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Background of the Study

            The present challenging world of fast growth in science and technology has made education a priority sector in every society. For an individual to cope and compete effectively therefore, a sound education is imperative. That is why Osakwe (2009) refers to education as a phenomenon which involves all-round development of an individual which encompasses physical, moral, social and mental development. In the same vein, Eze and Ugwuanyi (2013) opined that, education is a process of systematic training designed to transmit knowledge and skills which enables an individual to contribute effectively to the growth and development of his/her society.


Therefore the belief is that, education is a means to an end through which an individual can grow. Because of this, parents send their children as early as possible to school, so as to make them acquire the necessary knowledge and skills that will enable them live as responsible members of the society. Thus, early childhood education plays a crucial role in this context. Hence, Early Childhood Education (ECE) is based on the idea that learning which begins at birth, caring for children and educating them should be inseparable. Early Childhood Education is an evolving field of study, research and practice which concerns itself with all aspect of early life experiences (Heckman, 2012). Ibiam and Ugwu (2009) viewed Early Childhood Education as education that is designed to develop the habits, attitudes and skills needed for primary education. According to Federal Government of Nigeria (FRN, 2004), Early Childhood Education is the education provided in an educational institution to children prior to their entering the primary school. Early Childhood Education includes the crèche, the nursery and kindergarten.

This call for Universal Basic Education Act, 2004 to cite Early Childhood Education (ECE) as an integral part of the Universal Basic Education (UBE). In this study, Early Childhood Education is conceived to be a very fruitful laboratory for the observation of spontaneous behaviours of the child and a place for moulding the behaviour of the child into a desired form. Early Childhood Education is also seen as the foundation for life long learning which requires varieties of experience. On that note, Benard (2001) contended that, the child who fails to acquire early education may suffer emotionally, socially, intellectually and even physically if he is trusted into primary school.

It is in the light of the obvious importance of early childhood education that Osakwe (2009) concluded that, pupils who had early childhood education perform better in their cognitive, motor and social skills than pupils who do not attend early childhood education. Researches have shown that early exposure of children to school have been found to have enormous positive and social impact lasting well into adulthood (Schieveinhat, 2007; Sparling & Ramey 2007). Due to the experiences acquired in early childhood education, Dubois (2007) maintained that, early childhood education increases the school readiness for primary school and it has been shown that school readiness is an important predictor of early school achievement.

The above has clearly shown the need for early childhood education due to its multiplier effect on the child’s growth and development. Early years experience exposes the child to all fields which make the child more apt to learn in primary level. This can also help the child to have confidences in his learning capacities which the child acquires from nursery school are lifted to the primary school.

Although early childhood education as observed by the researcher plays an important role in child’s life, but its influence on pupils’ achievement in mathematics is not yet known. Therefore the researcher seeks to find out the influence of early childhood education on primary school pupils’ achievement in mathematics of those that were exposed to early child hood education and those who were not exposed.

For the purpose of clarity, some concepts and goals of primary education, mathematics and achievement in this research work were made explicit. Primary education is the key to success or failure of education system as a whole since the rest of education system is built upon it. Primary education according to Federal Government of Nigeria (2004) is the education given in an institution for children aged 6 to 11 years plus. Equally, primary education is at the heart of the concept of basic education which is the dominant ideal behind the concept of universal education. The goals of primary education as stipulated in National Policy on Education (2004) includes: Provide the child with basic tools for further educational advancement including preparation for trade craft for locality; to inculcate permanent literacy, numeracy and ability to communicate effectively, among others. To achieve these goals, subject like languages example:- English, Mathematics are taught. In Mathematics, numbers, counting, additions, multiplication, division and subtraction are taught.

Mathematics has been identified as a very important subject in Nigeria educational system. Ozoji, Dashe and Edozie (2010), refers to mathematics as a form of science of numbers and shapes or process of calculating using numbers. According to Adelagbu (2007), mathematics is a way of thinking and organizing logical proof. The author further stated that, mathematics does not only promote the habit of accuracy, logical, systematic arrangement of fact in the learner, but also encourages the habit of self reliance and enable learners think and solve problem themselves. In this study, mathematics is the study of measurement, properties and relationship of quantities and set using numbers and symbols.

Hornby (2006) divided mathematics into arithmetic, algebra, geometry and trigonometry. The big ideas in mathematics include mathematical experiences that incorporate mathematics content in areas such as number and operations, geometry, algebraic reasoning and measurement. Ugboduma and Richard (2009) cited in Ekaneme (2011) outlined some of the goals for teaching mathematics in nursery and primary schools to include: training the pupils’ minds to the understanding of the world around, manipulating the system through calculative means among others. This is in line with FRN (2004) that made mathematics a core-subject among other subjects in Nigerian educational system. In Nigeria, mathematics is so important that a lot of emphasis has been laid on its teaching and learning with the major aim of science education as contained in the National Policy on Education (NPE, 2008).

