Alex Nder Kwaghtongo
Mbakuha Science and Technical College, Lessel.
The factors that affect students’ preference of technical subjects to pure science subjects and their overall performance in Science and Technical Colleges in the North East Senatorial District of Benue State were looked into. 195 students in the five science and technical colleges in the north Senatorial District with their NABTEB result for six consecutive years (i.e. 2005-2010) made up the study population. The data was collected using questionnaire and ex post facto. Analysis of the data was done using chi-square and percentages at 1 degree of freedom and 5.0% (P<0.05) level of significance. The calculated x2 value was 7.82. The hypothesis was rejected. Recommendations were made based on the outcome.
Concern for all-round academic performance of students of Science and Technical Colleges has increased over the years. One reason for this is the general outcry of parents over the declining standard of education in the country. The decline in the standard of education in these Science and Technical Colleges is measured by their performances in the final year examinations.
It has been observed that their results do not show brilliant all-round academic performances since they tend to pass the technical subjects better than the pure science subjects. This also affects their chances of gaining admission into tertiary institutions of learning to study professional courses like engineering and other science related courses. The effect of their inability to further their studies is that they resort to menial jobs like the road side mechanics, carpenters, electricians etc, against their planned aims of gaining admission into tertiary institutions.
This worrying trend is caused by many factors which also include the misconception on the part of some students and parents that science and technical colleges are vocational training centers meant for learning and the acquisition of skills only. With this understanding, the students tend to focus more on the technical subjects (departmental or trade courses) than the pure science subjects.
Ikeotuonye (2001), reports that students low or little faith in education is influenced by preponderate emphasis on physical achievements. Students therefore, are becoming nonchalant to education because of low level of immediate returns. They become more interested in ventures that will earn them quick money rather than academics that make it difficult for one to spend freely or spray money at parties. Some students feel that studying science subjects is difficult owing to their abstract nature. They therefore resort to making use of their hands to learn vocational based subjects that are less abstract in nature. Some prefer these vocational based subjects because they feel they will earn them quick money and can easily gain employment.
Our society is dominated and even driven by ideas and products from science and technology and it is very likely that the influence of science and technology on our lives will continue to increase in the years to come. Scientific and technological knowledge, skills and artefacts ‘invade’ all realms of life in modern society: the workplace and the public sphere are increasingly dependent on new as well as upon more established technologies. This explains why in Nigeria today, there has been great interest from educational stakeholders to contribute towards the general improvement of performance in both science and technical subjects. One factor that remains a setback towards this struggle is the preference of technical subjects to science subjects among the students of science and technical colleges. This does not yield a holistic performance or achievement.
Over the years, it has been observed that the essence and goals for establishing science and technical colleges have not been achieved fully. Schiefelebeni, Rona and Ramirez (1993) in their report enumerated several setbacks on the part of the proprietors and government that established these schools, which include: lack of facilities, frequent changes in policies and curriculum, incompetency of the few available teachers who find it difficult to implement the designed curriculum for perfect teaching and learning activities to take place.
Students on their own part have been noticed to develop love for or interest in technical subjects/courses (also referred to as departmental or trade courses) thereby preferring these technical subjects over the pure science courses against the design of the curriculum. This can be traced to reasons like lack of attention and concentration. If a child in not comfortable and well-fed at home, he may not be able to give the needed attention and concentration to classroom learning. A hungry student is likely to be ill-looking and restless in the class. While a teacher is teaching, he will be more concerned with other problems and needs than the need to learn.
Similarly, if a student does not like you as the teacher because you fail to show him love or fairness that hatred may be extended to the subject the teacher takes. Such a student will only be in the class so that he will not be punished for being absent and not for the purpose of learning. In this way, the teachers’ message will not get to the students and learning does not occur as expected ( Ajayi,1980).
In the light of the above, it is healthy to find out the factors that influence this preference and the effect of the preference on students’ performance. This study is very timely, especially now that many graduates of science and technical colleges are finding it difficult to gain admission into tertiary institutions due to poor performance in NABTEB examination.
Purpose of the Study
The main aim of this research work was to:
- Determine whether students’ preference of science and technical subjects help them to perform better or worse.
- Identify the factors that lead to students’ preference of technical subjects to science subjects.
