INNOVATIONS, SUCCESSES AND CHALLENGES IN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND MATHEMATICS TEACHING AND TEACHER EDUCATION IN NIGERIA

BY

Dr. S. S. Bichi

Department of Science Education

Ahmadu Bello University

Zaria

 

Preamble

            Science, Technology and Mathematics (STM) have, over the years, become universal buzzword commonly and increasingly used to refer to the three sister disciplines that have propound effects on human civilization.  An understanding of these disciplines by all citizens is very vital and crucial in the 21st century and must be part of everyone’s basic education to enable him live successfully and control the environment.  Thus it is impossible for a civilization to survive without the education of its youths in STM.

 

The Key Words at a Glance

Science

            This is a human activity carried out by Scientists.  It is a systematized body of knowledge and a process of inquiry (Mani, 1985). By nature, Science has several dimensions that include the following:

  1. the product content;
  2. the process content;
  • the affective content;
  1. the social context, and
  2. the mega scientific dimension.

The product content of science refers to the organized body of knowledge embedded in facts, concepts, principles laws and theories.  Scientific knowledge is testable, verifiable, contingent, debatable and hard to come by (Schwabb, 1962). Scientific knowledge is always tentative and changes to accommodate available opposing data.

The process content of science deals with skills of inquiry which scientists employ to investigate nature.  Scientists in the laboratory measure, observe, record data, control variables, predict outcome of experiments and define how things change with time.  This were the skills used by pioneer scientists such as Michael Farady, Galileo, Albert Einstein and Gregor Mendel.

Scientists have many attitudes in common.  They are known to be objective, curious, open-minded, skeptical, enduring and honest.  Such attitudes are also part of science and constitute the affective domain of science. The social context of science is concerned with teaching science in relation to the society while the mega scientific nature of science refers to historical development of science.

 

Technology

Many people find it difficult to distinguish between science and technology.  Often, it is difficult to distinguish between the pursuits of knowledge and the application of knowledge to improve human life.  Thus to a layman, science is synonymous with technology.  To those who are more enlightened, technology is nothing more than the application of science to practical tasks in the industry.  However to science and technology teachers, the two sisters, though closely related, are distinctly different and each is a discipline in its own right.

Black and Harrison (1985) defined technology as “a disciplined process that uses the resource of matter, energy and natural phenomena to achieve a human purpose” i.e. to solve a human problem.  Thus, whereas science is a body of organized knowledge and a process of inquiry, technology involves the manipulation of natural phenomena to fulfill a human need involving a design and a process often resulting in an artifact.  At this point, let’s briefly illustrate the concept of “Technology” using familiar artifacts.

  1. Ceiling fan
  2. Wrist watch
  3. Hand set
  4. Ocean liner
  5. Aeroplane

Table 1:           Concept of “Technology” Illustrated

Artifact Matter Energy Natural phenomena Human problem solved
Ceiling fan Metal, rubber, blade cork, copper wire, engine Mains Electricity Wind Ventilation
Wrist watch Glass cover, metal, rubber engine Dry cell battery Day and Night Measuring time
Hand set Glass plastic, metal, Dry cell battery Radio waives Communication
Ocean liner Wood, metals, copper wire, alluminium etc Nuclear energy or fossil fuel Bouncy floating/ sinking motion Freight of cargo

over water

aeroplane Metals, plastics, copper wire, alluminium etc Aviation fuel Flight, friction motion Fast transporting of man and goods in the air

            Further distinction between Science and Technology is made in Table 2:

 

Table 2:           Science and Technology Compared

Science Technology
Has prepositional knowledge

knowing that …………….

Has action knowledge

knowing how ………………..

 

Homo sapiens

Man, the knower

 

Homo faber

Man, the maker

 

Concerned with extending the frontiers of knowledge

 

Focuses on solving human problems

 

Not constrained by costs, availability or options of materials

 

Always considers costs options & availability of materials

 

Rarely leads to a device, artifact or machine

 

Always produces a device or machine to solve a human problem

 

It is clear from Table 2 that domains of Science and Technology are distinctly different.  They, however, interact and mutually benefit each other.  Typically, Scientific principles and theories are used to produce artifacts, machines or equipment, which are then used in scientific inquiries.  For instance, scientific principles are used to produce a microscope which is used to investigate the microbial world.  Similarly, scientific principles of evaporation and its subsequent cooling effect are used in the cooling system in a motor car engine.  This clearly shows the interactions between Science and Technology.