The importance of mathematics in science and technology has made mathematics to be recognized world wide. Mathematics enables everyone to develop dispositions such as curiosity, imagination, flexibility, inventiveness and persistence which contribute to their future success in and out of school. Elucidating further on the importance of mathematics Laure (2008) maintained that, mathematics is the most important and lucrative subject. To the author, other subject are important too, but not for the same reason as mathematics. The author concluded that, mathematics is the queen of science and language of nature that is required for the development of nations.

The researcher looked at importance of mathematics as a great knowledge that boost national income and international rating of the country. Mathematics has been accorded a prime position worldwide within the context of science education, mathematics has been identified as a very important science subject and its importance in scientific and technological development of any nation has been widely reported. Contributing to the importance of mathematics, Israel (2005) stated that, it was as a result of the recognition given to mathematics in the development of an individual and nation that it was made a core-subject among all subject in Nigerian educational system.

Thus, mathematics has been a pre-requisite subject for most science oriented courses and this call for the need in teaching it very effectively. Pupils are expected to perform well to justify the mathematical skills among other things derived from the knowledge of the subject. (Laure, 2008)     Despite the prime position mathematics occupy in Nigerian educational system and efforts made by teachers and researchers to enhance achievements, it appears that pupils performance in mathematics as a subject is still very poor. This is evident in the First School Leaving Certificate (FSLC) and Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) chief examiners report 2014 and 2015. Among the factors enumerated by BECE that led to the poor performance include poor knowledge of the subject matter, poor communication skills among others. It is against this back ground that the researcher seek to find out the influence of early childhood education on primary school pupils’ achievement in mathematics with the use of the same scheme of work.

Achievement in teaching-learning process has to do with attainment of set objective of instruction. Wikipedia (2009) defines achievement as something that has been done or achieved through effort of handwork. Students’ achievement refers to students’ intellectual attainment or performance in a subject. Achievement is referred to cognitive score or learning outcome in a subject (Johnson, 2002). According to Ali and Kalu, (2010) achievement is usually measured with achievement test whose result is used to measure teachers’ effectiveness and learning outcome. In mathematics instruction, if a learner accomplish a task successfully to a specified goal of learning experience, the learner is said to have achieved (Nwagbo, 2001).

In this research work, the independent variable (Early Childhood Education) have been extensively elucidated. Other independent variables are the location of school and gender of pupils. Hornby (2006) defines location as a place where something happen or exist; the position of something. Location of Early Childhood Education affects a large proportion of people worldwide irrespective of age, gender and ethnic group (Eke, 2011). In the light of this, location of Early Childhood Education in the pursuit of academic is very crucial in the life of a school child. This is due to the fact that it paves way for strong foundation for further academic pursuit.

Generally, location of early childhood education be it in the rural or urban areas are very significant to note if it influences the pupils mathematics achievement. Primary school pupils who are in urban and rural areas shows common academic knowledge as a result of the scheme of work they do. The impact of such knowledge on the pupils from urban and rural areas differs (Nzuwogwu, 2012).

Without doubt, Early Childhood Education in urban areas have more teaching aids like abacus, building blocks, puzzles, marker’s board, nature corner among others than those in the rural area.  These teaching aids stimulate the interest of the pupils to learn better. Where there is no teaching aids, learning becomes boring. The present study seeks to find out whether urban-rural equality in implementation of Early Childhood Education can bridge the gap of urban-rural disparity in mathematic achievement of primary 1 school pupils.

Gender as a variable remain a variable of interest in this study. Gender differences in acquisition of knowledge is a variable of controversy among scholars. Razzak (2013) views gender as the roles responsibilities, expectation and characteristics of males and females that are created in families, culture and societies. Gender is a “social status, roles and actions ascribed to males and females as to distinguish who they are, what are expected of them by the society and how they relate to each other for a meaningful co-existence” (Abagun, 2006). The meaningful co-existence is influenced by the level of the cognitive ability exhibited by both male and female in learning (Eke, 2011).

Many researchers have maintained that difference exists between sexes in mathematics achievement. Nkuruma (2004), Agwaga as cited in Ugwuda (2008), reported that female students achieved significantly better than males in algebra. This is in contrary with Okereke and Onwukwe, (2011), who showed that male students achieved better in mathematics than the female students. These show that the issue of gender in mathematics achievement is not yet been resolved. It is based on this background that the researcher seeks to find out the influence Early Childhood Education on primary school pupils achievement in mathematics.

Statement of the Problem

            The Federal Republic of Nigeria in the National Policy on Education highlighted the importance of early childhood education in the economic development and gave priority to early childhood education by stating its purpose which includes to effect a smooth transition from home to school; prepare the child for the primary level of education; teach the rudiment of numbers, shapes among others through play.

