Background of the study
One of the programmes offered by the National Teachers’ Institute is the Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) programme. The NTI provides an alternative to traditional classrooms but equivalent route to initial qualifications for working primary school teachers in a country very short of qualified teachers and where conventional teacher training institutions cannot meet demand (Mohammed, 2005:14).
An acute shortage of qualified primary school teachers led to the establishment in 1976 of the National Teachers’ Institute (NTI), a distance education college for teachers (Bunza, 2005:12). Its mission was to provide initial teacher qualifications and upgrade the quality of teachers through distance education. Its courses and qualifications were equivalent to those of the regular Colleges of Education (Eze, 2005:4). The NTI provides opportunities for in-service teacher training for unqualified primary school teachers and facilities for the promotion of access and equity in teacher education.
The system has mass appeal and free of the constraints of over-crowding and over-stretched facilities experienced in formal education institutions (Mohammed, 2005:15). NTI has made a significant contribution to teacher supply with forty eight thousand, two hundred and four NCE graduates between 1990 and 2007 and is now an institutionalized part of the teacher education system in Nigeria (Ahmed, 2006:16).
The need to provide access to education for all has also led to the lifting of the suspension order on open and distance learning programme in Nigeria by Government (FRN, 2004:141)
In this new National Policy on Education (NPE), the concept of Open and Distance Education has been defined as an all inclusive contact, and a mode of teaching in which learners are removed in time and space from the teacher, which uses a variety of media and technologies to provide and / or improve access to good quality education for large number of learners wherever they may be.
The NPE enunciated the goals of open and distance education to include: the provision of access to quality education and equity in educational opportunities for those who otherwise would have been denied, meet special needs of employers by mounting special certificate courses for their employees at their work places, encourage internationalization, especially of tertiary education curricular, ameliorate the effects of internal and external brain drain in tertiary institutions by utilizing Nigerian experts as teachers regardless of their locations or place of work (FRN, 2004:45). The enabling law (Decree 19 of 1990) establishing the institute charged it among others with the responsibility of providing courses of instruction leading to the development, upgrading and certification of teachers as specified in the relevant syllabuses using Distance Education Techniques (Bunza, 2005:17). In specific terms, the enabling law mandates the institute among others to: upgrade unqualified and untrained teachers. It is also to provide refresher and upgrading courses for teachers; organize workshops, seminars and conferences, which would assist in the improvement of teachers. The institute is mandated to conduct examinations; carry out research in conjunction with other bodies on any matter relevant to educational development in the country. It is to promote policies and initiate programmes at all levels of education designed to improve by way of research the quality and content of education in Nigeria. It is also mandated to provide assess from time to time for the training programmes offered by institutions controlled by or associated with the institute with a view to ascertaining of the professional competence of those institutions. It also offers such assistance, either alone or in cooperation with educational bodies as may be required by the institutions controlled by or associated with the institute. It fosters and enhances international co-operation in the education of teachers, and perform such other functions of the council under this decree (FRN, 2004:25).
Learner support is provided at weekends and during school vacations in two hundred and twenty study centres around the country (Eze, 2005:13). Students attend them for tutorials, revision and examination sessions. The programme is print-based and supplementary audio and videocassette materials are produced for use in study centres. Study centres are intended to serve as access points to telephone, radio and television, newsletters and mini-libraries but, in practice, most study centres are devoid of these facilities and resources (Mohammed, 2005:22).
Supervision of practical teaching in schools is carried out by educators from local higher education institutions who visit students three-times during each four-week period and assess them against standardized performance-based assessment criteria (Robinson, 1987:24). Continuous assessment, tests and practical contribute 40 percent of the final grade, while written examinations account for/contribute the remaining 60 percent. Teaching practice is compulsory but to qualify for it, students have to attain a grade of 60 percent in course work (Eze, 2005:10). Given the country’s infrastructure and resources levels, the choice of media and technologies is limited.
Funding is directly by the Federal Ministry of Education. It generates some income through its printing press, publishing resource and conference centre. Students buy their own course materials at the study centres or state NTI offices but even those course materials that are sold at relatively low costs to students are not always easily affordable (Mohammed, 2005:16). Mohammed further pointed out that recent teacher strikes and low salary payments by the government have affected trainees’ ability to pay and may account for dropouts.
