Background of the Study
Agriculture deals with the production of food for the benefit of man. It involves a set of activities that transform the environment for the production of animals and plants for human use. The different branches of agriculture directly or indirectly help in making food available for man. Ekemode (2002), listed the different branches of agriculture to include soil science, crop science, animal science, forestry, horticulture, fishery, agricultural engineering, agricultural economics and extension among others. Agriculture is also studied as an important branch of applied science relating to plants, animals and soil which deal directly with food production in agriculture.
Agriculture is of great importance to individuals, industries and to national development. It affects every aspect of man’s daily life. The body needs food from agriculture to stay healthy and productive. Yusuf (2005), said that lack of food for man means low production in every sector of the economy and every career be it law, medicine, engineering, pharmacy and others. Industries are supplied with raw materials from agriculture for the production of goods utilized by man. Generally, agriculture supplies mankind with the basic necessities of life such as food, shelter and clothing and also provides employment opportunities to people. Agriculture is also important for the technological development of a country.
Agricultural knowledge has contributed much technologically. According to Manyong and Ikpi (2005), agricultural knowledge provides scientists with the basic nature of each agricultural product and how to handle it. They explained that modern techniques in harvesting, processing, grading and storing some agricultural products which largely depend on the nature of the product have been invented by agriculturists using different technological means. Agricultural researchers have also contributed to technological development by tackling the problems of storage and preservation of perishable farm produce through processing, refrigeration, freezing and chemical treatment for stored produce, all in a bid to make food available for man as the body without food cannot function effectively. Okoruwa (2005) therefore stated that the economic prosperity of a nation depends to a large extent on its ability to feed the population. The inclusion of agriculture in the school curriculum as a school subject in Nigeria was therefore a welcome development as it would help to train and produce more people who would take up occupations in agriculture thereby producing more food for the people and more materials for the industries.
Agriculture as a school subject is taught at different levels of the education system in Nigeria, one of which is the primary school education level. Primary school is the first level of formal education. The Federal Government of Nigeria (2004), explained in the National Policy on Education (NPE) that primary school education is the education given in institutions for children aged 6 to 11 plus. The rest of the education system is built upon the primary education level, thereby making it the key to the success or failure of the whole education system in a country. No nation’s education system can rise above the quality of its primary education as no house can be stronger than the foundation on which it rests (Olanrewaju, 2007). The role of primary school education therefore is to lay the foundation of the education system thereby laying good foundations for all school subjects. This implies that if a good foundation is laid in the teaching and learning of agriculture at the primary school level, there are likely not to be many challenges at the subsequent levels. Primary school education comprises the junior and senior primary education levels which run from primaries one to primary six (1 to 6). However, this study will focus on the senior primary education level which runs from primary four to six (4 to 6) because at this level English language is used as the language of instruction.
Agriculture is taught at the primary school level as a school subject with some objectives to achieve. The objectives of teaching agriculture at the primary school level include: to enable pupils develop interest in agriculture; acquire basic knowledge and skills of agriculture; apply the knowledge and skills acquired to meet societal needs and take advantage of the numerous career opportunities offered by agriculture; and become prepared for further studies in agriculture, (Federal Ministry of Education 2007). However, according to Obioma (2008), the achievement of the goals of teaching agriculture in schools has not been quite successful as most students show negative interest towards agriculture and every activity connected with it in schools. He said that if nothing is done to reverse the negative interest of students in agriculture, it might spell doom for the country’s effort at achieving food security for the citizens.
Interest is a show of like or dislike towards something or somebody. According to Okoro (2006), interest simply refers to the act of showing favourable curiosity or concern about something. Worker (1999), defined interest as a social construction developing within the dynamic relationship between the individual and the situation. Pupils’ interest in learning are associated with pupils’ anxiety to learn. Ezema (2002), referred to interest as an individual’s reaction, feelings, and impressions about something and its related tasks or situation. In education, interest means a state of wanting to learn or know something. It is a strong desire for knowledge or quality that arouses concern, curiosity or power to hold students’ attention. Interest may be in the positive or negative form. Abonyi (2005), explained that when interest is in the positive form, it leads to likeness and curiosity to the learning task while negative interest leads to hatred to the learning task or subject matter, truancy and total dropout from school. Pupils’ interest in this study entails a show of like or dislike towards the study of agriculture demonstrated through responses on an interest inventory.