To achieve the later purpose above, mathematics is included in the prescribed curriculum of early childhood education, unfortunately. Despite the importance of mathematics pupils perform poorly in the subject.  The present low trend in Mathematics Achievement of school children in Nsukka LGEA is worrisome to parents, teachers and society at large.  This may be due to lack of Early Childhood Education experiences in mathematics skills that stand to inculcate in children the development of scientific attitude and process skills necessary in science and tackling life problems.

It is based on this background that the researcher deemed it necessary to investigate the influence of Early Childhood Education on primary school pupils achievement in Mathematics in Nsukka Local Government Education Authority of Enugu State.

Purpose of the Study

            The general purpose of this study is to investigate the influence of Early Childhood Education on primary school pupil’s achievement in mathematics.

Specifically, the study sought to;

  1. Find out the difference in the mean Mathematics achievement scores of primary 1 school pupils who attended Early Childhood Education and those who did not.
  2. Find out the difference in the mean Mathematic achievement scores of primary 1 school pupils who attended Early Childhood Education and those who did not attend based on gender.
  3. Find out the difference in the mean Mathematics achievement scores of primary 1 school pupils who attended Early Childhood Education and those who did not attend based on location.

Significance of the Study

            The result of the present study if published would be of great theoretical and practical significance. Theoretically, the study was based on the framework of Vygotsky’s Theory of Social Development. The theory explained that children’s daily life experiences allow them to made connections between what they already know and what they are learning. Children should work in small groups and this would provide opportunities for pupils to scaffold their peer’s understanding. Children are expected to be active agents in the learning activities, which strengthens children’s sense of ownership in their work, and this enhances their motivation. Therefore, adult should provide an instructional guidance to help children accomplish cognitive tasks, the idea is that children can perform more challenging task when assisted by more advanced and competent individual.

The finding of this study would be of practical significance to the pupils, teachers, parents, ministry of Education, researcher and society. Pupils would benefit from this when published by becoming aware of the relevance of Early Childhood Education which will enable them to participate actively in primary school education programme.

The finding of the study to the parents cannot be overemphasized. Bring forth children with high cognitive capacity and ultimately high mathematics performances are their watch ward. The study would further inform parents on the need for early childhood education in child’s development as many authors have revealed in the background how Early Childhood Education can aid in children’s intellectual, emotional and even physical development. The study will also revealed to the parents whether gender and the school location (urban and rural) have influence on pupils Mathematics achievement. Hence, enable parents to compare performance of pupils by finding out if Early Childhood Education is necessary or not.

To teachers, the finding of this study when published would help teachers to take cognizance of individual differences in teaching because not all of them were exposed to early childhood education.

The ministry of Education would find this work worthy of note because, it would help the government to make policy on compulsory enrolment of children of pre-school age in Early Childhood Education. The government can also organize parent education seminars for reorientation of parent about upholding the right of the child to early childhood education.

This would go a long way in shaping the society in general as education sector will provide individuals who are up-to-expectation in all round learning. Finally, future researchers will find this work beneficial, because it would serve as a guide for further studies in this area.     

Scope of the Study

The study was limited in Public Primary Schools in three Local Government Areas that constitute Nsukka Education Zone of Enugu State. The three Local Government Areas are; Nsukka, Igbo-Ekiti and Uzo-Uwani. The zone is in the Northern part of Enugu State.

The content scope focused on influence of Early Childhood Education, on primary 1 school pupils’ achievement in mathematics, the extent to which location (Urban or Rural Areas) could influence the primary 1 school pupils’ achievement in mathematics and implications of gender on primary 1 school pupils achievement in mathematics.

Research Questions

The following research questions guided the study.

  1. What is the difference in the mean Mathematics achievement scores of primary 1 school pupils who attended Early Childhood Education and those who did not attend?
  2. What is the difference in the mean Mathematics achievement scores of primary 1 school pupils who attended Early Childhood Education and those who did not attend based on gender?
  3. What is the difference in the mean Mathematics achievement scores of primary 1 school pupils who attended Early Childhood Education and those who did not based on location?


The following hypotheses tested at 0.05 level of significance guided the study;

  1. There is no significant difference between the mean Mathematics achievement scores of primary 1 school pupils who were exposed to Early Childhood Education and those not exposed to it as measured by Mathematics Achievement Test (MAT).
  2. There is no significant difference between the mean Mathematics achievement scores of male and female primary 1 school pupils who were expose to Early Childhood Education and those not exposed to it as measured by Mathematics Achievement Test (MAT).

There is no significant difference between the mean Mathematics achievement scores of primary 1 school pupils from rural schools and those from