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The State of School Laboratories in Nigeria

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The State of School Laboratories in Nigeria

A laboratory is a room, building or part of a building that is specially built for teaching by demonstration of theoretical phenomenon into practical terms. The laboratory experience enables students to translate what seems to be abstract into practical realities, thereby enhancing their understanding of the learning process. The study of biology in secondary schools takes place in laboratories. This is to enable easy access and usage of material resources stocked in the laboratories for teaching and learning, not only during practical classes but also during normal classroom teaching. Biology adopts laboratory method of teaching. The laboratory method is an individual or group activity involving a two-way approach namely: the exercise approach and the experimental approach. Okoli & Osuafor (2010) pointed out that this method offers students the opportunity to develop scientific skills and attitudes such as objectivity, communication, questioning, formulating hypothesis, analyzing data, critical thinking, carefulness, open-mindedness, making inferences and analyze data. Scientific skills can only be effectively developed if biology laboratory facilities are effectively utilized.

The study of Biology provides students with basic life skills and processes that help to prepare them to become productive members of society Azuka (2018) for this reason there is need for teachers to teach it effectively. This can only be achieved when teachers are favorably disposed to using the appropriate methods and resources in teaching and learning the subject. For science teachers to play their roles in teaching biology effectively, laboratory facilities should be made available and utilized appropriately, this would also improve the performance of students. The poor performance of students in Biology especially at Senior School Certificate Examinations (SSCE) level has become a source of concern to all stakeholders in education in the country (Imogie, 2017). One of the major reasons for this is the unavailability of or inappropriate utilization of laboratory facilities in the teaching of Biology by secondary school teachers. According to a review of student’s performance in Biology in the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE) from 2005 to 2013 in Nigeria, it was revealed that there was a fluctuation and downward trend in the students’ performance (Daluba, 2018). This has attracted a lot of concern among science educators. In order to achieve the objectives, aspirations of the government, and to improve the performance of students in Biology, efforts need to be made towards improving the teaching and learning of the subject. Effective teaching and meaningful learning of Biology at the secondary school level depend to a large extent on the availability, utilization and management of both human and material resources.

Resources according to Hornby (2018) are supplies of something that a country, organization or individual has and can use especially to increase wealth. According to National Teachers Institute (2016) report, resources in the classroom can be classified into two broad categories, which include those that appeal to the sense of sight, are classified as visual resources and those which appeal to the sense of hearing, are classified as audio materials. other resources also combine both features these are classified as audio-visual (A-V) materials. Isola (2017) referred to instructional resources as objects or devices, which help the teacher to make a lesson much clearer to the learner. Instructional resources are also described as concrete or physical objects, which provide sound, visual, or both to the sense organs during teaching (Agina-obu, 2017).

Teaching of Biology cannot be effective without interaction between the teacher, students and the environmental resources. The Biology curriculum is planned to enable the teacher use activity oriented, child-centered approach (guided inquiry) to teach Nzewi and Nwosu (2018) Laboratory Facilities can therefore be said to be supplies of teachers, learners, laboratory assistants/technologists, instructional materials and other necessary devices made available to the school in order to increase the wealth of knowledge, which gives help, support in the teaching and the learning process in secondary schools.

Laboratory Facilities are categorized into two namely: human and material resources. Human biology Laboratory Facilities comprise all human beings or resourceful individuals who in one way or the other aid effective utilization of material resources in biology laboratories. These human resources include teachers, learners, resource persons, laboratory assistants and technologists together with other non-professional personnel (Okoli and Osuafor, 2018).

Laboratory material resources also bear educational terminologies like: instructional materials, teaching materials, educational media, teaching aids, instructional facilities and instructional media. Chimezie, Ike and Iwu (2016) pointed out that these are devices which present a complete body of information and largely self-supporting rather than supplementing in the teaching-learning process. Educational material resources are things which are manipulated, seen, heard, read or talked about plus instruments which facilitate such activity (Okafor, 2018). Such material resources Okafor continued are both tools for teaching and avenues for learning. They include textbooks, chalkboards, model/mock-ups, television, radio and other projected as well as non-projected devices.