Interest is a driving force in education. Nwagwu (1999), stated that positive interest correlates positively with high performance in school subjects while negative interest correlates with low performance. However, high performance in a subject could stimulate positive interest while low performance produces hatred to the learning task. It therefore implies that such teaching strategies which could enhance pupils’ achievement in school subjects at the primary school level should be evolved, as any foundation laid at this level is sustained up to other levels of schooling.
Achievement means to accomplish or attain a level successfully by making some efforts. Achievement as defined by Akale (2001), is the level of knowledge, skills or accomplishment in an area of endeavour especially by making an effort for a period of time. Academic achievement therefore connotes the level of knowledge or skills attained in school subjects which is ascertained through the pupils’ scores on achievement tests. Academic achievement is defined in this study as the level of knowledge attained or acquired by the pupils in agriculture ascertained through the pupils’ scores on achievement tests in agriculture.
The academic achievement of pupils in agriculture has been a matter of great concern to many researchers, parents and educationists. It has been observed that in spite of the importance of agriculture as the key to food security, pupils continue to achieve below expectation in the subject in school examinations. Generally, poor academic achievement has been observed in primary school subjects including agriculture. The performance of the pupils in the Summative Primary Six Continuous Assessment scores as gathered from Imo State Universal Basic Education Board (IMSUBEB 2010) shows the average failure rate of the pupils in agriculture in the years 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 as 52.3%, 55.2%, 62%, 49.8%, and 54.6% respectively. The poor performance in agriculture by the pupils at the primary school level also reoccurs at the secondary school level. This is evidenced by the performance of Imo State students in the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSSCE) conducted by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) for secondary school students. WAEC results for the state show the average percentage credit pass in Agriculture in the years 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 as 48.69%, 43.46%, 45.58%, 34.45%, and 44.82% respectively (WAEC Annual Reports 2010.) The above results are evidences of underachievement occasioned by certain reasons.
Many authors have tried to give reasons for the continued poor academic achievement of pupils in agriculture over the years. Olaitan (1987), attributed the poor performance to inadequate competent teachers of agriculture in the schools. Obi (2006), said that the underachievement of the pupils in agriculture is due to inadequate equipment and facilities for teaching agriculture in the schools while Obioma (2008), also attributed the poor performance to inadequate financial resources in the schools. However, many researchers have not bothered to look into the issue of language of instruction as a factor in underachievement of pupils in agriculture in schools.
Language is the system of communication in speech and writings used by a particular group of people. According to Ogbuehi (2009), language is the expression of ideas by means of speech sounds combined into words. Language is a vehicle used to pass on knowledge. Language in its spoken and written forms remains the commonest means of communication and therefore the central instrument of education (Kanu, 2006). Language plays very significant role in the teaching and learning process. The modern education system is essentially verbal and the child is not only taught the language of communication but is taught to be able to understand the language well since much of what he is taught in school is communicated through the use of language (Emenanjo, 2006)). According to Umoru- Onuka (2002), language as a medium of communication determines largely the success of any educational programme. The author maintained that language is the vehicle of thinking that helps a child to understand whatever knowledge that is being presented to him, hence language and thought are intricately interwoven. Language helps to pass information to people. Language is the vehicle through which ideas and culture are communicated to people (Elliot, Kratochwill, Cook and Travers 2000). Abdullahi (1990), stated that higher and intellectual processes such as thinking, reasoning and problem solving involve language. It therefore implies that to prevent a child from stunted academic growth, the child should acquire a high degree of linguistic and communicative competence in the language of instruction. The languages for instruction in this study are Igbo language and English language. Igbo language is referred to as the mother tongue, language of the environment or a familiar language in this study while English language is referred to as a foreign or second language.
English language is a foreign language and therefore the second language of the pupils in Nigeria and Imo State in particular. It has been the medium of instruction for the pupils at the middle basic education level (primary 4 to 6) for teaching and learning school subjects that at times the use of the local languages are banned in some schools. Chumbo (2000), and Nwadike (2002), noted that the use of English language as a medium of instruction in the primary school system has immense effect on the pupils as the learner is placed in a situation of learning to a reasonable extent, the grammar and phonology of the second language before being able to communicate effectively in it. Moreover, with instruction in English language and the use of vernacular forbidden in most classrooms, pupils do not seem to demonstrate curiosity, manipulation, spontaneous flexibility, originality, initiative, industry, manual dexterity, comprehension, skills and attitudes acquired naturally in the mother tongue; hence, pupils lack the confidence, initiative, resourcefulness and adaptability required to perform well in schools subjects. The pupils therefore struggle with the difficulty of understanding the pattern and structure of English language before trying to understand the content of the subject matter. Such children get alienated from the culture of their people. Benson (2004a), and Oshokoya (2005), opined that the language of instruction should necessarily be the language in which the child has the highest linguistic facility for effective oral communication which could be the language of the environment or a familiar language.