The advantages of the NTI distance learning system according to Ahmed (2006:3) include: promotion of effectiveness and efficiency in the classroom performance of teachers as they receive on-the-job training, taking education to where learners are, physical barriers notwithstanding; promotion of access to education for those who for economic, social, cultural and religious reasons could not go to conventional institutions and; enabling learners to learn at their own pace anywhere, anytime.
The programme covers a period of four academic years, which the institute refers to as “Cycles”. Each cycle has Two Semesters. Averages of five modules of course materials per subject are studied in each semester. There are about 40 modules of course materials per subject for the 4 cycles of study. A module contains 10 lesson units of 1½ hour’s duration each. Thus, a module is covered in 15 hours at Tutorial/staff study (Mohammed, 2005:5). This is equivalent to 1 credit unit of the minimum standard requirement of the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE). The NCE programme admits candidates who have completed senior secondary schooling and possess the requisite number of passes in the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) or the Ordinary Level or the General Certificate of Education (GCE).
The programme is administered in such a way that communication flows smoothly between the server and the client. The zonal centres coordinate the activities of contiguous state offices to promote efficient resource utilization and programme delivery. The state offices ensure the implementation of policies within their operational areas (Buka, 2005:64).
Qualified and experienced part-time tutors are recruited to guide and counsel students. A centre supervisor coordinates activities in each study centre. The institute maintains permanent staff at zonal and state offices, while it engages qualified and experienced part-time staff at the study centres.
Experts in the relevant fields are engaged to design and develop programmes and course materials, monitor and evaluate programmes, moderate examinations etc, and all categories of staff-permanent and part-time are retrained from time to time as the need arises (Mallam, 2006:35).
The programme has a number of mechanisms built into its distance learning systems to ensure the maintenance of quality and standards. These include: regular monitoring of programmes, regular review of instructional materials, strict adherence to laid down admission requirements and external moderation of examinations (Eze, 2005:12).
Accreditation and quality control is undertaken by the NCCE which visits centres to appraise the quality and quantity of tutors and sets the grading and assessment system (Bunza, 2005:32). The teaching practice and examinations scripts are externally moderated, while the learning materials are acknowledged to have a value wider than the distance education programme alone and have been used in other West African countries (Sierra Leone, Gambia and Ghana) (Buka, 2005:66).
The cost of training teachers are not mostly available, but the evidence suggests that of 5,167 NTI students completed in 2006, 2,872 passed the examination at a unit cost of N53, 795 while the other 2,295 graduated after retake; at a unit cost of N68, 635 (Bunza, 2005:64). This provides an average cost per graduate of N60, 420 which include loss through dropout. This compares with a unit cost per graduate in a regular college of education of N84, 005 (1998), N124, 285 (1999) and N140, 185 (2000) (Eze, 2005:15).
Enrolment has steadily been changing (1994-97) cohort, 7,581, (1995-98), 8, 398 (2001-2006). However, these are matched by percent (1994-97 cohort), 30 percent (1995-98), 35 percent (1996-99), 39 percent (2000-2003), and 41 percent (2004-2007) (Bunza, 2005:24). Of those completing the course, only 56.5percent passed out in 1995-98, 61.4 percent in 1996-99, 62.1 percent in 2000-2004, and 63.3 percent 2005-2007 (UNESCO, 2002:62).
Problem of the drop-out rate (1994 – 97 Cohort, 5, 581, 1995 – 98), 4, 298 (2001 – 2006) has been attributed to several reasons: the inability of trainees to afford course materials, the disruptions to the studies of female trainees as they follow a re-located husband, the demands of busy farming periods, late delivery of materials because of poor postal services; long distances to travel to study centres; and failure of students to participate in the teaching practice programme. Appropriate local tutors are recruited; and the activities provided at study centres tend to mimic the formal practices of conventional colleges or traditional ways of teaching, eroding the intention of providing opportunities for interaction between learners and learners and tutors (Mohammed, 2005:41). Despite the problems, the programme has made a significant impact on teacher supply in Nigeria. Twenty one thousand trainees graduated with the NCE qualification in 1994, a number comparable with the total admissions of the 58 colleges of education.
