The concept of a child differs from one culture to another. Some cultures regard one as a child if one is not married, no matter one’s age. According to Opara (2012), a child is a young person, especially between infancy and youth. In the Nigerian Legal system, a child is one that is below the age of 18 years. This is because the person cannot vote or be voted for. He/she is not also qualified to drive. This is in line with article 1 of the Convention on the Right of the Child by United Nations. Furthermore, Umobi and Igu (2010) define a child as a boy or a girl at any age between infancy and adolescence, a new infant, or a person of any age in relation to his parents.
The Federal Republic of Nigeria (2004) in her National Policy on Education posits that the pre-primary school child falls within the age bracket of 0-6 years while Maduewesi (1999) views pre-primary school children as young children between 2-5 years engaged in specially designed academic programmes before the age of formal schooling. It is necessary that all who are involved in the education of the child understand and get acquinted with the pre-primary school child.
The pre-primary school children possess certain characteristics which are peculiar to them. According to Abidoye and Agusiobo (2000), these pre-school children are egocentric. That is, they view the world from their own perspectives. They are curious in nature. Their world is filled with excitement. The curiosity varies according to the center of interest at any given time. The children love exploration and in fact, they are investigators. Their love for exploration is demonstrated in their spoiling of new toys and trying to put them together again. Abidoye and Agusiobi(2000) see the children as being energetic and because of this, they cannot sit still for long periods of time. They prefer to do things than listen. Even while listening, they move their bodies restlessly. These pre-school children like to achieve their objectives. They often spend unusual length of time and efforts to solve problems that interest them. Problem solved gives them a feeling of satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. Hence, they are persistent.
More interestingly, children are valuable assets from God. They are fragile and the future of any society. That is why they must be well protected and nurtured. They must be well taught both at home and at school. This is because this stage is a critical and delicate period of human life when children are easily influenced and the consequences of such influence greatly affect their adulthood. As observed by Anon (2013a), under the age of six, children absorb information without effort, and this stage of development provides critical foundation for the children’s character, learning and growth. Therefore, in the view of Ibiam (2012), it is necessary for parents, guardians, care-givers and adults to teach children values and social lessons and also provide them with good academic guide while in school.
Parents are caretakers of their children. Hornby (2006) defines parents as a person’s father and mother. Parents, especially mothers, are responsible for the overall care given to the child such as feeding, hygiene and medical care. Therefore, the child needs care and balanced diet for proper early development. This is because proper nutrition is necessary for the development of the brain which in turn is important for intellectual, cognitive and psychomotor development in the child (Ngwoke and Eze, 2010). The efficiency of parents in taking up this responsibility depends on their level of education and exposure.
Parents can be educated or un-educated, some are civil servants while some could be in business. The educated parents are parents with higher education qualifications. They get involved in their children’s education early enough unlike the non-educated ones. They get involved in their children’s education by reading to the children at home, teaching songs or nursery rhymes and assisting in homework. Parental education influences expectations of children. Therefore, having higher parental education is significantly related to higher expectations of children’s achievement (Gratz, 2006).
The un-educated parents are parents who do not have formal education and usually have lower income. Gratz (2006) observes that these parents often have to work longer hours to earn their small salaries. This leaves less time for them to assist their children in reading and even getting involved in their learning process. Gratz (2006) further observes that low income parents may not be neglectful parents but it is easy for them to slip into the stereotype under extreme pressure. Hence, most of them may not adequately provide appropriate educational guide to their children due to lack of appropriate knowledge and time.
Parents who are civil servants are those under the employment of the government, either at the Federal, State or Local government level. According to Kwaghga (2010), civil servants are a body of men and women employed in a civil capacity and non political career basis by the Federal and State government primarily to render services in form of advice, formulation and implementation of policies of the government. They are appointed on merit on the basis of fair and open competition. They are expected to carry out their roles with dedication and commitment to civil service and its core values which are integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality (Civil Service Code, 2010).They offer services within the working hours determined by the general or specific provisions in effect. In the event of extraordinary and urgent official needs, civil servants also offer their services beyond the working hours or during non working days (Ministry of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization,1999).