The language of the environment in this study is Igbo language. Igbo language is one of the three major Nigerian languages spoken mostly by the people in the South Eastern Nigeria which is made up of Abia State, Anambra State, Ebonyi State, Enugu State and Imo State. It is also spoken by some communities in the South-South region of Nigeria found in Delta State, Rivers State, Bayelsa State and Akwa Ibom State. According to Nwadike (2002), Igbo language is effective for teaching and learning as it facilitates meaningful learning especially among the speakers and has the ability to interpret science and technology concepts appropriately as other languages of the world. Igbo language is most times, the mother tongue or the first language of the speakers. Benson (2007), stated that mother tongue is the language which fully identifies with the personal or native culture of a bilingual or multilingual person. The mother tongue is the language in which a person conducts everyday activities and has intuitive knowledge and greatest linguistic facility in it. Such language could therefore facilitate learning of abstract concepts.
However, according to the Federal Government of Nigeria (2004), in her NPE, the mother tongue of the pupils or the language of the environment should be the language of instruction for the pupils from primary one to three after which from primary four, English language should progressively be used as the language of instruction up to primary six. Oderinde (2005), noted that the practice of introducing English language – a foreign language too early to the Nigerian child and weaning them on the mother tongue or language of the environment too early in schools alienates children from their mother tongue and indigenous culture. Such alienation according to the author leads to confusion of thought and language, and adoption of non-discriminatory attitude towards foreign cultural influences. The restriction of the role of mother tongue as a medium of instruction to the junior primary education is rather unfortunate and basically, the perpetuation of the colonial spirit by the ruling elites (Adegbite, 2004). Some mother tongues have been used successfully in many countries of the world as media of instruction in both primary and post primary schools with good results. For example, India and China who use mother tongue based instruction or familiar language for instruction in schools have risen to be world powers technologically. It is therefore necessary to determine if the use of a familiar language for instruction (mother tongue- based instruction) could achieve meaningful results in other parts of the world like Nigeria and specifically, Imo state.
In Hong Kong (China), primary education instruction is in one of the mother tongues (Cantonese) while a great deal of secondary and university education involves a considerable amount of English language. The decision to increase the use of Cantonese in secondary and higher schools was greeted with protest from parents, students, teachers and administrators as a result of colonial mentality that English language is the best language for learning. Moreover, the people were ignorant of the ability of some mother tongues to enhance learning (Ndamba, 2004). However, Lao and Krashen (2009), reported that in the same Hong Kong, while pupils in English language- medium instruction (EMI) were more passive in class, those in Chinese medium classes were more active and creative in class discussions and that pupils in the Chinese medium performed better in both Chinese and English than their counterparts in the English language- medium classes on the Hong Kong Certificate of Education. This report stands to attest to the effectiveness of some languages of the environment or mother tongues in enhancing learning.
Mother tongue –based instruction could be of immense benefit that some scholars such as Fafunwa (2003), and Makinde (2004), suggested that science and other school subjects should totally be taught in the mother tongue. The Ife Six-Year Primary Education Project of 1970 – 1978 reported by [Fafunwa, Macaulay and Oshokoya, 1989] has been the boldest experiment on the use of mother tongue (Yoruba) as a medium of instruction in Nigeria. The authors acknowledged that mother tongue- based instruction in school could enhance learning. Afolayan (2002), described the mother tongue as the only language of a monolingual person which meets all the linguistic needs and usually the sequentially first language of a bilingual or multilingual person.
Mother tongue which is one’s native language is learned unconsciously at an early age before starting school. The development of the child psychologically is closely bound with the continued use of the language of the parents, siblings, friends, peer group and the people to which the child is used to. Feelings and emotions are easily expressed in the mother tongue or language of the environment as the child acquires the first life experiences in such language (Oshokoya, 2005). Benson (2007), emphasized that the use of mother tongue or a familiar language for instruction enhances debates, discussions, creative, abstract and critical thinking in children. The use of such language as a medium of instruction at the primary school level makes it possible for the linguistic skills already developed in the first language to be transferred to the learning of a second language when it is used at the upper levels of education, thereby helping pupils to become bilinguals (Rwambiwa, 2007). Genesse (1997), explained bilingualism as a person’s ability to possess and speak two languages while bilingual mother tongue based schooling uses the learner’s first language for instruction and the other languages are taught as school subjects. In this study, the language of the environment which is Igbo language (mother tongue) and English language (second language) will be used for teaching the pupils to determine which of the languages that enhances more learning of facts and ideas by the children.
