PERCEPTION OF DIFFICULT TOPICS IN CHEMISTRY CURRICULUM BY STUDENTS IN NIGERIA SECONDARY SCHOOLS

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1 PERCEPTION OF DIFFICULT TOPICS IN CHEMISTRY CURRICULUM BY STUDENTS IN NIGERIA SECONDARY SCHOOLS Jimoh, Adeyemi Tajudeen (PhD) Kwara State College of Education, Oro Abstract This study was conducted to identify topics perceived difficult by chemistry students in Nigerian secondary schools. Five hundred and sixty SS III Chemistry Students were randomly selected from 28 senior secondary schools in seven states of the federation. A 20 Item questionnaire was administered to respondents. Mean, standard deviation, variance and t-test statistics were used to analyse research data collected. Findings showed that chemistry students perceived 13 topics (65%) difficult to comprehend. The study also revealed that students gender and school location have no influence on their perception of difficult topics in chemistry curriculum, while school nature influenced perception of chemistry topics. It was recommended that the SSCE Chemistry Curriculum be reviewed by examination bodies. Introduction The relevance of chemistry as a requirement for technological advancement of a nation cannot be underrated. The classification of any nation into developed, developing and underdeveloped could be measured accurately by the number of chemists, physics, engineers, pharmacists, doctors, agriculture and science educators the nation could produce. Available evidence from West African Examination Council (WAEC) indicates that students achievement in chemistry, especially at the senior secondary school level worsen as years go by and many students seen to have negative attitude towards the subject (Betikin, 2002; Oyedeji 1992). Chemistry is most commonly regarded as the Central Science or the Mother of all Science owing to its confluence and influence (Ahiakwo, 2000). Okeke and Ezekannagba (2000) also defined chemistry as a branch of science that deals with composition and changes of matter. Chemistry could therefore be defined as the science that deals with structure and composition of matter. Curriculum as defined by Onwuka (1981) is the intended learning outcome of the school programme. The current WAEC SSCE and National Examination Council (NECO) SSCE syllabus on chemistry cut across topic in physical, inorganic, organic, environmental and analytical chemistry systematically arranged under twenty topics. Empirical studies on perception of difficult topics/concepts at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels focus on Biology Physics mathematics and integrated Science. Mustapha (2001) conducted study on lecturer s perception of integrated science. Eighty four integrated science lecturers were randomly selected from 17 colleges of education that offered integrated science double major course. A 34-item researcher design questionnaire which is an adaptation of 3 point Likert scale was administered to respondents. Mean, Standard deviation and variance statistics were used to analyze this data collected. Findings showed that lecturers have positive perception of integrated science curriculum. Teacher s professional qualification area of specialization and in-service training also influenced their perception of integrated science concepts. Nneji (1998) conducted study on perception of difficult topics in applied electricity. Two hundred SS III students, 10 teachers and 5 WAEC examiners in the subject 1

2 Perception Of Difficult Topics In Chemistry constituted the sample. A 21 item applied electricity topics questionnaire were administered to respondents. Mean, percentage and standard deviation statistics were used to analyze the data collected. Findings revealed that students and examiners perceived 7 topics as difficult, while teachers perceived 8 topics as difficult in applied electricity. The study also showed that inadequacy of teaching materials, textbooks, poor student-teacher mathematics ability were variables responsible for perceived difficulties. Purpose of the study The general purpose of the study is to identify topics perceived as difficult by chemistry students in Nigerian secondary schools. Specifically this study sought to: (i) identify difficult topics in the SSCE chemistry Curriculum (ii) find the influence of gender on the perception of chemistry topics. (iii) find the effect of school nature on perception of chemistry concepts. (iv) find the influence of school location on the perception of difficult topics in chemistry curriculum. Research Questions The following research question were raised in the study (i) What topics in the senior secondary school chemistry syllabus do students perceive as difficult? (ii) Does gender influence students perception of difficult topics in chemistry curriculum? (iii) Will school nature influence students perception of difficult topics in chemistry curriculum? (iv) Will school location influence students perception of difficult topics in chemistry curriculum at SSCE level? Research Hypotheses The following null hypotheses were formulated in this study: HO 1 There is no significant difference in the student perception of chemistry topics in Nigeria Secondary Schools. HO 2 Students gender has no significant influence on their perception of difficult topics in the secondary school chemistry curriculum. HO 3 School nature has no significant influence on students perception of difficult topics in chemistry at the secondary school level. HO 4 School location has no significant influence on students perception of difficult topics in Chemistry at the secondary school level Sample The target population is the entire chemistry students in Nigeria Secondary school. Conscious of the futility to sample, 560 SS III chemistry students were randomly selected from 28 secondary schools in seven states of federation. Four secondary schools that offered science subjects up to SSCE level were randomly selected from each state and a total number of 20 chemistry students were used as samples in each school. The nature of the school (single sex or co-educational), school location and gender difference among students were considered when chosen the sample. The selected seven states are Kwara, Niger, Kano, Osun, Ekiti, Edo and River States. 2

