Background of the Study
The clamour for nursery school education by parents and the government support for early literacy have been strong and overwhelming since the past two decades. The reason is not far-fetched. The wider view is that nursery school education can bring a wide range of benefits for children, parents and society at large. McWayne, Cheung, Wright, Hahs-Vaughn & Thomas (2012) said that the transition from nursery school to elementary school imposes diverse developmental challenges that requires children to engage successfully with their peers outside of the family network, adjust to the space of a classroom and meet the expectations the school setting provides. However, these benefits are conditional on “quality”. Expanding access to services without attention to quality will not deliver good outcomes for children on one hand and long-term productivity benefits for society on the other hand.
The history and development of nursery school education in Nigeria dates back to 18th century with the settlement of the colonial government who through the missionaries, set up schools in churches for their children and few of the citizens’ children. Early locations of nursery schools were Abeokuta, Lagos, Onitsha, Calabar, Bonny and Warri where the presences of the missionaries were dominant (Maduewesi, 1999).
The Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN, 2008) defined early childhood education as the care, protection, stimulation and learning promoted in children from age 0-5 years in a day care centre, crèche, nursery or kindergarten. The focus of this study is nursery school education. The term nursery school is identified with different names worldwide. Colon (2004) said that some call it early childhood education, kindergarten, pre-school, pre-primary, nursery school, day Care, infant classes, to mention a few. However, for the purpose of this research, we shall consistently refer to it as nursery school education.
The National Policy on Education (FRN, 2004) posits that the purpose of nursery education are to effect a smooth transition from the home to the school, prepare the child for the primary level of education, provide adequate care, supervision and security for the children while their parents are at work. Also, to inculcate in the child social and moral norms, spirit of enquiry and creativity through the exploration of nature, the environment, art, music and the use of toys. More so, it aims at making the child develop a sense of co-operation, team-spirit and good health habits and to teach the rudiments of numbers, letters, colours, shapes, forms, etc, through play.
The document states that the federal government of Nigeria will set and monitor minimum standards for early childhood Care and Education Centers (ECCE). She will establish early childhood and Care Education sections in public primary schools and encourage community and private efforts in its provision based on set standards. Government will supervise and control the quality of ECCE institutions, produce learning and instructional materials, provide favourable environment for learning, among others.
It is in a bid to give children good head starts, help them develop cognitive, affective and psychomotor skills and to achieve the overall goal of nursery education that Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) with support from United Nation International Children Education Fund (UNICEF) developed the National Minimum Standard for Early Child Care Centres (FRN, 2005). To ensure uniform and enhanced programme participation by government, private persons, companies, churches and the mosque, the National Policy for Integrated Early Childhood Development (NPIECD) in Nigeria was additionally adopted (FRN, 2007). The provisions of the former formed the benchmark for quality control of nursery school operation in Nigeria as applicable in Rivers State.
The state ministry of education was vested with the power to achieve the above objectives by ensuring that all stake holders comply with the national minimum standards through regular inspection and supervision and by providing education laws and their enforcement. It is expected that the teachers and supervisors have major roles to play in ensuring that children are benefiting from nursery programme.
Teachers have the task of guiding, directing and providing safe and healthy environment on daily basis for children’s play and explorative activities while focusing on few children at a time. Teachers serve dual role of being caregiver to the nursery school child as well as his internal supervisor. Their position avails them the opportunity of being internal assessors of young children school programme alongside that of the supervisors.
The supervisor’s role in young children’s programme is to ensure compliance of the provisions of the minimum standard and to police all stake holders until they implement them to the letter. McCrea & Brasseur (2003) said that supervision is a process that consists of a variety of patterns of behavior, the appropriateness of which depends upon the needs, competencies, expectations and philosophies of the supervisor and the supervisee and the specifics of the situation (task, client, setting, and other variables). The Federal Ministry of Education (2012), being the chief custodian of education documents that the main objective of school supervision is to ensure that learning takes place in schools, the required standards are being maintained, schools are accountable to their proprietors (in the case of public schools, the government) and their customers (parents and students).