 

Mathematics

This is the science of numbers, quantities and measurements.  It is in deed central to all branches of science as a result of which it is nick-named the Queen of Science “An understanding of mathematics is known to facilitate achievement in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mechanics and Engineering” (Oakali, 1996).  The domain of mathematics encompasses disciplines that include algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, basic maths, further maths and general mathematics.

The genesis of Mathematics on the Nigerian School Curriculum can be traced to the early Colonial Period, when the 3RS (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic) formed the main curriculum in Schools.  Thus Arithmetic, which Hawkins (1995) defined as calculating by means of numbers, was the forerunner of modern mathematics.  Thus Arithmetic gradually paved way to General Mathematics and Further Mathematics as currently offered in Schools.

 

Science Technology and Mathematics (STM): Gateways to Knowledge Economy

Traditionally, it was often considered that a nation’s economic potentials are directly related to her natural resources.  This axiom, however, does not necessarily translate into reality especially in the 21st century (Akinrele, 2005).  Ikoku (2000) reports.

 

Nigeria has an impressive array of nature’s endowments.  These include substantial reserves of all fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas, coal, lignite, tar, sand) and 33 other minerals including gold, iron, lead, zinc, limestone, clay, salt and glass sand.  Nigeria is also blessed with abundant sunshine which guarantees all year-round agricultural activity.She also has rivers, lakes, hot springs and subterranean water reservoirs, forests with numerous economic tress, an extensive rich savannah, an impressive array of cash and food crops and ample supply of cattle, goats, sheep fish and poultry.  In spite of all these, Nigeria remains a poor country.

 

Several other extracts confirm Nigeria’s state of poverty in spite of her rich endowments.

  • World Bank Report (1990) indicates that 50% of Nigerians live in poverty despite her endowments.
  • The United Nations (2002) is of the view that 60% of Nigerians live below one US Dollar per day.

Thus far, it is established that Nigeria is a poor country swimming in abundant natural resources.  What then is the way forward from this economic predicament? The author is of the view that STM is the key, the golden key and indeed the only key!

The former Vice President of Nigeria, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar (2000) declared that for the 21st century, knowledge is the greatest capital.  The traditional sources of wealth, such as gold, oil and diamond, have already given way to thoughts and ideas.  The Vice President further observed:

 

the wealth of Bill Gate, the richest man on the earth today, did not come from oil or gold, but essentially from knowledge and ideas.  Similarly, an increasing number of countries such as India, Malaysia and Singapore are making billions of US-dollars through the export of computer software rather than the sale of raw materials

 

It is clear from the foregoing that Science, Technology and Mathematics (STM) is the key to material progress and prosperity in the 21st century.       STM are crucial for sustainable development world-wide and have contributed immensely to the material progress of many nations.  Phenomenal rate of economic growth of Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, India, China and Singapore is based on their ability to harness the expertise of Science, Technology and Mathematics (Akpan 2008).  In deed the difference between the developed countries of America, Europe, Asia the far East and the developing countries of Africa lies in the relative rates of their technological capability.  This capability is the extent to which countries access, utilize, create and harness STM for the solution of socio-economic problems.

            Ahmed (2009) opined that mastery of STM is a fundamental determinant of global competition in the 21st century.  Leading economies in the world today know this fact and are taking advantage of it.  For example, in China 36% of all graduates are engineers.  World Bank Report (2000) indicated that Nigeria has only 15 Scientists and Engineers per one million persons.  Comparatively, Brazil has 168, China 459, India 158, and USA 4,103. From the foregoing, it can be seen that mastery of STM lead to knowledge-based economy, the universal key to national development and prosperity in the 21st century.

 

Innovations, Successes and Challenges in STM Teaching

            The concept “innovation” refers to bringing in new ideas, new processes, new concepts, new doing or new devices to facilitate and enhance an on-going or existing process.  With reference to STM, innovations can be categorized as:

  1. Curriculum-Based Innovations
  2. Instructional Strategy-Based Innovations
  • Instructional Material-Based Innovations

 

Innovations in Curriculum

The curriculum is defined as the total learning experiences both formal and non-formal given to students via the agency of the school.  Curricula are never static.  Professionally they are reviewed every 3 – 5 years to accommodate new knowledge, new ideas, new thinking and new doing.  The STM curricula changes to accommodate innovations viz:

 

  1. The BST Curriculum in Primary School now contains HIV, Drug Education as recent innovations.
  2. The BST Curriculum now has emphasis on Vocational Skill Training to enable the pupils become self-reliant.
  • At all levels of education, Science Technology Society (STS) concept is emphasized. In this dispensation, Science is taught with particular reference to the society.
  1. Entrepreneurship-enriched Curriculum. Today, more than ever before, entrepreneurship skills are emphasized in the STM curriculum we teach our students.  This is to enhance functional education and produce students that will be self-employed after leaving school.
  2. Historically enriched and STS-enriched curricula are being investigated to enhance achievement in School Science.