Business parents may be involved in micro, small or medium scale business. According to Luetkenhorst, Geiger, Ozsoy and Fidan (2004), micro, small and medium scale businesses make important contributions to economic and social development. In economics, they constitute the vast majority of business establishments. They are usually responsible for the majority of jobs creation. They account for one- third to two- third of the turnover of private sector. In developing countries, they are seen as a major “self help” instrument for poverty eradication. Constant (2008) observes that while big companies create jobs and stimulate innovation, self employment contribute to job creation and economic growth, alleviating welfare burden and leading many to economic and social advancement. Discussing about business women, Constant (2008) said that the reason why women choose self employment was that they could easily combine work and family responsibilities. They could even conduct business from home while simultaneously satisfying domestic responsibilities.
Therefore, irrespective of parents’ status in life, they benefit from pre-primary education programme which provides adequate care and supervision of their children while they are away for the day’s business. Therefore, perceptions and involvement in the proper education of the children, which begin from the home, may vary from parent to parent.
The home is very important in the education of children. The home background plays a significant role in a child’s orientation about literacy and education. In his view, Smetana (1990) posited that the most effective parenting style for facilitating children’s success as well as their general nurturance seemed to involve being authoritative. This starts right from the home, as early as when the children are undergoing pre-primary education. Smetana(1990) further observed that pre-schoolers did not learn to read without parental instructions, hence learning to read and write could be traced back to the preschoolers’ home background.
At school, particularly at the pre-primary level, the children ought to be taught according to the provisions and guidelines of the National Policy on Education, (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004), which recommends teaching of rudiments of numbers, letters, colours, shapes, forms, among others, through play. The Federal Republic of Nigeria (2004) in her National Policy on Education defined pre-primary education as the education given in an educational institution to children prior to their entering the primary school. It comprises the crèche/day care (0-2years), nursery/play group (3-5years) and kindergarten (5-6years). It consists of activities that facilitate a child’s learning, growth and development. This level of education is important as it strengthens the child’s self esteem and provides positive learning experiences as well as opportunities to interact with peers in diverse ways.
Pre-primary education is very important because it is the early years that determine what the adult becomes. As summarized by Amajirionwu cited in Maduewesi (1999), early childhood education is necessary as a lifelong source of developing interest and aspiration among young children. This level of education provides one of the environmental influences that gradually interact with the developing abilities and dispositions of young children to form all aspects of their personalities- social, emotional, affective, moral, physical, intellectual, creative abilities, among others .Therefore, this level of education is not academic- oriented, but a play level during which children are prepared through play, for actual schooling. It is more of a social service, and custodian in nature. It can be provided by the government, community or private individual. It may be integrated into a primary school or can stand alone. Chijioke(1996) observed that some families took care of and educated their young children at home but, majority of the families also employed other people to take temporary responsibility for the care and education of their children at home, childcare centers and nursery schools. Crahay (1990) also observed that the mothers no longer routinely cared for their young children on full time basis as a result of their remarkable increase in women’s labour force participation and participation in education and learning. Therefore arrangements are made for the care of young children and infants during the working or school hours of their parent(s). Hence, this led to the emergence of early childhood care and education or what we refer to today as pre-primary education (Ibiam, 2012). Hence, at the pre- primary schools children are taken care of while their parents are away for their daily businesses.
However, serious violation of the provisions and guidelines of the National Policy on Education are observed at this level, such as over-schooling of the children. Government provided a simple curriculum as a guideline for the operations at this level. This simple guideline allows the teaching of children through play. Curriculum, as explained by Umobong, Akubuiro and Idika (2012) is the official and authentic content which translates the expectations of the society into bits of knowledge, skills and attitudes that should be transmitted to learners with a given course or programme in both formal and non formal school setting.