- To motivate all stakeholders to formulate policies on how the factors mentioned in this research may be controlled, in order to raise the standard of education in the area.
- Serve as a reference material for future research in related fields.
Two research questions were posed namely:
- What are the factors that influence students’ preference of technical subjects (e.g electrical installation and carpentry & joinery) to pure science subjects (e.g physics and chemistry)?
- Does students’ preference of technical subjects to pure science subjects have negative or positive effect on their overall performance?
The following hypothesis was formulated for testing:
Students’ preference of technical subjects to science subjects has no significant impact on their overall performance.
Significance of the Study
This research work will be helpful to:
- Students in exposing most of the factors that make them to prefer departmental subjects to pure science subjects and the negative effect of such decisions.
- Teachers in developing alternative methods of presenting the subjects that are less preferred by the students in an appealing way and also motivating and encouraging them to excel in all subjects.
- Government, proprietors, school administrators and teachers in formulating policies that will encourage the students to be serious in all subjects in order to have a holistic knowledge that will bring about all-round achievement in the lives of the students and the society at large.
- The government and school proprietors in providing the facilities, equipment, resource materials etc that are lacking in the less-preferred subjects so as to boast the morale of both the teachers and students.
Definition of Terms
The following terms are defined based on how they are used in this research work:
Technical subjects: This refers to subjects that are concerned with vocational training that focuses more on practical skills and being able to perform tasks related to working in a particular industry e.g. electrical installation, carpentry and joinery etc.
Science subjects: This refers to the subjects that are experimental and physical in nature and that deal with the systematic study of nature, e.g. physics, chemistry.
Performance: This is how good or bad something is done, or how well or badly someone does something
Preference: To like one thing more than the other or choosing one thing rather than the other
Electrical installation: Any assembly of electrical equipment supplied by a common source to fulfill a specific purpose.
Carpentry: is a skilled trade in which the primary work performed is the use of wood to construct items as large as buildings and as small as desk drawers.
Physics: This is a branch of pure physical science that deals with the study of energy and matter and the relationship between them.
Chemistry: This is a branch of pure science that deals with the composition, properties, reactions, and changes that matter undergoes.
Two relevant theories discussed are Piaget’s and Burner’s developmental theories of learning.
Piaget’s Developmental Theory of Learning
Piaget in his theory explains how learners think and assemble knowledge as they advance from infancy through childhood to adulthood in life. He observed that during this process, the individual understands his environment or constructs knowledge based on the materials he/she interacts with.
Lauritze (1991) in Schiefelbeni (1993), viewed Piaget’s idea of constructing new knowledge as “constructivism”. According to constructivism, people construct knowledge on the basis of their experience. People need opportunities to explore and to experiment; they also need opportunities in the classroom to learn through experiences and experimentation (Crowl,1997). In science classes for example, teachers can explain concepts to students, but it is better to have students carry out experiments so that they can discover these concepts themselves.
It is believed that students construct knowledge by actively interacting with the environment, facilities and trying to make sense of their experience. This goes a long way to influence their academic performance.
Therefore, there is an urgent need for schools to provide the necessary learning materials/facilities to motivate learning of pure sciences which in turn will affect general performance.
Bruner’s Cognitive Developmental Theory of Learning
Bruner (1996) cited in Akoja (2006) emphasizes the importance of discovery methods in instructing. He explains that learning is best promoted when one is able to figure things out for himself. In other words he advocates for a learning situation where learners become “detectives.” He further explains that in order to cultivate the discovery of structures, the teachers should encourage students to make intelligent guesses based on available evidence, that the students should be able to do this either because his cognitive structure (that is, his existing structure of knowledge) is already tuned to absurd new information. In which case, there is familiarity and new set knowledge or expeerience is simply assimilated or if the new learning is incompatible to the existing structure of knowledge, a restructure to accommodate the new learning is implemented (Crowl,1997).
The implication of Burner’s learning-by-discovery theory for science and technology teaching is that teachers should in the process of instruction deliberately create problems for the students’ with the aim that they will learn the bases as they struggle with the problem. Burner’s message for practical utilization in the class is that science and technology teachers should encourage discovery learning among their students. Discovery learning and teaching techniques when applied in the science class Bruner believed, hold more promise for a number of desirable educational dividends, such as intellectual excitement, construct knowledge which also has a direct relationship with performance of the students.
