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ASSESSMENT OF PERSONNEL AND PERSONNEL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME OF THE DISTANCE EDUCATION INSTITUTES IN ABIA STATE
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Background to the Study
Nigeria attained her independence in 1960. Since then, she has witnessed a very rapid population growth and this has spread to the education industry. There is surely a fundamental problem of unmet demand for education posed by this rapid population growth and its pressure can be felt on the educational system. Many adults who have acquired primary or secondary education and are working find it difficult to continue their education on full time bases. There are many young adults who cannot gain admission into conventional tertiary institutions in Nigeria because of their inability to pass the entrance exam. The working class are not given full opportunity to further their studies as stipulated in the National Policy on Education (2004). These have caused several institutions of learning to embark upon appropriate means of making education available to people wherever they are, hence the emergence of distance education. The rationale for distance education programme therefore is to provide on the spot training for manpower development.
Distance education refers to any form of organized educational experience in which teaching and learning take place with teachers at a distance from the learners most of the time. Perraton (1991) sees distance education as an educational process in which a significant proportion of teaching is conducted by someone removed in space and time from the learners. Moreso, it is used to cover various forms of study at all levels where students are not in constant physical contact with their teachers (Nwizu, 2001). The term Distance Education acquired universal acceptance around 1982 when the International Council for Correspondence Education (ICCE) a UNESCO affiliated organization, changed its name to the International Council for Distance Education (ICDE) (Bhola, 1989).
The practice of distance education in Nigeria dates back to 1887 when some Nigerians started enrolling for London University External Degree Examinations while working (Omolewa, 1985). Moreover, the major objective of Distance education in Nigerian Universities is to broaden access to higher education for those already working and who need various types of formal and continuing education in order to perform better in their jobs (Nwizu, 2001). This is in line with National Policy on Education (2004), which states:
Education is the most important instrument for change” and as such, educational policies must be geared “towards ensuring that there are equal access and adequate educational opportunities at all levels”.
Furthermore, the policy stated that the Federal government shall undertake to make life-long education the basis for the nation’s educational policy” (p.9).
The government, in a bid to ensure the above policies, adopted a philosophy of education, which proposes that at any stage after primary education, citizens should be able to choose between continuing work with study or embarking on full-time employment without losing the chance of resuming studies later on. The policy also stated the need for greater opportunity to higher education and resolved that maximum efforts would be made to enable those who would want to benefit from higher education have opportunity to it. These must have been responsible for the establishment of a number of Distance education programmes by some universities in Nigeria and Abia State University in particular. In Abia State which is the area of this study, the Institute for Distance Education of the Abia State University is the only Distance education institute attached to a University in Abia State.
The Abia State University (ABSU) established the Institute for Distance Education, Abia (IDEA) as a community based service. According to Ogwo (1994) weekly tutorials are organized at various centres where students meet and interact with the course tutors and themselves. Continuing, he noted that the reason for its set up, is to meet the increasing demand for higher education, increase public awareness of the value of distance education programmes and the obvious advantages of increasing access to higher education and cost effectiveness. Thus, its objectives according to Ikonne (1999) are the provision of opportunity for university education for:
- Those Nigerians who for one reason or the other could not get regular university education.
- Those Nigerian workers especially those at the higher echelon of their establishment who could not benefit from regular university education.
- Others who wish to acquire new skills/qualifications so as to enable them to change from their present job to a more rewarding employment.
- To organize seminars and workshops to enable those in other sectors of education know where to concentrate research and development (p.4).
The distance learning programme organized by the Institute of Distance Education, Abia State for realizing the stated objectives takes place currently at the Uturu (main campus) and Umudike Campuses of the University. The institutes have progressed greatly since they started. The success of this institution is because of the fact that academic programmes are still centrally controlled at the main campus Uturu (Ikonne, 1999). In addition, the courses as accredited and recommended by the National University Commission (NUC) are designed in the same pattern as those offered in the regular programmes.