Recently, South East states signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for training of teachers on Innovative Methods of Teaching the four primary school core subjects of English Language, Mathematics, Social Studies and Primary Science and the effective use of School Based Assessment (SBA) aimed at upgrading and supporting continued teacher professional development through distance learning system.
Distance learning according to Holmberg (1989:14) covers the various forms of study at all levels, which are not under the immediate supervision of tutors with their learners in lecture rooms or on the same premises from the planning, guidance and teaching of a supporting framework. The above definition of distance learning is also supported by Lehner (1987:4), Shale (1996:24) and Race (1996:42) who stated that distance education may be defined as the family of instructional materials in which the teaching behaviours are executed apart from the learning behaviours. They added that distance education activities include those educational activities, which in a contiguous situation would be performed in the learners’ presence so that communication between the facilitator and the learners must be facilitated by print, electronic, mechanical, or other devices.
Distance education, or distance learning, is a field of education that focuses on the pedagogy/andragogy, technology, and instructional system design that aim at delivering education to students who are not physically “on site”. Rather than attending courses in person, teachers and students may communicate at times of their own choosing by exchanging printed or electronic media, or through technology that allows them to communicate in real time.
Distance education is a growing phenomenon in Nigeria, as it is else where in the world especially, in most of the third world countries. Its growth is particularly related to adult education and this chapter examines its role in the promotion, growth and development of adult education in Nigeria. Since its beginnings in Nigeria in the 50s in the name of correspondence colleges, distance education has come a long way although it was constrained in 1982 during Shagair administration when the efforts to establish the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) was put in the cooler. Today, Nigeria can boast of a variety of programmes following the lifting of the suspension order on Open and Distance Learning programme by Government.
Distance learning has been around for a long time. Some people will claim that smoke signals, were a form of distance learning. This is probably an exaggeration. However, it is true that correspondence courses have been around since 1800s. Now the distance learning experience tends to be a blend of various technologies. Distance learning is generally defined as any situation the instructor and learner are separated by either time or distance (Wills, 1993). At its basic level, distance education takes place when a teacher and student (s) are separated by physical distance, and technology (i.e. voice, video, data and print). Often in concert with face to face communication, is used to bridge the instructional gap (WWW.Uidaho.edu/dist1.html).
Distance education is also called distance learning, e-learning or online learning. Unlike conventional classroom learning, it is not bounded by space and time. In fact, teachers and students are commonly separated by space and time, although they may choose to interact synchronously or meet periodically over length of the course. Distance learning also needs to use technology. In the early days of distance education, radio and television were the media used to conduct education activities (Wills, 1993). Currently, the method has extended to the internet, email, software, video tapes, cameras, etc.
The terms “distance education” or “distance learning” have been applied interchangeably by many different researchers to a great variety of programmes, providers, audiences and media (Sherry, 1996). Its hall marks are the separation of teacher and learner in space and/or time (Perraton, 1988), the volitional control of learning by the students rather than the distant instructor (Jonassen, 1992), and non contiguous communication between students and teacher, mediated by print or some form of technology (Keegan, 1986; Garrison & Shale, 1987).
Distance education dictates changes in behaviour for both the teacher and the learner. The successful student develops persistence and skills in self – directing work. The successful distance education teacher becomes conversant with new technology and develops new instructional styles, moving from creating instruction to managing resources and students and disseminating views (Strain, 1987).
The term distance education is used to cover various forms of study at all levels where students have no direct physical contact with their teachers. (Gauchi & Matiru, 1989). You may be interested to note that the term distance education acquired its universal acceptance in 1982 when the International Council for Correspondence Education (ICCE), a UNESCO affiliated organization, changed its name into the International Council for Distance Education (ICDE). Prior to this universal acceptance, a number of terms were used to describe this mode of teaching and learning.
Although it is not intended to identify distance learning students as a homogeneous group, research indicates that there are demographic and personality similarities among many of them that provide the basis for the description of a typical distance learning student. Understanding distance learning students can help you tailor your distance learning course logistics, syllabus, and course design to meet their needs.
Most research indicates that distance learning students tend to be, on average, older than typical students in campus-based programmes. In a 2004 survey of potential graduate schools students in WPI’s (Work programme initiative) campus-based graduate’s programmes, it was found that 73% of the students were under the age of 35. In an April 2007 survey of distance learning students at WPI, it was found that only 58% of students are under the age of 35.
