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Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Causes of Students' Poor Performance in Science Subjects in Our Secondary Schools


Of late, students' performance in Sciences in secondary schools have come under severe critism. Also the number of students offering subjects such as Chemistry, Physics and Further Mathematics and Biology are made optional subjects, a good number of students will abandon them.
In trying to examine some of the factors affecting students performance, the following will be considered:
- Teachers' Qualification
- Presence of Laboratories/Laboratory equipment.
- Practical lessons/demonstration.
- Provision of textbooks.
- Number of periods allotted to science subjects.

Teachers' Qualification:

Many teachers handling science subjects hold the National Certificate in Education (N.C.E). For some reasons, it has been discovered that a good majority of these category of teachers are not well equipped to teach these science subjects.
For the bachelor of science degree holders, the paper qualifications is there but because the laboratories in some of our universities have huge question marks attached to them, the teachers who passed through them are handicapped. Also many of those teacher's in schools take to teaching as a stop-gap and are really not meant to be teachers. Finally, with what is happening, in our higher institutions, cheat-students graduates into cheat-teachers, who encourages students to cheat. They have nothing to offer.

Availability of laboratories laboratory equipment:

In many schools, they are no functional laboratories. Many of the schools during inspection for approval, circumvent the laid down rules by borrowing both teachers and equipment and these disappears shortly after.
In some schools, especially mainly private schools, what they use as laboratories are shameful. It is very strange to see student who passes through a secondary school, offered chemistry, but have not seen a conical flask, sulphur, mercury etc, and students who offered physics have not seen a 2-volt battery, a Wheatstone bridge etc. The students are assumed to have seen and worked with all these. Some say that what you see registers in your head than what you hear.

Practical Demonstration/Lessons:

This is closely related to 1 & 2 above. When a teacher is not well equipped to teach, qualification and knowledge-wise, and has a poor laboratory to work in, he cannot conduct science demonstration in class, and cannot also conduct good practical lessons. It is common that some principals of school do not feel comfortable when spending money for equipment/chemicals except when the WAEC/NECO examination instructions have been received. Without this class demonstration and practical lesson, teaching science subjects descend to the level of story telling which is not supposed to be.

Period Allotted to Science Subjects on the time table:
A closer look at the course content of sciences reveals that they are vasts. If one considers the actual time, at the disposal of both the Teachers and students, to cover the course content one discovers that the third term of secondary (senior secondary is completely lost to the WAEC/NECO examinations. Other activities as inter-house sport break etc, also reduce the actual teaching time left. To make an effort to cover the course content, two double-periods (140/100 minutes) a week allotted to the sciences are not enough. This is because ideally, one double period should be used for practicals, leaving one for teaching. The end result is that the syllabus is not well covered, and this militates against students performance because they cannot handle questions from all parts of the syllabus.
Any person involved in the education of children knows that textbook are "Sine qua non" for proper growth in any subject. The teacher can teach, give notes and assignments but his notes cannot replace the textbook. The students need something to refer to. The notes cannot be enough simply because even some text books are not complete. To make matters worse, the libraries are not what they should be, both for the public and private schools. Students who do not use textbooks are like farmers who go to farm without cutlasses and hoes. This affects the performance of students in the sciences.


To improve students performance in the sciences, only suitable qualified teachers should be employed. Prospective teachers should write serious examination and undergo vigorous interviews. Employment of teachers should not be for those "available". Those on the job should be sponsored for refresher courses, seminars and workshops.
Standard Laboratories should be put in place, and school heads/Government/proprietors should endeavor to provide equipment and chemicals to sustain the laboratories. Teachers should be encouraged to improve on their teaching by carrying out class demonstration and practical lesson.
While encouraging parents to provide textbooks for their wards in school, effort should be made to motivate the teachers, so as to involve them in extra-classes to enable them cover the syllabus. This is in Vogue in many well known private schools which are often acclaimed to be very good. In public schools, this is a taboo because they hide under the dreaded illegal levy syndrome. There are no more science allowances or any motivation and teachers are expected to spend their holiday or evenings in the classrooms without anything to show for it. These days, many people are not ready to work for free because the children have to be clothed, sent to hospital, sent to school and food put on the table for the family.


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