Egwunyenga (2005) perceives supervision as an action taken to improve teaching and learning situations for children. Thus, the activities carried out by a supervisor are summed up as supervision. While supervisors are to provide guidance on how schools can improve and build up a picture of how well schools are performing for informed policy decisions, government believes that the health and safety of the children, the cognitive, psychomotor and affective development of the child depends on the quality of the learning environment and age appropriate materials provided for the child’s exploration. Hence, the role of supervisors of education in assessing the quality measures put in place prior to the commencement of a nursery school programme is very important.
Assessment is the process of gathering information about the whole child at different stages in his/her learning. The Assessment Reform Group (2006) maintained that in the early years, assessment is a critical process that enables teachers to plan and organise appropriate activities to meet the needs and learning direction of individuals as well as groups of children. Black, Harrison, Lee, Marshall & Williams (2004) added that effective assessment informs planning and evaluation so that curriculum and teaching can be modified and improved. Assessment also provides a valuable insight into school improvement including staff development, resource needs and curriculum development.
The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA, 2009) defined assessment as ‘the ongoing practice of collecting, documenting, reflecting on and using information to develop rich portraits of children as learners in order to support and enhance future learning’. Thus, careful assessment and record keeping underpin effective early years practice.
In this study, assessment is the deliberate appraisal of the means provided as a pointer to checking the success or failure of a programme below and above which the quality status of such a programme is determined. For example, if qualified teachers are employed in large numbers, it means that the stipulated teacher- child ratio will be achieved. Hence, quality will be achieved and the effectiveness of the control measures put in place determined.
According to the World Education Forum (2000), quality can be viewed in terms of input (buildings, physical facilities); in terms of process (curriculum process, implementation and reform) and in terms of results (development status and learning of children). Odom & Wolery (2003) supported that the elements that contribute to program quality include the organization of physical space, appropriate and adequate supply of materials and teacher qualifications. Others include programming variables, instructional strategies, collaboration among team members and families, as well as individualisation and adaptations within daily routines. In essence, a high quality environment and support for classroom staff must characterize all nursery school settings to ensure desirable outcomes for all children, especially children with disabilities.
Therefore, quality in this study is current nursery school human and facility standard provided at centres with reference to the national minimum standard requirement on early childhood care centers in Nigeria. Whatever standard attained depends on the level at which the Ministry of Education carried out her quality control function.
The South African Statistical Quality Assessment Framework (SASQAF, 2010) defined quality control measure as benchmark which serves as reference point against which the performance of an indicator is measured. Benchmarks are often established in a comparative context. It is a quality control document of an organisation listing various steps for attaining some desired goal. Bunwaree & Foondun (2009) see quality control as the process of ensuring that resources are obtained and used effectively to achieve the desired goals and efficiently in the accomplishment of programme objectives.
In the foregoing, quality control measures are the defined provisions and procedures that nursery schools operators (private and government) must comply with, to ensure that the business of nursery school education in Nigeria with particular reference to Rivers State is legal. This study will focus on four quality measures: Health facilities, Environment, Personnel and Instructional materials provided in Rivers State nursery schools.
The Rivers State government, after the civil war, had approved the establishment of nursery schools by private entrepreneurs. The government established Nursery Schools Authority and went further to start the Seabed Nursery School in Port Harcourt. Pilot nursery schools were also established in various divisions of Rivers State. In 1978, the Government closed down its nursery schools and invited private proprietors to establish playgroups, pre-nursery and primary schools. Approval in principle was given to such schools already in existence while proper guidelines were awaited.
The recognition of nursery schools by the Federal Government of Nigeria in the National Policy on Education (NPE) in 1987 and 2004 did not make any difference as the government of Rivers State did not continue the development of nursery schools as part of her educational programme. She left its provision still in the hands of private practitioners.
The Rivers State Universal Basic Education law passed in 2005 merely followed that of the federal government passed in 2004. Though it was the first time provision for basic education was properly articulated, no mention was made of nursery education. Section one of the Rivers State UBE law states as follows, “Every child of primary and junior school age in Rivers State is provided free compulsory universal basic education”. This does not apply to Private schools. Section three of the law states as follows: The compulsory free universal basic education is for a period of 9 years and comprise, “A 6year primary education and a 3year junior secondary education”. It is clear that even at that time no mention was made of the nursery school.