In most distance learning programmes in North America, distance learning students are predominantly female, with different studies indicating that between 60% and 77% of students being female. WPI’s distance learning programmes do not follow this trend. Of students responding to the April 2007 survey of distance learning students, 75% of distance learning students are male.
Several studies indicate that more than half of distance learning students hold full-time jobs outside of the home, with some programmes reporting as many as 90% of their students being employed full-time. WPI does not have employment statistics on its distance learning students, but it is likely that the 77% of students attending WPI part-time are employed. The students are usually taking courses to help them advance in their careers.
Various studies indicate that more than half of distance learning students are married with dependants. This means that they are often juggling a family and a job with their coursework. WPI does not have any statistics on the marital status of its distance learning students.
Traditionally distance learning programmes have attracted students whose geographic distance from a college campus prevented their enrollment in campus-based classes. This is changing however, with more and more distance learning students living within commuting distance of the college they are attending, but who choose to take distance learning courses because of their convenience. This trend is also found at WPI, where more than 50% of students are from Massachusetts.
At WPI, 83% of distance learning students have been formally admitted to a graduate degree or certificate programme, with the remaining just taking individual courses. 77% of distance learning students are attending WPI on a part-time basis. The remaining 23% who are attending WPI full-time are likely enrolled in a combination of campus-based and distance learning courses to provide them with more scheduling
Many distance-education students are older, have jobs, and families. They must coordinate to different areas of their lives which influence each other their families, jobs, spare time, and studies. Distance students have a variety of reasons for taking courses. Some students are interested in obtaining a degree to qualify for a better job. Many take courses to broaden their education and are not really interested in completing a degree. In distance education, the learner is usually isolated. The motivational factors arising from the contact or competition with other students is absent. The student also lacks the immediate support of a teacher who is present and able to motivate and, if necessary, give attention to actual needs and difficulties that crop up during study.
Recently, it has been observed that the NCE certificates obtained from the NTI’s distance learning system are discriminated against in favour of those obtained from the conventional teacher education institutions (Diugwu, 2006:2, Ogara, 2006:14 and Ramond, 2006:6). This phenomenon is due to low perception of NTI-NCE distance learning system programme in Nigeria, especially in the South East zone. Perception according to the New Book Dictionary (2004:3) is to understand something in a particular way or to think of something in a particular way. Perception is about feeling, thought and memories (Spery, 1996:44), Ramond (1997:14) and Dike (1998:24). For the purpose of this study, it is an abstract process in which humans process information from their environment before reacting to either external or internal stimuli.
The perception of NTI students rested on the facets of teaching activities, leanring activities, convenience of the programme, cost effectiveness of the programme and the usefulness of the NTI-NCE programme. Also the students’ perception of the NTI-NCE programme is based on the fact that in many countries like South Africa, Peru, and Uganda, distance education is being used for the training and re-training teachers.
“Perceive” means how participant see the phenomenon. It implies that different people see the same phenomenon differently. One’s perception may be motivated. This is pre-perception where he perceives what he wishes to perceive or has already made up his mind. If you want to see ghosts and you go near or to a cemetery at night you will probably see one where there is none. The shape of a tree may assume a ghost to you. If you are waiting intently for someone, you intend to hear knocks where there is none. Beliefs and superstitions may influence pre-perception. If you therefore, believe in ghosts you will see one by causing it to appear in your perceptual field.
Students’ perception of problems encountered in distance learning programmes is often correlated with student achievement and retention in the distance learning programme (Garrison, 1990:42). Studies pertaining to students’ perception of problems encountered during distance learning classes will enable educators to identify programmes characteristics that impede learning. The distance learning classroom varies from the conventional classroom in the sense that the distance learning classroom not only separates the instructor from students, but from students as well (Freitas, Meyers, & Avitgis, 1998:16). Because of this separation many problems are encountered by students due to the technological difficulties that can arise and the lack of personal contact between instructors and students (Freitas, et al.; 1998:32). Because of the physical separation of instructors and students, students’ perception will be distinctly different compared to the perceptions expressed by students in a traditional classroom.
