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This study sought to identify teachers’ perceptions of difficult areas in senior secondary school biology curriculum in Lagos state of Nigeria. Based on a review of literature, five research questions guided the study while three hypotheses were equally tested. A survey design was used for the study. A multistage sampling procedure involving simple random sampling techniques by balloting and cluster sampling techniques were adopted to compose the sample of 120 biology teachers in four Education Zones of Lagos State. A Structured Questionnaire Titled Biology Topic Assessment Questionnaire (BTAQ) was used to collect data from the respondents. The data collected were analyzed using mean, standard deviation and one-way ANOVA to t-test the hypotheses at 0.05 levels of significant. The analysis of the data yielded the following results: the teachers find the teaching of chromosome, Evolution, Glycolysis, Germination, Genetics and Skeleton difficult. Gender, academic qualification and location of services of the teacher have no significant influence in the difficulty levels of topics in the biology curriculum. It was recommended that in-service training, constant workshops, higher degree programmes, provision of modern instructional materials, use of computer and its softwares, re- equipping of school library, using teachers past performance for promotions, frequent supervisions by ministries, employing more qualified teachers, supplying relevant textbooks, holiday tutorials and Biology laboratory are necessary for improvement on the difficult topics. Suggestions for further research and limitations were also given.



1.1 Background of the Study

Science  provides  a  body  of  knowledge  for  use  in  addressing  various forms  of  human, material  and  environmental  problems.  It  can  also  be  viewed  as composed  of  two  major complementary  modes:  accumulation  of  knowledge through  exploration  and  discovery  efforts about the natural  world,  and  the use  of such  knowledge  for  human  and  material  development. Science  is  studied  and practised  in  all  parts  of  the  world,  including  Nigeria.  Nigeria  is  a developing nation  with  an  increasing  demand  for  science  based  skilled  manpower.  The achievement  of  this  can  start  with  the  learning  and  application  of  science subjects  as  in biology,  chemistry,  integrated  science,  and  physics  at  secondary school  level.  Among  these science  subjects:  biology,  chemistry,  integrated science  and  physics  taught  in  Nigerian secondary  schools,  only  biology  was discussed.  This is because; the study was focused on biology curriculum.  

Biology  is  one  of  the  senior  secondary  school  subjects  taught  in  Nigeria. Biology  is  an integral  science  subject  which  provides  contents  in  the  training  of students  who  want  to study  medicine,  nursing,  pharmacy,  forestry,  fisheries  and so  on.  Requirement  for  a  credit pass  and  above  in  biology  is  needed  for  science related  vocational  discipline.  Majority  of senior  secondary  school  students choose  biology  in  the  West  African  Senior  School Certificate  Examinations (WASSCE)  or  National  Examination  Council’s  Senior  School Certificate Examinations  (NECOSSCE).  Also,  for  some  senior  secondary  school  students, biology  is  a  subject  of  first  choice  because  they  find  it  to  be  an  interesting subject  as  a subject  that  is  more  related  to  nature.  Biology  is  one  of  the  subjects in  the  national curriculum  for  senior  secondary  schools,  first  published  by  the Federal  Ministry  of  Education in  1985.

Biology curriculum was first introduced in 1977. At that time the duration for secondary school education was five years. The  biology  teaching  was  started in  class  four  and  in  class  five  the students  took  the  West  African  School Certificate  Examination.  In  keeping  with  the  dynamics of  social  change  and demands  on  education,  there  was  the  need  to  broaden  the  curriculum. The  quest for  improving  the  method  of  teaching  and  learning  of  secondary  school  biology began  in  1982  by  the  Nigerian  Education  Research  Council  (NERC,  2005).  The Federal Government  in  collaboration  with  Esselte  (Swedish  non-governmental organization)  initiated the  National  Secondary  Science  and  Mathematics  Project (NSSMP).  They  worked  hand  in hand  with  the  federal  government  of  Nigeria. The  basic  aim  of  that  project  was  to  inculcate learning  through  the  use  of  a  wide variety  of  instructional  materials.  The  outcome  of  this was  the  emergence  of  the new  biology  curriculum  in  1985  published  by  the  Federal Ministry  of Education.  In  this  1985  curriculum,  many  more  topics  in  biology  were introduced and  the  number  of  years  to  be  spent  in  secondary  school  increased from  five  years  to  six years.  It  is  the  implementation  of  National  curriculum  for 13 Secondary  School  Biology  that the  present  study  is  designed  to  evaluate.