Factors that Affect Students’ Subject Preference
Some of the foremost factors considered to have influenced students’ preference in making choices are grouped below:
1 Teacher-related factors
Crowl (1997) defines motivation as the driving force behind people’s action. According to him, for any given establishment to succeed, its workers need to be fairly satisfied with their service conditions, such as good prospects for upward mobility, promotion, high morale, sense of importance, acceptance and belonging. This means that an organization which fails to motivate her workers is certain to record low productivity. Eke (1991), explains that this laxity is exhibited by most science teachers. They no longer deem it necessary to demonstrate the theoretical concepts practically for better understanding. This makes students not to be motivated to offer such subjects.
- Background Training of Teachers
Schiefelebeni, Rona and Ramirez (1993) reveal that a teacher’s high qualification contributes to the students’ high performance in all subjects. He concluded that there could be no good school unless there are good teachers. Kundu (1998), regards a trained teacher as someone who has under gone and completed his education in formal teacher-training institutions or a planned programme of training, among other areas. The National Policy on Education (2004) points distinctively to the importance of the teacher’s education and states that “no educational system can rise above the quality of its teachers.” In a similar assertion, Ikeotuonye (2000, 2001 and 2005) states that no nation can develop beyond the condition of its teachers. If not well trained, the teacher will lack content and ways to deliver the subject properly.
- Students-Related Factors
Schiefelebeni, Rona and Ramirez (1993), identify student-related factors to include lukewarm attitude towards studies, misconception that science subjects are difficult, abstract nature of some science concepts, lack of skills, lack of attention and concentration, absenteeism, lateness to school, students’ background, peer group influence and so on.
Ivase (2008) explains that a student that is constantly absent from class work is likely to have some learning problems, which may also affect subject preference. It has been pointed out that learning proceeds in a predetermined sequence and in stages. If one stage is jumped, a problem will be created. A student that is always absent, misses the trend of lesson sequence and find it difficult to cope. For example, if a student was absent when ‘conjugation of verbs’ was taught, he will find it difficult to cope when ‘sentence construction’ is taught. This is because he does not possess the basic information or ideas for sentence construction.
Students come to school from various backgrounds. Some come from very poor homes while others have well-to-do parents. There are others whose parents are illiterate while others have educated parents. In the same manner, students have parents who are civil servants or who work in non-governmental establishment. We also have those whose parents are self-employed. Whichever the category that the child belongs to, he brings with him to formal schooling a way of functioning which carries the imprint of his upbringing at home.
The key to most of these factors is the literacy of the parents. An educated father will know how best to advise his wards on the right subject choice and also provide the students with the needed learning materials and equipment.
Mukh (2002) carried out studies which showed that students who are exposed to such influences are generally favourably disposed towards school and adopt positive attitudes toward the teacher. They tend to be better in the formal school especially as the background would have been laid for effective functioning during subsequent stages of schooling and choice making.
Peer Group Influence
Students exercise a great deal of influence on themselves. This influence is felt both inside and outside the classroom. One known facts about students is that they desire to conform to behaviour and decision that is defined by each particular group. This desire often takes the form of wishing to take part in class activities so that students can win the approval of their parents and teachers. They may also work towards impressing their classmates so that they can win approval for their behaviour within and outside the classroom (Mukh, 2002).
Linked to the desire for approval is the need for recognition on the part of the student. As much as the student wants “to be like everyone else”, he also wishes “to be better than anyone.” In connection with the second desire, a student may work very hard so that it can be said that he is better than others. Others then tend to select subjects that they feel are quite difficult for many to easily understand and focus on them.
- Administration-Related Factors
These factors concern the school authorities, such as the school principals, proprietors, Ministry of Education etc. Aderounmu and Aworani (2007) highlighted some of the problems seriously affecting secondary education in Nigeria to include: lack of basic facilities, poor conditions of service such as large class-size, ineffective supervision of science and technical colleges, poor funding, curriculum deficiencies including the broad nature of the National Policy on Education concerning post-primary education.