 

Innovations in Teaching Strategies

As the STM curriculum is always changing to accommodate new thinking and new ideals, so also the instructional strategies to accommodate newer and more effective teaching strategies.  At the moment, several researchers are going on to establish the effectiveness of the following teaching strategies:

  1. Constructivist teaching methods – where students are guided to actively construct their own knowledge using previous experience.
  2. Multi-Media Teaching Strategy – where several instructional media are used to teach students.
  • Jig-Saw Teaching Strategy – where students are motivated by the teacher to interact and learn in peer groups.
  1. Animated Media Teaching Package – where animated pictures in the computer are used to facilitate instruction.
  2. Peer – Instruction and Just-in-Time Teaching model
  3. 5-e Learning Model – where students are motivated and guided to learn using five modes of enquiries

 

Innovations in Instructional Materials

            It is one thing for the teacher to have a good curriculum materials and an effective teaching method to deliver it to his students, it is quite another thing to get teaching aids or instructional materials to enable him communicate the content very well to his students.  For effective teaching of STM, several innovations in instructional materials have been made, notably Technology Assisted Tools.

Technology Assisted Tools refer to instructional materials or set of techniques devices or artifacts that are employed by the teacher to facilitate teaching/learning process (Abu Yusuf 2013).  Technology Assisted Tools are used to achieve three objectives namely to:

  1. facilitate the learning of concepts, principles and skills.
  2. create an emotional response, and
  • enhance student motivation

Abu Yusuf (2013) classify Technology Assisted Tools into two namely:

  • mediated and
  • non-mediated

The former, according to him, requires the presence of hardware or equipment while the latter does not require any intermediary channel. They include the following:

  1. still Projection Materials such filmstrips, microform slides, transparencies and projected materials
  2. Motion Projection Materials, made up of films and video tapes. They consists of a series of still pictures shown in rapid succession so that the viewer has an illusion of motion.
  3. Audio Materials: the reproduction of sound recorded on discs, tapes, compact discs and DVDs are referred to as audio recording.  It is an indispensable part of media resources and widely used.
  4. Flat Graphic Materials: Art paintings, charts, maps, pictures and graphic materials are regarded as flat graphic materials
  5. Three Dimensional Materials (3DM): These include mock ups, models, realia and specimens
  6. Programmed Materials: These are designed to enable individuals learn at their own paces, using teaching machine, which is simple, user-operated device or computer assisted equipment.
  7. ICT in STM Teaching: The Information Communication Technology (ICT) has tremendous potentials that can be harnessed by the teacher to enhance STM teaching at all levels of education.

The ICT uses combination of voice, data, text, graphics and images (multimedia system) and its application to education is variously described as

  • computer-based learning
  • computer-assisted learning
  • computer simulation and
  • computer assisted instruction.

Innovations in ICT have tremendous potentials to STM teaching, one of which is e-learning.  In technologically-advanced nations, e-learning is rapidly gaining ground and that it is now possible for students to receive university education on-line without physically going to school.  A great number of universities now exist only on cyber space (Mulkey 2005).

 

Successes in STM Teaching

There are many milestones or achievements that have been recorded in recent years with reference to STM struggle.  A few of such achievements are outlined in this presentation.

  1. The National Inset Centre for Strengthening Mathematics and Science Education (SMASE) is a laudable achievement in STM teaching in Nigeria. This Centre in collaboration with the National Teachers’ Institute Kaduna and Japan Technical partnership, is training Science and Maths Teachers from all over the country.  SMASE training workshops have been very effective, fruitful and regular.  This, in my view, is a great milestone in STM teaching.
  2. The creation of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology is another achievement towards STM teaching. The activities of the Ministry will in one way or another foster the teaching of STM in the country.
  3. The 60:40 University admission ratio into Science and art is a great motivation to STM teaching in Nigeria.
  4. The establishment of National Science and Mathematics Centre in Abuja is yet another achievement.
  5. The Distance Learning Programmes of NTI Kaduna are important stride in STM teaching. The Institute has a total of 454 Distance Learning Centres across the country.  The NTI has 5 teacher training programme that include the following:
  6. Pivotal Teacher Training Programme (PTTP)
  7. Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE)
  8. Advanced Diploma in Education (ADE)
  9. Bachelors Degree in Education (B.A/B.Sc. Ed)
  10. Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE)

In each of the above programmes, STM teachers are trained.