Thus personnel in Distance education just as in conventional education, is composed of academic (teaching) and administrative (non-teaching) staff. Distance education programmes as carried out by this institution are organized and managed by people who make use of material resources to achieve the aims for which the distance education programme is established. Ubeku (1984) sees personnel as “people” who are engaged in organization’s activities regardless of level. Continuing, he states that since people are necessary ingredient in any organization, personnel is inherent in all organizations. Personnel is seen as the most important resource needed for the production of goods and services. It helps in socio-economic development and efficient service delivery.
According to Barney (1995:50) personnel include all the experience, skills, judgement, contacts, risk-taking and wisdom of individuals and associates with an organization. The critical process of determining goals, making investment, choices, directing work effort on a day-to-day basis, maintaining and servicing equipment fall squarely on the personnel of an organization. It therefore follows that without adequate skilled and well motivated work force operating within an organization, development is not possible, hence the need for personnel development. Personnel development is inclusive of “education” and training and emphasizes an unfolding process as well as carries an implication of growth and maturation through the lowest formal educational level to tertiary level and development of leadership skills and knowledge (Udo-Udo-Aka, 1992). Distance education institutions through many ways are expected to develop their manpower to enable them meet their defined objectives. Achiuwa (2002) declares that:
Recruiting, selecting and properly placing personnel at appropriate places is the same way of not only exercising these powers but achieves the objectives of the university. However, no matter the quality of staff selected and placed at position, there is always a growing need to develop and improve such staff to perform better (p.6).
A candid appraisal of the distance education personnel development programmes generally seem to reveal that they are far from being satisfactory. The scenario has been a rat race in educational retailing expressed in the number of outreach campuses established at every nook and cranny with little or no attention paid to the quality of education offered.
Available literature and experience seem to point to the fact that a core of academics, administrators, technologists and other ancillary personnel within the Distance education (DE) operational framework who are managers of their profession by training, exposure and competence are lacking (Maduabum, 2004; Nwizu, 2001). It was this situational reality that prompted the Federal Government of Nigeria to clampdown on these satellite campuses in order to curtail their excesses. There is need according to Nwizu (2001) to constantly review and assess educational programmes in line with their objectives. Okpala, Onocha and Oyedeji (1993) opined that assessment is the process of organizing measurement data into interpretable forms on a number of variables. It suggests the extent of and in what direction the change is taking place. Assessment can be used in monitoring educational progress. This being the case, assessment of personnel and personnel development programme of the IDEA is needed at this point to enable the institute critically analyze its DE programme with a view to making some improvement in the needed areas. Inspite of the progress recorded by IDEA, indicators as experience in Nigeria has revealed according to Nwahunanya (2004) that DE is bedeviled by a number of obstacles which have placed a huge question mark over the certificates obtained from it. Mkpa (1994) and Madubum (2004) assert that critical and cursory examination of the quality of the study materials used in our DE programme show they have not been impressive. Meziobi (1994) describes them as “ill-prepared, superficial or substandard materials which do not stimulate the creative, innovative capacities of the learners nor push them in the direction of research functional knowledge and skills acquisition”.
Nwingira (1990) also opined that personnel and skills required in the development and production of multi-media distance learning materials, seem to be inadequate and difficult to obtain in developing countries. For instance editors, graphic designers and other experimental kit designers and other administrative skills needed to manage complex production and teaching systems are inadequate. Worse still, the few available ones appear not to be constantly retrained to update their knowledge. These deficiencies pose a number of challenges that need to be addressed to make DE programmes efficient and effective. Suffice it to say that developing quality learning materials as stated by Madubum (2004) requires a good team of highly skilled talent. Thus personnel training in the areas of course materials development, administration and management of DE has become necessary and imperative if standard is to be maintained in DE programmes. Students’ opinion of the programme in which they are involved are, of course, of paramount importance. Holmberge as quoted in Nwizu (2001) supported the use of students and tutors perception of a programme for evaluation when he stated that students and tutors may be asked what they think about a programme, how motivating and interesting it is, they may be required to comment on a particular method with a view to restructure and improve on the programme.