However, it was not until the inauguration of the board under Rev. Father Pius Kii on 10th March, 2006 that it was realized that an essential gap existed before primary education. The board then established a department of Early Childhood Care Development Education (ECCDE) under a Director. Initially, some selected primary schools were made to run a nursery section and volunteer teachers and minders were employed on meager allowance. Some could not cope and had to close their nursery section due to their inability to pay staff salaries. The situation has remained like that till today. What seems like additional or partial government involvement in nursery education in Rivers State is the PET Project of the wife of the state Governor Dame Judith Amaechi, “The Education Empowerment Initiative”.
The private proprietors are still having a field day in the establishment and running of nursery schools in the state. Why the situation remained like that is a question for research considering government and public concern for nursery education as the foundation level of education.
Broadly, nursery schools in the state are located in both rural and urban cities of Rivers State. It is being operated in various places and buildings: campuses of universities and colleges, premises of some industrial and business organizations, church premises, town halls, residential buildings in part or in whole which are hired for use as nursery schools . Some are set up mainly in some towns as full-fledged nursery combined with primary schools in their own building and premises. The privately-owned centers are operated on a commercial, fee-paying basis. The fees charged vary from one nursery school to the other. In general, nursery facilities in the state can be categorized as crèche centers and day care centers for children aged 0–3 years and pre-primary (nursery) schools for children 3–5 years.
Essentially, what is not known about the public and private nursery schools is the level of stakeholders’ compliance in the implementation of the National Minimum Standard for Early Childhood Care Centres in Nigeria. It is also not known if government, at any time had conducted an assessment of the quality control measures in the state nursery school system considering her inability to run the system from the beginning. These are major gaps this study tends to bridge especially as it affects health facility provision, environment of learning, personnel and instructional materials in the schools.
The assessment of these quality indicators are very important at this time the standard of education is rapidly falling with growing educational expenditure. It is widely acknowledged that early measures can play a significant part in reducing school “failure” in later years. This is further supported by scientific education research findings.
Educational research (Santrock, 2003) shows that during childhood, children become more self-sufficient, develop school readiness, and develop skills such as learning to follow instructions, identify letters and spend many hours with peers. Brain research (Shore, 2003) also revealed that neurological systems are rapidly shaped by the quality of care in the earliest months of a child’s life. This study states that brain retains its capacity to grow throughout life, the most rapid growth occurring during the first three years (Education Commission of the State, 2004a).
It is agreed that there are sensitive periods in which the brain must have stimulation in order to grow properly. Different experiences provided by these windows of opportunities contribute to the development of such areas as language, thinking, and visual development. Maduewesi (1999) listed these opportunities as presentation of learning for which the child is ready, parental models, close mother-child relationship, approval and reinforcement, constant verbal interaction and ministration to the child, good nutrition, provision of relevant educational gadgets like picture books, toys, video cassettes, radio and good physical and learning environment. Okrigwe (2006) admitted that nurturing, creating loving and healthy environments, good nutrition, providing learning and play facilities like toys, charts, picture-books, colouring books, swings, merry-go round, slides climbing ropes and tyres, social interaction through games and early intervention practices are vital to the development of the child. The absence of these stimulations, according to Shore (2003) can have long negative effects on young children.
Though government has justifiably set the national minimum standard for all operators of nursery education in Nigeria which embodied the above stimulations, some research findings indicate that what obtains in the system seems to be at variance with the provision of the policy. Ibiam and Ugwu (2009:61) said, “What is on ground is a situation where people use any available space irrespective of location as nursery education centres in spite of laid down requirements. Some are held in garages, shacks or make shift structures located not only along the road but sometimes within markets and industrial areas while some of the centers do not go through the proper registration and approval processes”
The Education Submit of Rivers State, Nigeria (Ministry of Education, 2008) saw government acceptance of a deplorable education sector across all levels characterized by dilapidated infrastructure, lack of quality teachers and in quantity, inadequate classrooms, lack of instructional materials, quality environment and lack of effective supervision, among others. As a result, Amaechi, (MOE, 2008) declared a state of emergency in the education sector of Rivers State, allocated N19 billion (11 percent of the total budget and thrice 2008 total allocation of public resources) to the sector in exchange for an efficient, effective and systematic supervision in education administration.