The use of the mother tongue (a familiar language) for instruction in schools is based on the sociocultural theory of learning which combines the social environment and cognition. A child’s development cannot be separated from its social context and language plays a central role in the development of a child. The use of a familiar language or mother tongue-based instruction in schools is therefore important as it could provide the rich environment which motivates pupils’ active participation and discussion in a learning situation and encourage both genders to contribute meaningfully in school subjects like agriculture.
Gender influences pupils’ performance in most school subjects. Gender is a sense of awareness of being male and female. It has to do with personality and central components of self-concept (Lahley, 2003). According to Okoro, (2006), disparities usually exist in the levels of achievement between male and female students’ achievement in vocational education. This may be the reason the number of males usually out number that of the females offering vocational education subjects in schools.
The location of a school also influences the achievement of the students in school subjects. In most cases, students in the schools located in the urban areas perform higher than their counterparts in the rural area located schools. This could be due to the existence of some performance enhancing indices in the urban schools as most urban schools do usually have more materials for teaching and more qualified staff among others. However, Benson (2004a), stated that the use of a familiar language in delivering instructions in schools could at times help to bridge the gap in academic achievement between male and female pupils and between different school locations of urban and rural schools such that each pupil could contribute meaningfully in classroom lessons. Hence, an attempt was made in this study to determine if the use of a familiar language or mother tongue-based instruction (Igbo language) could bridge the gap in academic achievement in agriculture between male and female pupils and between pupils in urban and rural schools. Moreover, the need to inculcate in the pupils the basic knowledge and thinking skills that will enable them improve their academic achievement and arouse their interest in agriculture so as to attract more people into agricultural productions, makes it necessary to determine if the language of instruction has some positive or negative effects on the pupils’ achievement and interest in agriculture, hence this study.
Statement of the Problem
Primary school education is the foundation of any education system. The foundation of school subjects must therefore be laid solidly at the primary school level as any inadequacies and deficiencies at the primary school level would consequently create serious negative educational consequences for the learners. The implication is that primary school pupils must be properly prepared and motivated for higher achievement and interest in agriculture which could be carried on to the other levels of education.
However, despite the role of agriculture in the national economy and as the key to food security, the achievement of the pupils in agriculture has not been encouraging in Imo State specifically. IMSUBEB results show the average failure rate in agriculture by the pupils in the years 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 as 52.3%, 55.2%, 62%, 49.8%, and 54.6% respectively. The poor performance in agriculture by the pupils at the primary school level also reoccurs at the secondary school level. This is evidenced by the performance of Imo State students in the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSSCE) conducted by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) for secondary school students. WAEC results for Imo state show the average percentage credit pass by the students in Agriculture in the years 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 as 48.69%, 43.46%, 45.58%, 34.45%, and 44.82% respectively (WAEC Annual Reports 2010). The above results are evidences of underachievement occasioned by certain reasons. Many researchers have tried to give reasons for the continued low achievement of the pupils in agriculture over the years but most of the researchers have not tried to look into the issue of language of instruction to find out if it could influence the pupils’ achievement either positively or negatively. The researcher’s interaction with some pupils revealed that most children misconceive basic concepts in agriculture when the language of instruction is not familiar to them. With such misconceptions, any amount of improvements made on other factors of underachievement might not yield significant results since a person cannot react to commands not properly understood even when given with the best gadgets. More so, when children misconceive basic concepts and ideas in a subject area, they achieve lower in that subject and loose interest in it. Such loss of interest in agriculture means that very few people will be going into agricultural production areas thereby affecting the level of food production in the country. Obviously, the use of English language for teaching and learning agriculture in schools might be one of the reasons for the low achievement and interest of the pupils in agriculture as it could result to the pupils’ inability to demonstrate the confidence, initiative, resourcefulness and adaptability required to perform well in agriculture. The pupils tend to struggle with the difficulty of understanding the grammar and phonology of English language before being able to understand the content of the subject matter. Based on the foregoing, the problem of this study posed as a question is: can the use of Igbo language (language of the environment or familiar language of the pupils) as a medium of instruction produce any significant positive effect on the academic achievement and interest of primary school pupils in agriculture?