Laboratory Facilities

Resources as defined by Hornby (2006) are supplies of something that a country, an organization or a person has and can use, especially to increase wealth. Hornby further explained that resources are things that can be used to help achieve an aim, e.g. a book, equipment etc that provide information for teachers and students. In the context of this work, resources are discussed as it concerns biology laboratory.

Laboratory Facilities can be viewed as supplies of individuals and materials whose utility in one way or the other help in the actualization of educational objectives. All resources have unique qualities of utility, availability and consumption (wikipedia, 2011). Resources are vital for any teaching-learning process to proceed effectively. The desirability of adopting material resources for teaching biology cannot be over emphasized in making the lesson concrete and practicable. They are necessary tools that facilitate learning. Chime (2010) is of the opinion that resource materials enable the teacher to teach more effectively or better still enable the children to learn more readily. Learning resources motivate students and serve as effective ways to explain and illustrate subject content. In a similar vein, Oladipo (2008) asserted that resource materials facilitate understanding of concrete materials, creative motivation and interests for the subject. These laboratory resource materials reinforce learners to retain information for a long period of time. Chukelu (2009) agrees with Okafor (2000) that utilization of material resources for teaching-learning processes has the following positive effects on the learners:

  • Holds students’ interest.
  • Retains information.
  • Provides concrete and realistic experience.
  • Stimulates imagination and self-activity.
  • Helps to clarify abstract ideas.
  • They promote greater acquisition and longer retention of factual knowledge.
  • They offer real life experience which stimulates self-activity on the students. In the same vein, Chimezie, Ike & Iwu (2002) explained that these materials provide opportunities for students to develop independent learning, holds students interest and

reduce meaningless word responses from the students.

Laboratory Facilities are broadly classified into two, namely: human and material resources. Researchers have identified different types of resources. For instance, resources could be identified as human resources; natural resources; material resources; community resources; capital resources and personnel resources. Chimezie, Ike and Iwu (2002) categorized resources into message, people, materials, devices, techniques, settings and the learner. For the purpose of this research work, only human and material resources are discussed.

Human Laboratory Facilities otherwise called resource persons are people who possess more authentic knowledge and needed information and skill, and are also willing and able to communicate to students the information, and have the right or authority to give the information out. They can be foreigners or indigene. They provide wonderful opportunities through creative activities for self-expression. Their invitation and selection depends on the content, objectives and methodology most appropriate for each topic. Wikipedia (2011) view human resources as a term used to describe the individuals who make up a work force of an organization. Human resources are the skills, energies, talents, abilities and knowledge that are used for the production of goods or the rendering of services (Wikipedia, 2011).

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Resource persons also called human resources are expertise individuals with specialties in different professions. These specialized experts have the needed skills which can be transferred to others. Human resources are selected based on professionalism and talent not because of age, gender or location. Laboratory human resources are both academic staff as well as the laboratory staff. Nwagbo (2005) highlighted some of qualities of a biology teacher as a competent resource person as: being emotionally stable, have good disposition, show a democratic and cooperative attitude. She/he should also demonstrate empathy, patience, humor and fairness. These personality traits of the teacher add to his effectiveness in teaching and learning of biology. Nwafor (2008) listed the professional duties of biology laboratory resource persons as follows:

  • Help to determine the objectives of the school system.
  • Provide laboratory facilities for use in the biology laboratories.
  • Help to develop relevant curricular and learning materials (like posters, charts, videos, tapes, real objects and specimens).
  • Assist in the development and evaluation of resources for school learning.
  • Serve as speakers on career days.
  • Help in the implementation of biology laboratory innovations.
  • Organize meetings, workshops, conference and seminars for teachers and or students
  • Providing advice on budgeting, financing, purchasing, policies and procedures to be employed in biology laboratories.
  • Help in the development of programmes for the maintenance of biology laboratory building and equipment.
  • Monitoring and evaluation of staff, students and all available material resources.