Statement of the Problem
There are many public and private nursery schools in the rural and urban centres of Rivers State. The problem of nursery education system is government’s failure to implement the policy establishing it. This is due to lack of government adherence to the objectives of the policy in respect of adequate funding, infrastructural development, material and non-material resources and standard curriculum guidelines as stipulated in the policy statement. Government inability to run and sustain her nursery schools left the provision in the hands of private proprietors. This led to proliferation in the number of nursery schools all over the nooks and crannies of the state with wide variation in infrastructural facilities ranging from good to poor ones with the preponderances of poor ones, lack of qualified and experience teachers and inability to detect and close down unregistered ones springing up here and there in almost equally large numbers.
Though, there was no initial guideline for the establishment of nursery schools in the state, presently there is a guideline called the “National Minimum Standard for Early Childhood Care Centres in Nigeria”. It is not known if the state government and private proprietors of nursery schools in Rivers State followed or are following the minimum standard guideline in the establishment and commencement of the various centres. As a custodian of education, it is yet unknown if the Rivers State government has at any point in time carried out an assessment of the level of compliance of proprietors of nursery school institutions in the implementation of the provisions of the minimum standard for early childhood centres too.
This research work was therefore aimed at assessing the quality control measures put in place in the nursery schools, identify gaps and suggest ways of filling the gaps.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study was to assess the quality control measures of nursery schools in Rivers state, Nigeria. Specifically, the study was designed to find out:
- the availability of health facilities in Nursery Schools in Rivers State, Nigeria;
- the adequacy of the environment of Nursery Schools in Rivers State, Nigeria;
- the quality of personnel of Nursery Schools in Rivers State, Nigeria, and
- availability of instructional materials in Nursery Schools in Rivers State, Nigeria.
Significance of the Study
Theoretically, the study is anchored on the CIPP model which focuses on context, input, process and assessment of product to ensure quality in nursery schools and Juan Vives theory of location of school which suggests that the school should be located away from disturbing noises and low air but should provide quality nutrition for children and teachers and consider individual differences as an important tool for learning.
Practically, government, private nursery school practitioners, teacher education institutions, parents, teachers and researchers will benefit from this study. Specifically government will be encouraged to enforce compliance of the minimum standard on all nursery school institutions and will see the effectiveness or weakness of the quality control department of the ministry of education as the main organ for assessment and enforcement of the minimum standard for nursery school programme.
Government will find it essential to develop assessment rating scale for nursery schools as a guide for future assessment and planning.
The study will provide the state ministry of education with invaluable data on ways of improving assessment strategies for personnel involved in the assessment of quality control measures of nursery School programmes.
The private proprietors will see the urgency in providing quality human and physical facilities in their centres for efficient and effective competition.
The study will inform teacher education institutions (colleges of education and universities) to revisit their training programmes with a view to including nursery education assessment component in their programmes.
Teachers of nursery schools will appreciate the need to acquire at least the minimum qualification and experience in childhood education.
Also, information from the study will give direction to families/caregivers on an appropriate programme for their children.
Finally, this being an attempt at assessing quality control measures as required by policy establishing nursery school programme, the findings can be used by other researchers as a launch pad to other more comprehensive studies in the area.
Scope of the Study
The geographic scope of the research is the education zones of Rivers State while the content scope of the study are health facilities, adequacy of the environment, quality of personnel and instructional materials in public and private registered nursery schools in Rivers State, Nigeria.
The study was guided by the following research questions:
- To what extent are health facilities available in Nursery Schools in Rivers State?
- To what extent are the Nursery School environments adequate?
- What is the quality of personnel of Nursery Schools in Rivers State, Nigeria?
- To what extent are instructional materials available in Nursery Schools?
The study was guided by the following null hypotheses and was tested at P< 0.05 level of significance.
Ho1: There is no significant difference in the mean responses of supervisors and teachers in Rivers State on the availability of health facilities as a quality control measure of nursery schools in Rivers State.
Ho2: There is no significant difference in the mean responses of supervisors and teachers on the adequacy of nursery school environments in Rivers State.
Ho3: There is no significant difference in the mean responses of supervisors and teachers on the quality of personnel in nursery schools in Rivers State.
Ho4: There is no significant difference in the mean responses of supervisors and teachers on the availability of instructional materials in nursery schools in Rivers State.