Purpose of the Study
The major purpose of the study was to determine the effect of language of instruction on the academic achievement and interest of pupils in agriculture in primary schools in Imo State.
Specifically, the study sought to:
1. Determine the differences in the mean achievement scores of pupils taught agriculture with Igbo language and those taught with English language.
2. Determine the differences in the mean interest scores of pupils taught agriculture with Igbo language and those taught with English language.
3. Determine the effect of gender on the academic achievement of pupils in agriculture.
4. Determine the effect of gender on the pupils’ interest in studying agriculture.
5. Determine the effect of school location on the academic achievement of pupils taught agriculture with Igbo language.
6. Determine the effect of school location on the mean interest scores of pupils taught agriculture with Igbo language.
Significance of the Study
The findings of this study will be of immense importance to pupils, teachers, researchers, parents, administrators, curriculum planners and the society at large. It will provide distinctive contributions to research efforts geared towards improving performances in agriculture.
The findings on the differences in the mean achievement scores and interest scores of pupils taught agriculture with Igbo language and those taught with English language will benefit the pupils as their affective domains involving confidence, self-esteem, and identity are likely to be strengthened when the language which enhances learning more in classroom instructions is identified and used thereby increasing the pupils’ motivation and initiative as well as creativity. This will help the pupils to be imaginative, acquire critical and creative thinking skills and reasoning and also make the pupils actively participate in the teaching and learning process. It will help the pupils in removing the cognitive confusion due to misconception of agriculture concepts as a result of the language of instruction thereby improving their performance academically and also encourage low level ability pupils to achieve higher. The findings will also benefit the pupils as the use of a familiar language in classroom instruction will help to develop their cognitive ability.
The findings on the differences in the mean achievement scores and interest scores of pupils taught agriculture with Igbo language and those taught agriculture with English language will enable teachers discover the language which enhances more learning and therefore appreciate the need to adopt such language in classroom instruction so as to enhance pupils’ understanding of concepts thereby making the job easier for the teachers. It will provide teachers an alternative language of instruction in teaching agriculture for easier understanding and effective application by the pupils. It is expected that this finding will create awareness on the teachers on ways of using the language of instruction to encourage pupils’ active participation and discussion in agriculture lessons thereby stimulating their interests to study agriculture. It will also help teachers in instilling better agriculture ideas and skills in a way that the pupils can use them for further studies and for their personal satisfaction. The findings on the effect of gender on the academic achievement and interest of the pupils in agriculture will provide teachers with more insight on how to use the language of the environment for teaching agriculture in schools to induce higher academic achievement of both male and female pupils and encourage more female participation in the vocation.
Government will benefit from the findings on the differences in the mean achievement scores and interest scores of pupils taught agriculture with Igbo language and those taught agriculture with English language as it will help government realize that part of the problem of underachievement of the pupils in agriculture might have to do with the language of instruction. Hence, information from this study will help the government to make better language policies that favour the use of familiar or language of the environment in teaching (agriculture) in schools and also enforce the implementation of such policies in schools.
Parents will benefit from the findings of this study in that when the language which enhances more learning of facts and ideas by the pupils is used in teaching and learning in schools by teachers, it will lead to better achievement of the pupils which brings joy and satisfaction to parents as they are assured of good certification of their children for a better future.
The findings of the study will sensitize curriculum planners on the need for the inclusion of language of instruction (familiar or language of the environment) in the curriculum modules of primary schools (middle basic education). Educational administrators will through the findings of this study see the need for organizing conferences, workshops and seminars for training teachers on the adoption of language of the environment for teaching and learning in schools.
Finally, the findings of the study will provide empirical evidence which could serve as a guide to researchers, teachers and curriculum planners in their efforts to improve pupils’ academic achievement. It will also be of great benefit to the society as more pupils will be motivated to study agriculture in schools, graduate and become self employed in agricultural production areas thereby helping to curb food insecurity in the society.
The following research questions were answered in the study:
1. What are the differences in the mean achievement scores of pupils taught agriculture with Igbo language and those taught with English language?
2. What are the differences in the mean interest scores of pupils taught agriculture with Igbo language and those taught with English language?
3. What is the effect of gender on the academic achievement of pupils in agriculture?
4. What is the effect of gender on the pupils’ interest in studying agriculture?
5. What is the effect of school location on the academic achievement of pupils taught agriculture with Igbo language?
6. What is the effect of school location on the mean interest scores of pupils taught agriculture with Igbo language?
The following null hypotheses formulated to guide the study were tested at 0.05 level of significance.