It is against this background that the researcher deemed it necessary to assess the personnel and personnel development programmes of IDEA with a view to determine the actual state of these variables in the institute.
Statement of the Problem
Distance education personnel, both experienced and inexperienced, require at one time or the other on the job training or professional growth and development. Contrary to this, Universities in Nigeria and DE institutions in particular have been indicted for seemingly paying inadequate attention to staff training and development (Onah, 2003). Recently, following the controversies that culminated to the closure of satellite campuses and study centres, there has arisen the need for a more stringent concern for those neglected issues such as staff training and development programmes, availability of qualified and experienced tutors, course writers or designers, administrators and other categories of staff that are crucial for effective implementation of DE programmes in Nigeria.
Specifically, Onuoha (1994) asserted that the management of the Personnel in the Institute for Distance Education of the Abia State University has been ineffective and inefficient thereby casting aspersions on the DE programme of the University. In a related development, Ebirim (2002) and Yudkowsky (1998) variously noted equally that Distance educators and their workforce are either not trained or under-trained. With this scenario, how can the goals of DE be achieved? It has become evident that for DE institutions to function optimally and realize the goals for which they were established, the staff must be trained and developed to enable them contribute their full measure to the objective of the institutions. Based on this, the problem of this study posed as a question is: what is the state of personnel and personnel development programmes of DE Institutes in Abia State?
Purpose of the Study
The major purpose of the study is to assess the personnel and personnel development programme in the Institute for Distance Education of the Abia State University (IDEA). Specifically the study seeks to:
- Determine the extent to which the different types of personnel are available in the IDEA.
- Determine the extent to which distance education personnel adequately perform their functions.
- Find out the extent to which staff development programme are provided in the IDEA
- Determine the training needs of personnel in the IDEA.
- Examine the problems distance education personnel encounter in the IDEA.
Significance of the Study
A problem is half-solved on identification. It is only when a problem is identified that solution will be sought for. Ugwuzor, (2004) stated that research in education is necessary only to the extent that it provides a basis for solving problem in education and in providing an empirical basis in which actions and decisions are taken.
The study which tries to assess personnel and personnel development programme in the institute for Distance education of Abia State is significant in a number of ways. The result of this study will enable the IDEA and other institutions that are involved in Distance education programme to determine the types of personnel needed to understand and ameliorate the problem inherent in Distance education programmes with a view to enhance the productivity of the Institutes of Distance Education.
The study in its bid to assess the human and material resources will help the university to identify the areas where personnel and training programmes are needed most. This will enable them select and recruit the appropriate staff and provide training in order to improve the quality of the programme. The study will also help the Nigerian universities involved in DE to introduce staff development programmes in order to update the personnel knowledge and skill for them to operate efficiently.
Scope of the Study
The scope of this study is restricted to the Assessment of personnel and personnel development programmes of universities running DE programme in IDEA The study covered the areas of assessing the types of personnel that are available, how they perform their functions, staff development programme, educational training needs of personnel and problems DE personnel encounter.
The following research questions are formulated to guide the study:
- What types of personnel are available in your distance education programmes?
- To what extent do distance education personnel perform their functions?
- What staff development programmes are organized for Distance education personnel?
- What are the educational training needs of personnel in the IDEA?
- What problems are encountered by personnel in carrying out Distance education programme?
The following null hypotheses will be tested at 0.05 level of significance:
Ho1 There is no significant difference in the mean rating of the teaching staff and non teaching staff of IDEA on the extent to which staff development programmes are available in the Distance education programme.
Ho2 There is no significant difference in the mean ratings of the teaching staff and non teaching staff of the IDEA on the training needs available in IDEA.
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