Most often the pre-primary level of education is misinterpreted to be a stage for actual schooling where children are expected to learn difficult tasks, hence making the curriculum complex. This contradicts the provisions of the National Policy on Education. In supporting government position, Weikart (1990) said that the appropriate curriculum for children at the pre-primary level should be focused on development of dispositions which would enhance further learning. For Weikart(1990), this curriculum should enable children develop a disposition for curiosity, friendliness, problem solving, interest in reading and numbers and for seeing school as a positive and supportive place. Ibiam and Aleke (2012) expressed dissatisfaction as contradiction of these provisions and guidelines on the curriculum have resulted in teaching the children things that are actually beyond their intellectual development by overloading, overtasking and overburdening the children, which is referred to as over-schooling. Ibiam and Aleke(2012) further observed that most proprietors and teachers expose these children to real teaching of numbers and numeracy which contradicts government’s provisions.
There is also the problem of non- uniformity of the curriculum used by different providers of pre-primary education. The non-uniformity of the curriculum used by different schools poses a lot of problems especially as government does not adequately monitor the pre-school programme. Ibiam( 2012), advised that as a result of the young children’s learning pattern, social, emotional and cognitive development should be at the children’s pace taking place through play and active method, rather than having the curriculum of a particular class or school being overloaded beyond the level of the children. Another ugly situation is that most teachers at this level of education are professionally unqualified, under-skilled, undereducated or under-schooled to actually understand the goals and purposes of this level of education as provided by the FRN (2004) in her National Policy on Education and the learning theories. Some parents and guardians support the idea that their children and wards be given more schooling to cover every aspect of the curriculum. This equally leads to over-schooling.
The concept of over-schooling has two key words- ‘over’ and ‘schooling’. Hornby (2006) defines ‘over’ as something being above or beyond while “schooling” is defined as instruction at school. For Anon (2013b), schooling is defined as a formal form of education where pupils are taught subjects in a classroom based on a curriculum. Thus, over-schooling means undergoing and undertaking the act or process of being trained, being drilled, instructed, taught or educated far above or in excess of what is provided in the curriculum. However, this concept of over-schooling is not yet fully understood but it is explained in terms of over-education which is defined as the phenomenon in which individuals feel burdened or oppressed by the weight of their education (Bishop 1995). Furthermore, Leuven and Oosterbeek (2011) perceived over-schooling as the difference between a worker’s attained or completed level of school and the level of schooling required for the job the worker holds.
An individual therefore, can be said to be over-schooled if his or her educational level exceeds the required level of education to do his or her job. In the researcher’s view, over-schooling is the overburdening, overtasking or overtutoring of children with school-related activities which will give them no opportunity to adequately interact with their environment, especially through play. For the purpose of this research work, the researcher shall discuss over-schooling in relation to children at the nursery/play group level. Dimensions of over- schooling to be considered include: staying long hours in school, volume of tasks usually given as homework, academic work involvement of children at school, influence of over-schooling on the children and the possible solutions of over-schooling.
Over-schooling at the pre-primary level of education can be stressful to the children and in fact, makes school to be stressful. An over-schooled child, according to Joshua (2012), is regarded as one who has schooled beyond the level expected of him/her, or one who has spent a number of years in excess of the number required or expected of him/her. In fact, as a result of the overload of the curriculum of most schools at this level, children are made to stay for a long time in school in an attempt for the school to cover the curriculum without considering the adverse effect this long stay may have on the children. Having children stay long in school does not encourage creativity which is acquired through free play. Anderson-McNamee and Bailey (2010) noted that play could be beneficial to children as it could help them to learn, to socialize, explore their immediate environment, develop an attitude of critical and reflective thinking which encourages creativity, mental and physical development and learning. Supporting this view, Okafor (2010) observed that children could be curious and this natural inclination of theirs should not be hindered but rather they should be allowed to discover facts by themselves by verifying it in an open domain of experience. Children should be allowed to be children. Umobong, Akubuiro and Idika (2012) citing Holts (2005), observed that too much schooling could work against education.