The biology curriculum has a spiral arrangement of  content.  The  content of  biology  curriculum are:  Concept  of  living;  Basic  ecological  concepts;  Plant and  animal  nutrition; Variations  and variability;  Evolution  and Genetics.   Based  on  this  spiral  arrangement,  the  concepts  to  be taught  are  arranged  in  such a  way  that  topics  are  repeated  yearly,  throughout  the  three  years of  the  course; to  cover  the  62  units  in  the  biology  curriculum.  Any  repeated  concept  is discussed  in  greater  complexity  and  depth  as  the  course  matures  over  the  three year  period. The  contents  of  the  senior  secondary  school  biology  curriculum places  emphasis  on  field studies,  guided  discovery,  laboratory  techniques  and skills.  The  curriculum  for  teaching biology  in  senior  secondary  schools emphasized  the  relationship  between  living  and  non-living  things;  relevance  of biology  to  agriculture;  the  structure  and  physiology  of  organisms; some  basic ecological  concepts;  the  use  of  natural  resources;  lands,  plants  and  animals-their variations,  populations  and  implications,  adaptation;  theories  of  evolution  and application of the  principle  of  heredity  in  agriculture  and  medicine.     

The objectives  of  secondary  school  biology  curriculum  have  been derived  from  the  National Policy  on  Education  first  introduced  in  1977  and  revised  in 1981,  1998  and  2004 (FRN,2004).  The cardinal objectives are  to  prepare students  to acquire:

1.      Adequate  laboratory  and  field skills  in  biology;

2.      Meaningful  and  relevant  knowledge  in  biology

3.      Ability  to  apply  scientific  knowledge  to  every  day’s  life  in  matters  of personal and community health and agriculture.

4.      Reasonable and functional scientific attitude. Biology is the study of living  things.  It is the study of life.  Biology  can also  be  defined  as  the  study  of  plants  and  animals. Content of biology  curriculum   The  content of  biology  curriculum  are:  

i.  Concept  of  living  

ii.  Basic  ecological  concepts  

iii.  Plant  and  animal  nutrition  

iv.  Variations  and variability 

v.  Evolution  

vi.  Genetics 

 The  objectives  of  the  biology  curriculum  have  been  adjudged  as  laudable according  to  Agu (2006),  Soyibo  (2008)  and  Yabugbe  (2009);  and  there  is evidence  to  show  that  even  though many  students  find  biology  interesting, thereby  registering  for  it  in  the  senior  secondary schools,  many  of  them  obtain poor  results,  year  in  and  year  out  in  it  as  shown  by Okebukola  and  Akinbola (2008).

In the recent past government and non governmental agencies in most developing countries in the world, recognizing the importance of science and technology are putting much in terms of resources and fund to encourage teaching and learning of science in senior secondary schools. This justifies its inclusion in the school curriculum, right from primary to tertiary levels in Nigerian schools.

Biology has come to take a vital place among the three basic science, more so since the national policy on education requires secondary school students to offer at least one basic science subject of secondary school level.

Nigeria educational research and development council NERDC (1993) was organised because of recurring annual poor performance of students in science, Workshop on “Difficult concepts” in science and mathematics. It was then reported that, some concept are difficult and claimed this to be responsible for students poor performance.

The NERDC classified the reasons for the perceived difficult biology curriculum to be: student related reasons, teachers in the field reasons, learning environment, nature of concepts and resources materials. Emphasis was also placed on teachers misconceptions, poor knowledge of subject matter, non currency of the teachers in the field. Poor teacher made tests and teaching methods as factors responsible for poor students performance in examination.

 Biology learning and teaching in secondary school includes many factors which are determinants of learning quality.  These can be classified as affective and cognitive factors.  For  the  cognitive domain,  reasoning  ability, information  processing  and  academic  achievement  are among the most  studied  constructs. Under the affective title, some well-defined constructs are included. Those among  the  most  frequently  emphasized  factors  of the  affective  domain  in  the  science  and biology  education literature  are  attitude,  self-efficacy,  anxiety  and  motivation.  As  an  affective factor,  giving  more  importance  of motivation  for  science education  over the other  affective today’s world. Biology learning includes understanding biological   organization   from molecules to ecosystems. To  understand systems and  their  organs are one  of  the most  important  steps  of learning  the  organization  of  life. So,  to  learn  and  teach organs  as  a school subject are important  task  for  biology  teachers..  Although  learning and  teaching  biology  begin  at elementary  grades,  under the  title  of  biology,  they  begin  to  occur  in  secondary school years. Motivational  preparedness  of teachers as  mediators  of  curriculum  to  teach  and  learn  any subject  matter  of  a  curriculum and related  perceptions  on the  subject  matter  are  important  to reach  aims  of a curriculum, because  every  curriculum is  needed  to  be considered in instructional level and  teachers  are important factors in this  level, above scenario moved the researcher into difficult areas in senior secondary school (SSS) biology curriculum from the perception of the biology teachers.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Several research works carried out on curriculum in Nigeria particularly in lagos State have revealed the nonchalant attitude of teachers in the secondary schools towards certain areas in biology curriculum. One  of  the  major  goals  of  science  education  in  Nigeria  is  to  produce scientists for  national  development  (FRN,  2004).  In  spite  of  Nigerian government’s  desire  to  promote science  education  programme  in  the  country, the  quality  of  science  students  produced  by  the secondary  schools  seem  to  be deteriorating.  In the particular  case  of  biology,  one is  led  to observe  that   despite the  importance  of  biology  as  a  science  subject,  evidence  have  shown that students  are  not  doing  well  in  this  subject  at  both  West  African  Secondary School Certificate  Examination  (WASSCE)  and  National  Examination Councils’ Secondary  School Certificate  Examination  (NECOSSCE).In Nigeria today, teachers attitude and students lack of interest have been reported to be major factors responsible for students perceived difficulty in sciences. teachers attitude towards science(biology) can either motivate students or discourage them, such recurring annual poor performance of students. There is therefore a problem of which concepts did teachers find difficult to teach. Then what could be responsible for this? Could it be Teachers academic qualification?, teaching experience? or gender?. Could it be that teachers themselves neglect or do not teach some areas in the class?  Are the methods the teachers use in teaching some areas in biology inappropriate? Well, this research is an attempt to answer the above questions.