Piaget (1952), cited in Akoja (2006), advocated the presence of learning materials or facilities in his theory. He pointed out that “an individual understands his environment or constructs knowledge based on the materials he/she interacts with.” This clearly explains why facilities during the study of sciences become necessary if students are to develop love for science subjects.
Denga (1991) cited in Ivase (2008) noted that the building enrolment figures in most cases outfits the existing learning space. In today’s schools, the size of the class has become increasingly unmanageable, with the students teacher ratio of about 60:1. This has become almost impossible for students to be effectively attended to by the teacher. In spite of the huge calls for increase funding for our science and technical colleges by individuals and organizations, enrolment continues to soar leading to the large class size “syndrome”. Some of the consequences of this large class syndrome on students include: poor students’ performance, poor attitude to learning, limitation to individual activities, self-indulgence, examination malpractice, cultism and a host of others.
The dual proprietorship is one of the major problems hindering the attainment of quality education not only in science but in other fields too. Ivase (2008) asserts that most proprietors consider their schools as business outfits (this means their sole aim of establishing these institutions is for profit maximization). As for government owned schools, most of the funds end up in individuals’ pockets. Also, policies that regard the quality or standards of education are being flouted by these institutions. Most of these schools lack basic facilities for teaching and learning: they have laboratories without the necessary chemicals, school fees collected are not reinvested into the development of the school but diverted into private business or pockets. Inadequate and unqualified teachers are found in such schools, such that science subjects, particularly Chemistry and Physics are ill-taught or not taught at all. This also influences students’ preference and performance.
A descriptive survey design was used to find out the factors that affect students’ preference of technical subjects to science subjects on their performance in selected science and technical colleges in the North East Senatorial District of Benue State.
A correlation design for the two variables was used.
Population of Study
All the five (5) selected science and Technical colleges are from the North East Senatorial District of the state.
- Mbakuha Science and Technical College, Lessel
- Jude’s Science and Technical College, Tse-Mker
- Usar Science and Technical College, Adikpo
- Government Science and Technical College, Zaki-biam
- Government Science and Technical College, Anyiin.
Students from Science and Technical class two (STC 2) and three (STC 3) from each school were used. The population of the study consisted of results of National Business and Technical Examination Board (NABTEB) from 2005- 2010.
Sample and Sampling
The study sample was drawn from five (5) schools. Random number sampling was used to select 20 students from STC 2 and 20 students from STC 3 giving a total of 40 students from each school. This gives a grand total of 200 respondents representing a total population of about 1,200 of the STC students. The sampled students’ population was more but 200 students were used to represent the large population, in order to reduce the cost of printing many questionnaires and coordinating many students in a school to answer the questionnaire for data collection. The result of students that sat for NABTEB Examination from 2005-2010 were also used.
The instrument used for data collection was a researcher made questionnaire only for the students. It was designed in two sections; section “A” sought to obtain personal information of the respondent while section “B” deals with questions to help elicit responses from the respondents on the factors that affect the overall performance of students based on their subject preference.
Validation of Instrument
A 40-item questionnaire was originally compiled and given for corrections to two teachers of science and technology in the Department of Technical & Vocational Education, Benue State University, Makurdi. Based on their corrections and recommendations, the items were reduced to 31 which they considered valid as research questions and research hypothesis for the study.
Method of Data Collection
The data were collected with the assistance of some teachers who handle the concerned subjects in the various schools. The questionnaire was given to students and they were clearly instructed on what to do. After strict monitoring/ supervision, copies of the questionnaires were immediately collected. A total of 195 copies of the questionnaire were collected.
The data of NABTEB results collected were grouped as follow:
- A1-B3 Distinction
- C4-C6 credit
- D7-E8 pass
- F9- failed
A frequency distribution table was used to determine the percentage of students that fell into each of these groups.
Method of Data Analysis
The data obtained was analyzed using chi-square (x2) statistical analysis. Its aim was to establish whether or not there was any correlation between students’ preference of certain subjects to others and their overall academic performance at 0.05 probabilities and 5.0% level of significance.
X2 = chi-square
k = the number of cells in the contingency table
∑ = the summation sign
fo = is the observed value
fe = the expected value
Presentation of Result
The data analysis for this research is presented in tables (using percentages). This has aided quick and easy interpretation, comprehension of the relevant variables.