Educators too often overlook the fact that children learn more outside the classroom than in the classroom. Keeping children after the normal school period for extra lessons up to 4.00pm or 5.00pm when they will be picked by their parents at the end of their business or work may not be beneficial to the children. Unfortunately, the proprietors are more interested in the economic rather than the educational or social consideration. The profit component is pursued with much vigor to the detriment of pursuing the lofty goals highlighted at this level of education (Joshua, 2012). The unqualified, under skilled and under schooled teachers also champion this course of engaging these children after normal period due largely to ignorance of the guidelines.
Another aspect of over-schooling to be considered in this research work is the volume of homework given to the children at this level. Marzano and Pickering (2007) defined homework as any task assigned to students by school teachers meant to be carried out during non-school hours. Spellings (2005) believes that homework is beneficial to pupils as it helps them to develop good study habits and positive attitude, it teaches them to work independently, encourages self discipline and responsibility. Spellings believes also that assignments provide some children with their first chance to manage time and to meet deadline, create greater understanding between families and teachers and provide opportunities for increased communication. Home work, if well monitored actually, keeps families informed about what their children are learning and also helps the children to do better in school if the assignment is meaningful, completed successfully and returned to the children with constructive comments from the teacher. Homework that is meaningful should have a specific purpose, come with clear instructions, be fairly well matched to the ability of the child and also helps to develop the child’s knowledge and skills. This was earlier observed by Iroegbu (2003) who noted that instructional activities should be given to children according to their age and developmental stage. Spellings (2005) posited that children in kindergarten through second grade should be allowed 10 to 20 minutes of homework each school day while in the third through sixth grade, children should benefit from 30 to 60 minutes a day. Children leave school late in the day and go home with strenuous homework which may be beyond their developmental task of pre-operational stage, under which nursery/group level falls. For example, they may be required to mould or draw objects, do addition or subtraction which, of course, they do mentally and not by reasoning. This actually violates developmental task orientation according to psychology of learning. Again, the proprietors and the professionally unqualified teachers feel that children can learn only if they are given a lot of home work (Umobong et al.2012). This is one of the reasons they keep children after the normal hours up to 4.00pm to 5.00pm and they still go home with homework assignment to be submitted the next day.
Some overzealous parents may also push their children to jump to the next higher class, without considering the children’s readiness and ability to cope with the new task. This violates Harvighurst’s developmental task theory which states that when the time is right, the ability to learn a particular task will be possible. It is as a result of this inability to cope with the task, that homework is done by their parents. This amounts to over-schooling. Marzano and Pickering (2007) observed that the issue of homework had been a perennial topic of debate in education. Attitude towards it has been cyclical and throughout the first decade of the 20th century, educators commonly believed that homework helped to create a disciplined mind, but much later, there was a growing concern that homework was interferring with other home activities. This sparked a reaction against it with some learning theorists claiming that it could be detrimental to students’ mental health. Kleeneze (2013) believes that spending more time on homework adversely affects children’s scores in schools and also leads to depression in children and suggests that children should be allowed 8hours of play and 8hours of rest (sleep) in a day. Additionally, Kralovec and Buell (2000), Bennett and Kalish (2006), believe that much homework harm children’s health and family time. It stresses parents because they will need to sit down to help their children with the homework. However, Marzon and Pickering (2007) believed that homework should not be abandoned but that the quality should be improved to match the age of the children.
Over involvement of the children in academic activities at this level is also another aspect of over-schooling. As observed by Umobong, et al. (2012), when the missionaries initially introduced formal education, children enrolled in school at the age of 5 or 6 when they were considered mature enough to be able to cope with the rigors associated with school. Today the story is different as children get enrolled at the very tender age of less than 2 years. These children are made to sit down for a very long period engaging in one academic work or the other in the day without enough recreational activities. However, Benavente (2006) sees academic involvement of children as beneficial. For him, it would keep children safe and protect them from negative and unsafe behavior outside the school. Young children also benefit especially from the social skills development and improved academic skills. But having them get over involved in academic activities is bad. Umobong, et al posited that over involvement of children in only academic related activities is a major encroachment on the amount of time families spend together. Tugend (2011) also frowned seriously at over involvement of children in the school academic activities and posited that it depleted parents of their financial resources and emotional energy as these parents spend a lot to keep these children for so long in school. It also reduced drastically the attachment children should have with their parents. Many children, as a result of being over involved in only academic activities, lose out on the simple pleasure of play (Umobong, et al, 2012).