The low perception phenomenon has tended to trigger off low enrolment, in the NTI’s NCE distance learning programme, 90 percent in 2005 to 25 percent in 2007 (Bunza, 2007:42). The trend in enrolment and dropout could be as a result of perception of students. In view of the above circumstance, the researcher is concerned that if the above trend is allowed to continue, it has the capability of marring the very good intentions behind the establishment of the National Teachers’ Institute, Kaduna.
Statement of the Problem
Distance education is a newly developing area, which requires many more studies to keep abreast with this rapidly developing phenomenon. Although there has been a great deal of researches directed at training teachers using the distance learning system (UNESCO, 1998:6, UNESCO, 2000:10, OECD, 2001:14) and although results of a number of research studies (Dodds, 2006:21 and Bates, 2007:41) indicate that many institutions of higher learning have adopted distance learning system as the next logical step in the educational pedagogy of training teachers, most existing researches on training teachers using the distance learning system tends to focus on students’ achievement and the effectiveness of the technologies used in educational pedagogy (Baker, 2002:46).
Relatively little is known, however, about how distance learners; perceive distance learning system (Blustain, Goldstein, & Lozier, 1999:3 & Drucker, 1977:72). Or the kinds of behaviours exhibited by students using the distance learning mode as against the traditional face-to-face teaching and learning method (Diugwu, 2006:12, Ogara, 2006:13, & Ramond, 2007:74).
As a result, research is needed to be conducted on students’ perception of teaching, learning, convenience, cost effectiveness and usefulness of distance education programme (Agu, 2006:16; Muonye, 2006:7; Musa, 2006:9; Onah, 2006:4; Onu, 2007:6 & Mohammed, 2005:14).
It has been observed that NTI-NCE distance learners in South Eastern states of Nigeria feels inferior before their regular students counterpart from the conventional colleges of Education. Secondly, these regular students look down on the students of NTI-NCE programme as a very low and cheap means of acquiring NCE Certificate. Experience has also shown that many of the NTI-NCE students drop out as soon as they registered in the NTI-NCE programme.
In some states, especially in the Southeastern states the NTI-NCE certificate obtained from the NTI programme is not acceptable in the teaching profession. As a result, many of the NTI-NCE students tend to look at the NTI-NCE programme as a waste of time and therefore, are not keen to continue upgrading themselves through the NTI programme. Consequently, the NTI’s aim of upgrading and providing access to education especially for primary school teachers in Nigeria is being defeated.
Based on the foregoing therefore, the problem of this study is: How do students perceive the NTI-NCE distance education programme in South Eastern States of Nigeria on the above critical areas of distance learning mode such as teaching activities, learning activities, convenience, cost-effectiveness and usefulness of the NTI-NCE Programme?
Purpose of the study
The purpose of the study is to investigate students’ perception of the NTI – NCE distance education programme in the South East, Nigeria. Specifically, the objectives of the study sought to:
- determine the perceptions of NTI-NCE learners in Ebonyi and Enugu states on teaching activities in distance learning system;
- examine how NTI – NCE distance learners in Ebonyi and Enugu states perceive the learning activities in distance learning system;
- the perceptions of the NTI – NCE distance learners in Ebonyi and Enugu states on the convenience of the NTI –NCE distance learning system;
- investigate the perceptions of students in Ebonyi and Enugu states on the cost of the NTI – NCE distance learning programme; and
- determine the perceptions of NTI – NCE students in Ebonyi and Enugu states on the usefulness of the NCE certificates obtained from the NTI, Kaduna distance learning system.
Significance of the Study
The findings of the research will also assist educational policy makers to have a policy framework supporting a new initiative for open and distance education programme in Nigeria.
The findings of the research study will bring to lime light the perceptions of the students on the quality of teaching activities involved in the distance-learning programme of NTI, Kaduna. The results of the study will also showcase the learning activities involved in the distance learning system as an alternative delivery strategy to education in the 21st century Nigeria.
The findings will assist educational planners and other stakeholders in the provision of access to quality and equity to education through distance learning system especially in this era of globalization which will offer many teachers the opportunities offered by distance education to allow instructors to be focused in providing distance teaching to learners/beneficiaries. The result of the study will also assist educational organizations and administrators to formulate effective mechanism with various stakeholders in distance learning systems for adaptation and reliability in service delivery provision for qualitative distance learning systems in Nigeria and Africa at large through the provision of programme that will reach a wider student audience.