In the course of analyzing these data, the following were taken into consideration:
- All cases of “very much” as reflected in the tables were taken to have much influence on students’ subject preference.
- All cases of “very little” as reflected in the tables were taken not to have much influence on students’ subject preference.
Research Question 1.
What are the factors that influence students to prefer technical subjects (e.g electrical installation and carpentry & joinery) to pure science subjects (e.g physics and chemistry)?
Results: Results are presented in tables 1,2,3,4,5 in line with the research question.
Table 1: Effects of facilities on students’ subject preference
|No.||Factors||Very much||Very little|
|1||Lack of science laboratories.||56.7||43.3|
|2||Availability of workshops.||82.7||17.3|
|3||Poorly equipped science laboratories.||79.6||20.4|
|4||Averagely equipped workshops||77.1||22.9|
|5||Lack of science textbooks.||60.2||39.8|
|6||Availability of departmental textbooks.||56.5||43.5|
|7||High cost of science textbooks||61.2||38.8|
|8||Low cost of departmental textbook.||51.1||48.9|
Source: Field Study, 2013.
Table 2: The effect of student-teacher relationship on students’ subject preference
|No.||Factors||Very much||Very little|
|1||My science teachers have no guide and defined goal attitude. (i.e. lack of preparedness) .||70.5||29.5|
|2||My workshop teachers are well organized.||81.1||18.9|
|3||My science teachers are too strict and harsh and do not entertain questions.||73.4||26.6|
|4||My workshop teachers are friendly.||60.6||39.4|
|5||My science teachers do not allow me to make decisions in class.||40.5||59.5|
|6||My workshop teachers are democratic.||58.1||41.9|
|7||My science teachers do not encourage me to carry out practicals myself.||41.2||58.8|
|8||My departmental teachers encourage me to work on my own,
but with their guide.
Source: Field Study, 2013.
Table 3: The effect of the teacher factor on students’ preference
|No.||Factors||Very much||Very little|
|1||My science teachers’ method of teaching.||70.0||30.0|
|2||My workshop teachers’ method of teaching.||72.0||28.0|
|3||My science teachers’ enthusiasm and interest in science lessons.||51.1||48.9|
|4||My workshop teachers’ enthusiasm and interest in departmental lessons.||63.5||36.5|
|5||My science teachers’ attitude of lateness to class.||41.5||58.5|
|6||My workshop teachers’ attitude of early arrival to class.||45.9||54.1|
Source: Field Study, 2013.
Table 4: Student-related and other factors on student’ subject preference
|No.||Factors||Very much||Very little|
|1||My lateness to science lessons||41.5||58.5|
|2||My interest in departmental courses prompts my early arrival to workshop lessons.||93.7||6.3|
|3||My friends hate science subjects and so do I. (peer pressure).||70.9||29.1|
|4||My parents asked me to focus more on workshop courses.||83.1||16.9|
|5||I prefer workshop courses because they accord respect||30.8||69.2|
|6||I prefer workshop courses because I can make quick money.||78.7||21.3|
|7||Science practicals are difficult to understand and therefore difficult to experiment.||75.2||24.8|
|8||Workshop practicals are understood easily therefore, very easy to perform.||71.8||28.2|
|9||The sitting arrangement in class||31.3||68.7|
Source: Field study, 2013.
Research question 2
Does students’ preference of technical subjects to pure science subjects have negative or positive effect on their overall performance?
Results: The summary of the result is presented in Table 5
In each school, the results of 20 students in four subjects (electrical installation and carpentry & joinery) were used and their percentage passes were analyzed.
Table 5. Summary of the performance of students in electrical installation, carpentry & joinery, physics and chemistry. NABTEB result from 2005-2010.
|Electrical installation and carpentry & joinery.||78.84%||79.56%||77.57%||79.50%||65.86%||73.77%|
|Physics and Chemistry.||21.16%||20.44%||22.43%||20.50%||34.14%||26.23%|
Source: Field study, 2013.
