rate of environmental
deterioration has gone so far as affecting the climate with resultant effects on ways of life,
survival and health of man.
Poverty and illiteracy are causes as well as consequences of environmental degradation
(Babalola, Babalola and Okhale, 2010). The high level of poverty and illiteracy in Africa is
directly linked to the current level of environmental pollution and degradation in the continent.
The poor and the illiterate are often more interested in issues related to their daily survival than
environmental management. This lack of interest and awareness often lead to a more reckless
environmental behaviour which in turn breeds more environmental problems and leads to a
vicious cycle of poverty. This attitude is attributed to lack of education on environmental issues.
In the modern science and technology age, the demand on environment can no longer be
maintained by haphazard traditional conservation practices. Consequently, there is the need for a
more conscious and deliberate form of conservation that will bring about more effective
environmental use (Nwobi, 2010). This has called for the need for public enlightenment and
versatile educational processes in the country.
Education has been recognised a very effective means that can be used to bring about
change. Education in Nigeria is an instrument ―par excellence‖ for effecting national
development (FRN, 2004). It is also the greatest investment that a nation can make for the quick
development of its economic, political, sociological and human resources. It was in realization of
this that a National Policy on Education was formulated for the country. The policy seeks the
inculcation of national consciousness and national unity; the inculcation of the right type of
values and attitudes for the survival of the individual and the Nigerian society; the training of the
mind in understanding the world around; and the acquisition of appropriate skills, abilities and
competence both mental and physical, as equipment for the individual to live in and contribute to
the development of his society.
Environment is of utmost importance to life. It is concerned with the surroundings in
which we live. As such, protection of our environment is everyone‘s duty (Medayese, 2009).
Again, environmental awareness is a pre-condition for pro-environmental behaviour and
sustainable environmental management (Babalola, Babalola and Okhale, 2010). Apparently, the
need to protect the environment is pertinent. The 1992 United Nations Conference on the
Human Environment ―Stockholm Conference‖ and the 1992 United Nigeria Conference on
Environment and Development (UNCED) came up with AGENDA 21 which spelt out the
strategies for improving the quality of the environment. This document emphasized the need for
environmental education as a weapon that could be used by all nations to arouse people‘s
consciousness, positively change their attitudes and instil in them those values and skills that can
promote effective environmental management (UNESCO, 1992). With access to environmental
information, the people have full knowledge of the implications of their activities on the
environment and are able to participate more effectively in decision making processes that affect
the environment (UNESCO, 1992).
The goal of Environmental Education is to develop a world population that is aware of,
and concerned about, the environment and its associated problems, a world population that has
the knowledge, skills, attitudes, motivations and commitment to work individually and
collectively towards solving current environmental problems and preventing of new ones. The
school system provides the largest organized base for environmental education and action. It
offers an effective instrument for embedding in students the desirable environmental ethics
(Medayese, 2009). Absence of Environmental Education (EE) in the school curriculum may
contribute greatly to the improper use of the environment, as evidenced by the general public‘s
lack of environmental responsibility and accountability (Ajiboye and Silo, 2008). With proper
education the practice of treating the environment with disdain will gradually become
EE focuses on awareness and sensitivity about the environment and environmental
challenges; knowledge and understanding about the environment and environmental challenges;
attitude and concern for the environment; maintain environmental quality; skills to mitigate the
environmental problems; participation for exercising existing knowledge and environmental
related programs (Amuyou, Okon and Oko, 2013). One of the current trends within
Environmental Education seeks to move from an approach of ideology and activism to one that
allows students to make informed decisions and take actions based on experience as well as data.
Within this process, environmental curricula have progressively been integrated into
governmental education standards. Some environmental educators find this movement
distressing while others find this approach more valid and accessible
Environmental attitudes are related to environmental practices. Environmental practices are
those actions people can take to improve the environment‘s performance. There is the need to
recognize that our long-term social and economic well-being depends on the well-being of a lifesupporting environment. It is not news that good environmental practices make good economic
sense (Gelberg, 2010). The actual environmental practices of the people are a necessary factor
towards the attainment of a clean and healthy environment. Ajiboye and Ajitoni (2008), in their
study, posit that Nigerians are at best indifferent to the environment. Houdre (2008) has made it
clear that the prime reason for implementing environmental practices is geared towards
profitability; delivering good environmental performance is integral to man‘s day-to-day
activities. Environmental practices should be geared towards sustainable use of the natural
resources for both the present and future generations. It is assumed that beliefs and
misconceptions, which young people have, tend to stick with them for a long period later in life.
Statement of problem
Despite the awareness that is being propagated towards sustaining the environment, man
has persistently exhibited harmful practices and negative attitude towards the environment. This
attitude is attributed to lack of awareness through environmental education that is needed to
create good orientation to environmental issues. The persistent poor achievement of students in
environmental concepts in Biology is an evidence to support this.
Students, although exposed to instructions about the environment, still exhibit poor performance,
negative attitude and harmful practices towards the environment. They are unable to tackle
simple problems in their environment. Several factors have been identified as being responsible
for this situation in Biology and other related sciences. These include the use of lecture method,
laboratory-based reasons, misconceptions of concepts and gender stereotype. Researchers have
suggested various teaching strategies, such as the use of Video Compact Disc, audiocassette,
guided discovery, values clarification, outdoor activities, enter-educate, amongst others which
have not yielded sufficient positive results, as evidenced in the performance of students in
environmental concepts in Biology in external examinations.
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