During childhood, play provides an excellent opportunity to learn and practice skills likely to enhance lifelong fitness and good health. Early mastery of these basic skills crucially helps the children to perform and understand the value of these activities better in their education or as adults. According to Eurydice-Network (2013), play fights against sedentary life style and obesity. Therefore, children should be allowed to play adequately because play is children’s work. This is lacking in most of our private pre-primary schools as a result of the over involvement of the children in academic related activities with little or no break time. For instance, children may be required to recite numbers from 1, 2. 3 up to 100, recite thirty- six states and their capitals, eventually, they still move into the computer room to learn computer. This is over-schooling. At this level, school related activities should not be overstretched because learning does not occur only within the school environment. George W Bush as cited by Spellings(2005), observed that quality learning and education of our children at this level should not be compromised and when it comes to the education of our children, failure is not an option.
Psychology teaches that children have very short attentive span. They cannot sit down at one place for a long time unlike adults. Of course, attention is very important in any learning situation because unless pupils pay attention in class, little or no learning can take place (Ibiam and Aleke, 2012). Over-tutoring as observed by Uganga (2012) might lead to overstimulation of the learner’s brain which could be detrimental to the learner’s wellbeing and could lead to nervous disorder, depression and insanity. Wendy (2011) while expressing fear over this issue of over-schooling, stated that excessive tutoring could damage a child’s intrinsic motivation and self esteem. Children need a lot of time to relax and play for mental, intellectual, social, physical and emotional development. Play promotes mastery of the environment and practical skill which helps them to appreciate their world. This is actually lacking in our contemporary early childhood education due to the problem of over-schooling.
As important as the perception of parents on over-schooling is to the wellbeing of their children, it has been found that studies in this area are scanty. The only study in this area in Nigeria was the one conducted by Umobong, et al., (2012). Though this study was limited in scope as it covered schools in Akwa Ibom, there is need to understand how parents feel about the over-schooling of their children in other states in Nigeria to compare results and findings and make recommendations for the proper education of children at the pre-primary education level. Based on this need, the present study attempts to study a similar view of parents but in Onitsha educational zone of Anambra State.
The purpose of pre-primary education, among other things, include to effect a smooth transition from home to the school, prepare the children for the primary level of education, provide adequate care and supervision for the children while their parents are at work (market, farm or office etc), inculcate social norms and to teach children the rudiments of numbers, letters, colours, shapes, forms etc through play. In other words, this level of education is meant to guide the growth of a child by promoting responsible behavior, respect for others and the willingness to follow general acceptable rules. It is not meant for actual teaching.
This level which is meant to be more of social service and custodian in nature is greatly abused by the proprietors, teachers and the parents. Unfortunately, government controls a very insignificant number of schools at this level, organizations (including religious bodies) and private individuals dominate the scene. The National Policy on Education provided a simple curriculum for this level where little teaching is done through play but this is often not followed as the proprietors overload the curriculum to the point that these children are made to stay long in school in order for the school to cover the curriculum, sometimes not necessarily for educational or social reasons but for economic consideration. In addition, most teachers at this level do not have teaching experience and requisite qualifications. Consequently, they teach the children what is beyond their intellectual development by overloading, overtasking and overburdening them. For instance, they make the children to recite the thirty-six states and their capitals, mould or draw objects, do addition and subtraction; they are given difficult and strenuous homework at the end of the stressful day that may last for 1hour or 2 hours, to be submitted the next school day. Most parents contribute to the problem of over-schooling as they tend to believe that the longer the children stay in school, the more they learn. As a result, they send their children to private schools where they stay long hours in school and also attend schools during the holidays. For such parents, this is “computer age” and they want to push their children to move fast in order to meet up with the new trend. This amounts to over-schooling.