  Material Laboratory Facilities could be divided into four namely: audio-visual materials, visual/non-projected materials; audio media and projected media.  Chimezie et al(2002) classified material Laboratory Facilities as instructional media, instructional materials and educational media. For the purpose of this research work, Biology laboratory resource materials are classified into four as summarized below:

(a)        Classification as appealed to the two main senses.

(b)        Classification as print and non-print media.

(c)        Classification into two-dimensional and three-dimensional materials.

(d)       Classification into projected and non-projected media.

(a)        Classification as appealed to the two main senses (hearing and sight).

For effective utilization of learning resources, all the body sense organs must be involved. All learning is the result of sensory experience whether kinesthetic (touch), gustatory (test), Olfactory (smell), auditory (hearing) or optical (seeing). The classification as appealed to the senses of hearing and sight are as follows:

Audio (auditory or aural) aids are material Laboratory Facilities that appeal only to the sense of hearing.  Audio media refers to those compliments that appeal to the sense of hearing. They produce sound which makes sense to the hearer; they can be used for group and individualized instruction and more importantly, for “homebound students” under special education schools. The teacher should break the content in small bits (task analysis) from simple to complex and specify the instructional objectives bearing in mind the age, ability level, interest and background of the learner (learner analysis); as well as the characteristics of the audio- resource material (material analysis)such as visibility, replaceability, compatibility (with other materials such as filmstrips, slide, programmes instructions); which make the medium of instruction more potential for educative purposes especially in developing countries.

Visual (optical) aids are resource materials which appeal only to the sense of sight. Audio-visuals are resource materials which appeal to the senses of sight and hearing at the same time. Egbu (2010) warned that audio visual instructional materials must produce both sound and hearing before classified as audio-visual material. They include computers, television, video films, motion pictures with sound, documentary films, recorded programme and demonstrations.

(b)        Classification as printed media such as textbooks, journals, posters, mimeographs, pamphlets, brochure and non-printed media such as chalkboards, flannel boards, models, 16mm film/projector, transparencies, overhead projector, mock-ups diorama. Non-printed media can be in the form of hardboard or software.

(c)        Classification into two-dimensional materials: they are flat materials which have length and breadth such as pictures, charts, posters, comics, cartoons, slides, graphs, filmstrips, films  and three dimensional materials: they are thick materials which have length, breath and height such as models, puppets, dioramas, simulations and games, mock-ups etc.

(d)      Projected and non-projected media are classified as: projected resource materials are those instructional materials which require projection viewing. The projection is accompanied by either passing light through a transparent material or throwing light on an opaque object and the desired image is projected on the screen or wall. Light is passed or thrown on the material with the help of a projector. In other words, the materials (software) are presented with the help of the projector. Basically, projected materials are categorized into two namely, the transparent and opaque projections. Transparent projected resource materials are those materials that allow light to pass through transparent materials containing images such as drawings or pictures and projecting them into a screen or white wall. The image so projected is still or motionless. Slides, filmstrips, overhead transparencies, microfiche, microfilm and microscope slide are the examples of transparent still projected materials. The hardware/equipment which are used in presenting the above materials are slide projectors, filmstrip projectors, Overhead Transparency Projector (OTP), microfiche reader, microfilm reader and micro projector. Opaque projection involves the projection of opaque or non-transparent materials using the opaque projector. The opaque projector projects opaque materials by means of reflected light. The opaque projector is very versatile as it can manipulate any opaque material that can be accommodated in it. The projector is unique for instruction in that materials for projection are readily available in the classroom. on-projected visual media do not require projection viewing. They are opaque in nature. Examples include: books, and other printed materials, objects, specimens, models, mock-ups, graphic materials, bulletin boards, and exhibits, chalkboards, buildings, field trips, simulations and games. All researchers in biology Ozofor 2001 and Neboh 2008; Oladipo 2008) advocate to the proper utilization of material resources for teaching and learning since it produces the under listed effects on students:

  • They develop a continuity of thought; this is especially true of motion pictures.
  • They supply a concrete basis of conceptual thinking; hence they reduce meaningless word responses of students.
  • They contribute to the growth of meaningful learning and vocabulary development.
  • They prevent and correct misconceptions of abstract concepts, spatial relations and special details. In spite of the above advantages of research reports, (Okoli and Osuafor, 2010) indicate that biology Laboratory Facilities are lacking or inadequate in schools. It is sad to note that even where biology Laboratory Facilities are present, they are not effectively utilized for instruction due to certain factors.

Availability of Laboratory Facilities

The use of aids in teaching is of importance as they help to stimulate Learners interest and promote understanding. According to Akoano and Akpokiere (2006) the teaching and learning of science which is practical course requires practical laboratory activities because experiment is the hall mark of science education. Uyoata (2006) also opined that meaningful learning of science requires the use of multisensory approaches where appropriate instructional resources are selected and used. This is necessary because in this kind of learning students make use of more than one sense modality in learning. Dangbin (2008) also reported that practical activities using sufficient facilities enable learners to acquire cognitive skills such as formulation of hypothesis, making assumptions, designing investigations, understanding variables, observing, recording date etc and associated with these activities are scientific attitudes like curiosity, perseverance etc which are necessary for engaging in faithful science investigation. However, Lawal (2006) reported that biological physical structures as well equipment are inadequate.

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Ajayi (2008) also reported that biology teachers in secondary schools have always lamented that among the various obstacles to effective teaching of biology practicals includes lack of laboratory space and equipment, large class and inadequate time allocation. Oludare Abiodun and Ajayi (2006) also reported that there are no enough classrooms and laboratories. Laboratories have poor facilities and equipment and that, supplies of chemicals and reagents for experiments are quite low. Also schools lack laboratory assistance resulting in the poor maintenance and obsolete nature of laboratory facilities. Adepoju (2000) also reported that the quality of the products of the education system is daily depreciating due to obsolete, inadequate or even non-availability of materials. There is a general consensus among science educators that science teaching in schools has continued to be theoretical and not practically oriented (Ihieglulem 2006, Oludare Abiodun and Emmanuel 2009) As a result of this learners do not think practically and they are not able to apply the knowledge acquired. Little encouragement is given to learners to find out things for themselves instead they are being fed with fact and dogmas. As a result of this many science classrooms are characterized by for the purpose of passing examination.

Supporting this view Ogu (2008) reported that in most schools emphasis is more on the memorization of facts with a view to passing examination and less on the method of finding out the facts and learning to apply them. That the practice is to defer practice to few weeks to the external examination. This practice prepares the students for the examination but does not give room for any meaningful learning. Resources are aids to learning rather than teaching, sourcing them however, is the responsibility of the teacher. Sourcing for resources makes the teachers work cumbersome as a result of which few teachers would like using them (Dangbin, 2008) That some teachers may not want to use facilities simply because they are too lazy to go for them even when they are available. Also some teachers may not want to use teaching facilities because they have been trained in the use of excessive verbalization of ideas and they are reluctant to shed the old practice. According to Lewin (2000) high institutions in Nigeria charged with the responsibility of training science teachers are increasingly turning out teachers without requisite experiences in laboratory practices. Such trained teachers usually lack the necessary competence and confidence to conduct practical classes thus even when materials are within easy reach they may refuse to use them. The conditions under which many teachers function do not engender any enthusiasm for practical work. The class size especially in urban schools is sometimes larger.