  1. The National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) organizes undergraduate programmes in Science and Mathematics Education. Hundreds of STM teachers are trained via Noun programmes.
  2. MDGs Capacity building workshops programme by NTI in collaboration with Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA) is an important achievement in STM teaching. Thousands of Primary Science and mathematic teachers are trained and re-trained to man our primary schools.

 

Teacher Education in Nigeria

A teacher is the more mature of the human society who impacts knowledge, skills, processes, experiences, thoughts and ideas to the less mature of the human society, the pupils for the betterment of the society.  Empirical evidences confirm that of all the factors that influence the quality of education, the teacher factor is the most important (Bichi, 2006).  The following observations clearly describe the high esteem and honour of teachers and their position in the society.

“Only the teacher can lay a solid foundation for national development. Economic growth and political stability alike depend on how well he does his work.  He is Nigerian Ambassador to the future and he deserves full rights and privileges from his countrymen” (Eric Ashby, 1960).

“Teachers are the key to the effectiveness of any school, and teacher development is a top priority in any move to change schools”. (Ford Foundation, 1985).

“Not only are teachers a critical factor in national development, their quality make a huge difference in how much learning achievement can take place.  Teachers possess high intelligence, knowledge, commitment, multiple approaches to problem solving and a contagious enthusiasm for books and learning” (Adeyanju, 2008).

“No educational system can rise above the quality of its teachers” National Policy on Education, 2004). “Education (by implication teacher) is a critical key to the social transformation of the people of Northern Nigeria in the 21st Century.  No other single factor can be as crucial” (Mahadi, 2000).

It is clear from the above extracts that the society has high esteem, regards and respect for teachers.  This justifies the notion that of all the factors that determine the quality of an educational programme, the teacher factor is the most important.  This is so because it is the teacher that translates the curriculum to the pupils at the classroom level, and that a trained, competent and committed teacher can make the best use of a poor curriculum to the advantage of his pupils, while a well planned and comprehensive curriculum may be spoilt in the hands of an ill-trained and lazy teacher (Bichi, 2010).

            Thus far, teachers have a very high regard and respect in Nigeria.  But the reality on the ground confirm that teachers are generally inadequate, poorly qualified and uncommitted (Ajayi 2000).

            However, efforts are being made to make the situation better.  The Nigerian Integrated Science Teacher Education Project (NISTEP) and the National Inset Centre for Strengthening Mathematics and Science Education (SMASE), the NTI-MDGs and TESSA teacher training and re-training workshops are a few intervention projects to improve teacher quality in Nigeria.  The Teachers Registration Council (TRC) motivates professional development of teachers at all levels.

 

Challenges of STM and Teacher Education in Nigeria

            There are many difficulties or challenges threatening the teaching of STM and Teacher Education in Nigeria.  Some of the challenges are outlined in the following paragraphs.

  1. Mastery of ICT skills is a key to on-line education in a globalized world of 21st Evidences available confirm absence of ICT on our Teacher Education Curriculum. (Adeyanju, 2008).
  2. Teacher Education Curriculum in Nigeria is grossly deficient. Its deficiency was variously described by researchers as diffused and non-focused (Shaibu, 2005); deficient in 21 key curricular categories (Adeyanju, 2008); and not able to produce adequate quality teachers for the rapidly expanding school-age population (Abdullahi, 2008).
  3. Non-conducive learning environment. At the moment, most Nigerian public schools are neither pupil-nor teacher-friendly characterized by numerous inadequacies and limited learning resources (Adeyanu, 2008).
  4. Inadequate Funding. Education is one of social services that are provided to all citizens.  Funds are needed to build schools, to supply instructional materials and to pay staff salaries.  Funds are needed to do this effectively.
  5. No effective Universal Language of Communication, in Schools and Offices other than English.

Empirical evidences confirm that when instruction is carried out in ones mother tongue, he is likely to understand the content very well and consequently achieve significantly better in school work.  In Nigeria, still English is the official language. 