Discussion of Findings
Akoja (2006) viewed facilities/instructional materials as physical objects designed, produced and evaluated to illustrate a point during delivery of lesson Thus, this stresses the importance of facilities to understanding during teaching and learning. As the students understand, they develop interest in the subject. Considering the figures generated from Table 1, 65.6% of the respondents accepted that facilities have a high influence on students’ subject preference. If all the necessary facilities that will enhance effective learning are not available, students tend not to be interested in any of such subjects. 34.4% of the respondents accepted that facilities have very little effect. The statistics generated from the table reveals that facilities have much influence on students’ subject preference.
Investigation of student-teacher relationship as shown in Table 2 reveals that 64.6% of the respondents totally agree that the type of relationship between students and their teachers in the class and outside the class has much influence on whether a student will choose to like the teachers subject or not. Just 35.4% of the respondents affirm that such relationships matter very little. The result revealed that how the teacher relates with the students has great influence on students’ subject preference.
The task of teaching is delegated to teachers. Teachers therefore, serve as a strong motivation to students in every learning process. The result as revealed in Table 3 shows 57.3% of the respondents confirm that the method of teaching a teacher adopts and his general attitude determine students subject choices. 42.7% of the respondents say the methods and attitudes of the teachers has little effect on students’ choice of subjects. Findings on the effect of teachers on students’ subject preference reveal that teachers have much influence on students’ subject preference. Without the involvement of learners, learning will not take place. This implies that the learner is an important factor in the learning process. A search on students’ personal attitudes to learning and subject choice making shows that 64.1% confirmed that students’ attitudes and other factors affect students’ subject choice while 35.9% said it does affect but very little. This shows that the students’ actions or inactions are responsible for their subject preference attitude.
Considering the results above, it is clear that the percentage performance of students’ in science and technical colleges under research performed better in departmental/technical subjects than in the pure science subjects for a period of six consecutive years. Coupled with the factors discussed earlier, it shows that students prefer departmental subjects to pure science subjects hence the excellent performance in the technical courses.
Students’ preference of technical subjects to pure science subjects has no significant impact on their overall performance.
To test this hypothesis, the chi-square statistic method was used.
With 1 degree of freedom of 5.0% (P<0.05) level of significance; the hypothesis that students’ preference of technical subjects to pure science subjects has no significant impact on their overall performance is rejected as shown in the detailed calculation at the appendix and it was therefore, concluded that students’ subject preference affects their overall performance as revealed in Table 5.
Based on the findings of this study, the following are recommended:
- The school proprietors, government and non governmental agencies should promote pure science teaching in science and technical colleges by providing the necessary instructional materials, functional and well equipped laboratories and libraries, motivations of any kind so as to boost the morale of the students and teachers.
- There is need for in-service training and re-training of the science teachers to be abreast of the latest teaching methods and the use or handling of modern science equipment to facilitate effective teaching and learning of sciences.
- Appropriate interviews should be conducted before teaching jobs are offered to any applicant. Thus, such interviews should include allowing the applicant to teach a lesson to assess him or her instead of giving employment based on the so-called “connections” and certificates.
- Educational stakeholders should encourage teachers to improve on their personal relationship with their students. They should be friendly, democratic and accommodating. Science teachers should not be harsh on their students as this will make them hate their teachers and their subjects.
- Counseling services should be encouraged in science and technical colleges where students will be educated on the dangers of focusing on only one aspect of study. Students will also be guided against peer and parents negative influences.
The research shows that students who preferred departmental subjects to pure science subjects do not have a good NABTEB result to gain admission easily into tertiary institutions. Many are deficient in pure science subjects like Physics and Chemistry which are among the basic admission requirements into Engineering courses. Most of the students end up being road-side mechanics, carpenters, electricians etc instead of the various Engineering courses they long to read in order to become engineers.
The factors that prompted this preference were also identified. There is urgent need to improve on these factors by abiding to and implementing the recommendations of this research. If this is done, a proportional effect will be seen on the general and holistic performance of students in science and technical colleges in the scope of this research.
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Table 1: Summary of the performance of students in electrical installation, carpentry & joinery, physics and chemistry from 2005 – 2010
|Electrical installation and carpentry & joinery.||78.84%||79.56%||77.57%||79.50%||65.86%||73.77%||455.10|
|Physics and Chemistry.||21.16%||20.44%||22.43%||20.50%||34.14%||26.23%||144.90|
|Electrical installation and carpentry & joinery.||78.84%
|Physics and Chemistry.||21.16%