According to Chika (2010) there is a general increase in the environments f students who study biology without a corresponding increase to school facilities. Adebayo (2000) had earlier reported that the population of students has continued to grow every year at the expense of available physical facilities for their use that government as failed to expand or put in place new facilities thereby making existing facilities to be over utilized because of the pressure on them. supporting this vie Lewin (2000) reported the importance attached to laboratory activities does not match government’s provision of Laboratory Facilities and equipment possibly due to the condition of the national economy which is deteriorating. Justifying this Lewin (2000)noted that in most state governments have given up the hope of adequate equipping all schools with science facilities. Instead they have designated some schools  as ‘special science schools’ which hey equip with  their meagre resources .

Another related problem is the practice in which teachers are not involved in planning and procurement of relevant instructional facilities for use in schools. According to Uyoata (2006) truckloads of items some of which are so strange and not related to the contents of the science curriculum are imposed on the teachers. Such materials are packed away where they collect dust for years which leads to malfunctioning of such facilities. They may lie waste because the teacher does not know how to use. And when they are faulty the replacement parts are hardly available.

Utilization of Laboratory Facilities

The process of managing and organizing resources for teaching and learning is referred to as resource utilization (Lewin 2000) Resources utilization has to do with the extent to when facilities are provided to schools, these are three possibilities, they are either used effective or inefficiently or they may remain unused. When item of equipment is maximally used such as equipment is effectively utilized. If the equipment is not maximally used it can be said to be underutilized. When there is so much pressure on the use of an equipment this may result to over utilization which could lead to breakdown of such item of equipment.

Teaching leaning facilities improves the quality of teaching and make learning content meaningful. According to Ihiegbulem (2006) resource materials utilization during practices lessons inculcates in the students the spirit of careful observation, manipulative skills, respective thinking and creativity in the learners, Lewin (2000) however reported that science facilities are only important when they are used. One of the major problems facing the teaching and learning of science is connected with the management of available resources (Ogunleye, 2003) movement of resources requires the science teacher himself be resourceful and creative and be careful in handling and using available facilities are handled cautiously especially the fragile ones. This is necessary because once the facilities are misused they cannot offer the best service required.

Maintenance of Facilities

The process in which good care is taken of tools and equipment to prolong their life span is referred to as maintenance. It involves all activities put in place to keep and restore the condition of facilities. Momoh and Onjewu (2006) define maintenance as any action or group of action taken to keep a facility in good working conclusion for as long as possible. When activities such as repairs, servicing, greasing etc are put in place to keep or restore the component of an item, the item is being maintained.

Laboratory equipment and facilities must be adequately taken care of in order to ensure their normal working conditions. Maintenance prevents deterioration and also weeds out obsolete items which no longer serve the required function. Momoh and Onjewu (2006) identified the followings as objectives of maintenance of facilities:- To ensure that facilities are always available to provide services to for maximum benefits to staff and students.

–           To ensure operational readiness of facilities for continuous service so as to reduce losses which may result from down time.

–           To protect operating personnel and save facilities

–           To extend the use of the facility for maximum benefit. Maintenances could be routine ongoing activities such as daily or weekly cleaning of the laboratory equipment and facilities, it could be periodic activities such as inspection and lubrication of parts of equipment to ensure continued working condition or corrective maintenance which include activities carried out to fix back a failed equipment or facility maintenance also involves the security of the equipment and facilities. Security here covers protection from physical damage from pests, fire, rain etc. It also pertains to protection from theft or unauthorized use.

Teachers should not wait for an equipment to breakdown completely before it is serviced. Report of the need for repairs or replacement of equipment must be made to school authority with the view to making immediate arrangement for the repairs and maintenance to avoid waste and depreciation.

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However it has been reported that one of the major problems facing the teaching and learning of science is connected with the management of available resources (Ogunleye, 2003) that inability to appropriately manage resource in the laboratory is a sign of poor management. Kalat (2006) also reported poor maintenance culture among teachers. That outright hostility, manhandling, inferior texture, weathering, over use etc are among the factors inhibiting proper management of facilities. Moses (2006) reported that maintenance culture is very poor in Nigerian schools, homes, offices and industries. That facilities and equipment are laying waste due to breakdown; some are forced to breakdown by dust and cobwebs due to negligence and lack of care.

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