India, Pakistan and Bangladesh got political independence from Britain in 1947.  And since then, each country has replaced English with indigenous language, (Hindi and Urdu).

  1. Large class size. Classes in public schools are exceptionally large, with 70 – 100 pupils as against the standard 40:1 ratio.  This is a great challenge to STM teaching where activities are adequate resources are needed.

 

Summary and Conclusion

            Science, Technology and Mathematics are a great capital and universal instrument for development in the 21st century.  The traditional sources of wealth, notably gold and oil have already given way to thoughts and ideas.  For nations to flourish in the 21st century, knowledge economy is the universal key and STM is the gateway to knowledge economy.

            To provide quality STM education to all citizens, several factors are indispensable, notably qualified and professionally trained teachers; conducive learning environment, adequate and rich curriculum and adequate instructional materials.  in the process, several achievements or milestones have been achieved.  The establishment of SMASE programme, the 60:40 admission ratio; the NTI Distance Learning system and the MDGs Teacher Training and Re-training workshops are among the major achievements.

            Many challenges stand against this vision, notably provision of ICT facilities, diffused and non focused curriculum, unfriendly learning environment, overcrowded classes and inadequate funding.

 

Recommendations

            On the basis of the issues raised and discussed in this presentation, the following recommendations are suggested.

  1. To move away from the dismal position of 15 Scientists/engineers per million people, let the 60:40 admission ratio be raised to 80:20 in favour of STM.
  2. Revisit the STM and Teacher Education curricula with a view to making them more functional, adequate and learner-friendly.
  3. SMASE activities in Training Science and Maths teachers should be increased.
  4. MDGs workshops by the National Teachers Institute and TESSA should also be expanded to train and retrain STM teachers.
  5. All hands must be on deck to fund education adequately. ETF projects should be expanded.  A co-operative scheme, school-society link should be established to supply educational materials to schools from industry’s profits.
  6. If Nigeria makes efforts to develop an indigenous language of instruction in schools, academic achievement may be enhanced among students.
  7. Improve teachers’ condition of service, pay STM Teachers’ Allowance to check brain drain and to attract people into STM teaching.

 

Finally, a lot of academic issues have been raised in this presentation.  It is expected that syndicate groups will discuss such issues at length and come up with conference communiqué that will take the teaching of STM to greater heights.

 

 

References

 

Abdallah, U. A. (2008).  Challenges Facing the Actualization of 5-year Teacher Education Programme.  Paper presented at the Annual Conference of Deans of Education, A.B.U., Zaria.

 

Abu Yusif (2013).  Preparation, Improvisation and Utilization of Instructional Materials, A.B.U. Press Limited.

 

Adeyanju, T. K. (2008).  Actualizing the 5-year Teacher Education Programme, Annual Conference of the Committee of Deans of Education Faculties, A.B.U., Zaria.

 

Ajayi, F.J. (2000).  Towards a culture of Science and Technology: Essays in Science Education.  Sam Book man Publishers, Ibadan – Nigeria.

 

Atiku Abubakar (2000).  Agenda for Action Towards the Improvement of Education in Northern States.  Arewa House Publication, Kaduna

 

Bichi, S. S. (2006).  Education and National Building A Lead paper presented at the 3rd National Conference on Education, Isa Kaita COE, Dutsinma, Katsina.

 

Black P, and Harrison J, (1985).  In place of confusion Better Science Series, SSCR Heinemann Educ. Books London.

 

Hawkins, J. M. (1995).  The Oxford Mini Reference Dictionary, Oxford University Press.

 

Mani, T.C. (1985).  Essays on Laboratory Techniques and Management. M.Ed. mimeograph. Lecture Note, A.B.U., Zaria.

 

Mulkey, J. (2005).  In Maikano S: (2014) Impact of Computer Assisted Learning and Process Approach on Performance and Retention among Sec. School Students in Kaduna State.  Unpublished Ph.D Thesis, A.B.U, Zaria.

 

Oakali, M. (1996).  A correlational Study of Students Performance in Mathematics and Mechanics in Lyse Techniques Dankassuwa, De Maradi, Niger Republic.  Unpublished PGDE project, A.B.U., Zaria.

 

Shaibu, A.A.M. (2005).  Issues on Teacher Preparations on STME.  Keynote Address Delivered at National Conference on Educ. FCE, Zaria 12-15 April.

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