1.3 Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of this study is to identify the difficult content areas in secondary school biology curriculum that science teachers find difficult to teach. It also sought to determine whether teachers academic qualification, teaching experience and gender as factors responsible for perception of difficulty which leads to poor performance of students in science courses (biology). Specifically, the study was directed at finding out;

1.      The areas in biology curriculum which senior secondary biology teachers find difficult to teach.

2.      Whether academic qualification and teaching experience of teachers, are factors which influences the area of difficulty in senior secondary school biology curriculum.

3.      Whether gender of teacher, is a factor which influences the area of difficulty in senior secondary school biology curriculum.

4.      Strategies  to  be  employed  in  solving  the  problem  of  difficult  topics  found in the senior secondary school biology curriculum.

1.4 Research Questions

The following research questions were raised.

1.       What content areas in the senior secondary school (SSS) biology curriculum do teachers find difficult to teach?

2.       To what extent does academic qualification of the teachers influence perceived area in biology curriculum?

3.      To what extent does gender of the teachers influence perceived area of difficulty in senior secondary school biology curriculum?

4.      What strategies to be employed in solving the problem of difficult areas found in senior secondary school biology curriculum?

1.5 Research Hypothesis

The following hypotheses were formulated to guide the study 

H01:  Teachers`  gender  has  no  significant  influence  on  the  perception  mean scores  of  the teachers  in  the  senior secondary school biology curriculum.  

H02:     Teachers   academic  qualification  has  no  significant  influence  on  the   perception  mean scores  of  the  teachers  in  the  senior secondary school biology curriculum.

1.6 Significance of the study

The researcher was compelled to engage in this study work of difficult content areas in the secondary school biology curriculum, by the present alarming increase in the failure of biology subject by students in senior school certificate biology examinations.

As earlier noted, the knowledge of biology prepares students for various fields like medicine, pharmacy; agriculture etc. For instance, if the problem of cells, genetics, mitosis and meiosis are dealt with as regards to heredity and cell division, the people in the society will be able to choose the best life partner and be aware of cell divisions in them during embryonic formation in the area of reproduction. Disease among the population will be prevented and also living condition will improve. The suggestions will be of great help to the teachers and students in those areas of difficulties.

Moreover, the findings of the study will be of immense benefits to biology researchers and book writers in biology. It will also help institutions preparing teachers of biology to be familiar with important data for planning biology course for potential and present biology teachers in our secondary schools.

Governmental bodies entrusted with curriculum planning will know where to amend while planning biology curriculum when this work must have been completed by the researcher. And this will eventually lead to a sustainable development and improvement in the teaching of biology in schools.

1.7 Scope of the Study

The  scope  of  this  study  was  delimited  to  thirty biology teachers  in  Lagos  State.  This  work was  also  limited  to gender,  location,  academic  qualifications and experience as  factors  that influence  teachers  perceptions  of  difficult  areas  on the senior secondary school biology curriculum.

This  work  also  intended  to  provide possible  remedial  strategies  that  may  be  employed  as means  of  alleviating  the perception problems and the difficult contents of the biology curriculum.  

1.8       Definition of terms

1.         Perception: conscious understanding of something.

2.         Teacher: a person who teaches, especially one employed in a school.

3.         Difficult: hard, not easy, requiring much effort.

4.         Curriculum: the set of courses, coursework and content, offered at a school or university.

5.         Biology: study of all life or living matter.

This material content is developed to serve as a GUIDE for students to conduct academic research

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