Over-schooling at this level can be stressful to the children and in fact makes schooling to be very stressful. Children at this level are denied rest and play which are very necessary for their cognitive, social, emotional and physical development. They are simply exposed to information above and beyond their chronological age and developmental task. Overstimulation of their brain through overtutoring may be detrimental to their mental development and functioning.
As over-schooling of children is gaining grounds, particularly in Nigerian private schools, there is a great need to understand the perceptions or view of parents on over-schooling of children at this level of education, and this is the focus of this study.
The general purpose of the study is to investigate the perception of parents on over-schooling of their children at the pre-primary education level in Onitsha Education Zone of Anambra state. Specifically, the study seeks to:
- Ascertain the perception of parents on keeping pre-primary children in school after the normal school period,
- Ascertain the perception of parents on the volume of homework given to children at the pre-primary education,
- Determine the perception of parents on the academic work of children at the pre-primary level of education,
- Determine the perception of parents on the influence of over-schooling on children at this level and
- Determine parents’ opinion on the possible solutions to over-schooling of children at this level.
The findings of this study have both theoretical and practical significance. The study is anchored on Developmental task theory.
Robert J. Harvighurst’s developmental tasks theory has great relevance to this research work. It talks about ‘timing’ and ‘teachable moment’. In handling children at the pre-primary level, timing is very essential. If well timed, children at this level should only be taught things that are within their developmental and chronological age, not to be overburdened and overtasked through over-schooling and overtutoring. At their level, they should be taught with simple curriculum as provided by the National Policy on Education and be prepared adequately for movement to the primary school where the actual teaching should be done. This is supported by the theory which states that when the timing is right, the ability to learn a particular task will be possible, Harvighurst referred to this as a “teachable moment”. Hence unless the time is right, learning will not occur. He therefore advocates that the developmental stage of children should always be considered in handling children at this level.
Practically, the findings of the research work will be beneficial to the following:- the children, parents, teachers and government. Children will spend the normal school period of six (6) hours in the school, be given homework that matches their age and developmental level to enable them have adequate time for play and rest for proper mental and physical development.
To the parents, it will enable them understand the danger and adverse effect of over-schooling, give them time and opportunity to establish good parent-child relationship. It will also help them to have a good link with the children’s pre-school in order to be part of the school decision making e.g. being members of school Parent-Teacher Association (PTA.)
To the teachers, it will help them to follow the simple curriculum provided by the National Policy on Education which will result to lots of leverage and stress-free teaching as most teaching and learning will be done through play. Finally, the Government will benefit when the purpose and guidelines provided by the National Policy on Education are implemented because children will grow normally to become responsible citizens later in life.
The study was delimited to Onitsha Education Zone of Anambra state. Content wise, the research investigation would be on the view of parents on keeping children in school after normal school period; the view of parents on the volume of homework given to children at the nursery level of education; the view of parents on the academic work involvement of children at the nursery level of education; the view of parents on the influence of over-schooling on these children; and finally the view parents on the possible solution to over-schooling at this level of education.
The following research questions were posed to guide the study:
- What are the perceptions of parents on keeping children in school after normal school period?
- What are the perceptions of parents on the volume of homework given to children at this level?
- What are the perceptions of parents on the academic work of children at this level?
- What are the perceptions of parents on the influence of over-schooling on children at this level of education?
- What are the opinions of parents on the possible solutions to over-schooling of children at this level of education?
Ho1: There is no significant difference between the perception of civil servants and businessmen/women as parents on the influence of over-schooling on pre-primary school children.
Ho2: There is no significant difference between the perception of civil servants and businessmen/women as parents on the possible solutions to over-schooling of pre-primary school children.