The findings will also enable the Ministries Of Education (MOE) and other collaborating institutions to appreciate the problems associated with distance learning especially the value of the certificates obtained from the distance learning systems in the face of employers of labour in a developing country like Nigeria.
Furthermore, the findings of this study will enable the NTI authorities to have an idea on students perceptions, which is an area related to the overall quality in the field of distance education. This is because student’s perceptions have for long not been known as an important factor affecting learning outcomes. Thus, studying student’s perceptions in distance education courses will improve their understanding of distance education and also foresee student learning outcomes from the whole institutional perspective including the administrative and teaching levels that will meet the needs of students who are unable to attend on-campus classes.
The findings will assist educational planners and other stakeholders in the provision of access to quality and equity in the provision of Education for All (EFA) in the country. It is also hoped that the findings of this study would serve as further source of information for further research work on open and distance learning systems (ODL) in Nigeria.
This study contributes to Adult Education in that it provides both theoretical and practical ways through which adult education could provide expanded educational access to many, especially adults who cannot due to family and work ties attend regular educational programmes, but could continue to improve on their educational needs through Open and Distance Education Provisions. It is against this background that the researcher investigated students’ perception of the NTI – NCE distance education programme in South East, Nigeria.
Lastly, but not the least, the findings of this study will enrich literature in the field of distance education as a new educational construct for teaching – learning process in the 21st century by providing the much needed recent information on distance education trends throughout the world.
The following research questions have been provided for this study. These are:
- What are the ratings of perception of NTI-NCE learners in Ebonyi and Enugu states regarding the quality of teaching activities offered in the programme as determined by the mean score?
- How do NTI – NCE distance learners in Ebonyi and Enugu states perceive the learning activities involved in the programme?
- What are the ratings of perception of NTI – NCE learners in Ebonyi and Enugu states regarding the convenience of the NTI programme as determined by the mean score?
- What are the ratings of perception of NTI – NCE learners in Ebonyi and Enugu states on the cost of the distance learning programme as determined by the mean score?
- What are the ratings of perception of NTI – NCE distance learners in Ebonyi and Enugu states on the usefulness of the NTI-NCE programme as determined by the mean score?
The following null hypotheses have been formulated to guide the study. They were tested at 0.05 level of significance. These are:
There is no significant difference between the mean perception scores of NTI – NCE students in Ebonyi state and their counterparts in Enugu state regarding the quality of teaching activities offered in the programme.
There is no significant difference between the mean scores of NTI – NCE students in Ebonyi state and those in Enugu state on their perceptions of the learning activities involved in the programme.
There is no significant difference between the scores of NTI – NCE students in Ebonyi state and their counterparts in Enugu state on their perception of the convenience of the NTI – NCE programme.
There is no significant difference between the mean scores of NTI – NCE students in Ebonyi state and those in Enugu state on their perceptions of the cost of the NTI – NCE distance learning programme.
There is no significant difference between the mean scores of NTI – NCE distance learners in Ebonyi state and those in Enugu state on the usefulness of the NTI-NCE programme.
Scope of the study
This study was an investigation of students’ perception of NTI – NCE distance education programme in South East, Nigeria. It is also restricted to perceptions of students on the quality of teaching activities, learning activities, convenience of the programme, cost of studying through the distance learning mode and the usefulness of the NTI programme.
Ebonyi state is a mainland south-eastern state of Nigeria, populated primarily by Igbos (95% of population). Its capital and largest city is Abakaliki. Afikpo is the second largest city. Other major towns are EDDA, Onueke, Nkalagu, Uburu, Onicha, Ishiagu, Amasiri and Okposi. It is one of the six new states in Nigeria created in 1996; Ebonyi was created from the old Abakaliki division of Enugu state and old Afikpo division of Abia state.
Ebonyi is primarily an agricultural region. It is a leading producer of rice, yam, potatoes, maize, beans, and cassava. Rice and Yams are predominantly cultivated in EDDA. Ebonyi also has several solid mineral resources, but little large-scale commercial mining. The state government has however given several incentives to investors in the agro-allied sector. Ebonyi is called “the salt of the nation” for its huge salt deposit at the Okposi and Uburu Salt Lakes.