3 Instruments The main instrument used to collect data for the study is the Chemistry Topic Assessment Questionnaire (CTAQ) constructed by the researcher. Section A of the questionnaire was on bio-data information such as name of the school, nature of the school, state, respondent s sex and class. Section B. consists of 20 major topics in WASSCE/SSCE and NECO/SSCE (200) syllabi covering physical, Organic, inorganic, environment and practical chemistry. The 20-item questionnaire was an adaptation of 3- point likert scale type. Respondents were asked to respond by ticking the appropriate responses (difficult (D), average (A) and easy (E) in the questionnaire. Validation of Instruments Two experienced chemistry lecturers from colleges of education and two experienced chemistry teachers from secondary schools validated the instrument. The items were pre-tested using 20 SS II chemistry students in two randomly selected secondary schools in Ondo State. The responses: difficult (D), average (A) and Easy(E) was assigned 3,2 and 1 points respectively. The data obtained was subjected to kuder Richardson formula 20 to obtain the correlation value. A correlation coefficient of 0.81 was obtained which was considered adequate for this study. Data Analysis The five hundred and sixty chemistry students completed the questionnaire and the data obtained were subjected to mean, standard deviation and variance statistics. The level of difficulty of a particular topic was determined by the value of means as follows: means less than 1:5 (0 x 1.49) Easy, and means between 1.5 and 3.0 (1.5 x 3.0) Difficult. To determine whether school nature and students gender affect their perception of difficult topics their perception of difficult topics in chemistry, the data collected were subjected to mean, standard deviation, variance and t-test statistics. 3

4 Perception Of Difficult Topics In Chemistry Results Table 1: Mean and standard deviation of chemistry topics S/N Topics X SD S2 P 1 Separation of mixture NS 2 Particulate nature of matter S 3 Symbols, formulae & Equations NS 4 Chemical Combination S 5 Gaseous state & Gas laws S 6 Acids, Bases & Salts NS 7 Carbon and its Compound NS 8 Organic chemistry S 9 Periodic table of Elements NS 10 Structure & Energy level of atom S 11 Qualitative Analysis S 12 Quantitative Analysis S 13 Rate of chemical reaction S 14 Chemical equation S 15 Non-metal & their compound S 16 Thermo chemistry S 17 Metal and their compound NS 18 Applied chemistry NS 19 Nuclear chemistry S 20 Astronomical chemistry S Table 2: t-test showing influence of students gender on perceived difficulty level in chemistry. Variable N X SD S2 df t-cal t-tab p Male Ns Female Not significant at = 0.05 level. Table 3: t-test showing influence of school nature on perceived difficulty level in chemistry Variable N X SD S2 df t-cal t-tab p Co-educational s Single sex Significant at = 0.05 level 4

5 Table 4: t-test showing influence of school location on perceived difficulty level in chemistry Variable N X SD S2 d.f t-cal t-tab p Rural School NS Urban School Not significant at = 0.05 level Findings and Discussions Table 1 shows that the respondents perceived 13 topics out of 20 major topics in the secondary school Chemistry curriculum as difficult topics. These topics are: particulate nature of master, chemical combination, Gaseous state and gas laws, organic chemistry, structure and energy level of atom, qualitative analysis, quantitative analysis, rate of chemical reaction, chemical equation, non-metals and their compound, thermo chemistry, nuclear chemistry and astronomical chemistry. Finding, from this study revealed that chemistry students perceived more than half (65% ) of the senior secondary chemistry topics as difficult to learn. Perhaps the low performance of chemistry students at the SSCE level may not be surprising since they found most of the topic in the curriculum difficult to comprehend. The outcome of this study is in agreement with those of Jimoh (2003) and Nneji (1998) who found that students had difficulties in comprehending A level chemistry and applied electricity. Table 2 revealed the relationship between students gender difference and their perception of Chemistry topics. The value of t-calculated (1.67) is lower than t-critical (1.96) at 0.05 level of significance. The null hypothesis on gender difference is therefore accepted. The findings of this study is in agreement with those of Idowu (2002) and Oyedeji (1992) who found that gender differences of the teachers do not influence their perception of difficult topics in mathematics at the primary school level. The findings is, however, contrary to those of Iyewarun (1985) and Phillips (2002) who found that gender difference influence perception of science concepts. Table 3 showed the influence of school nature on perception of chemistry concepts. The value of t-calculated (2.32) is higher than t-table (1.96) at 0.05 level of significance. The findings showed that students from single sex schools (boys only or girls only) perceived chemistry concepts difficult to understand than those students from coeducational schools. The null hypothesis on school nature is hereby rejected. The outcome of this study disagree with that of Ibitoye (1990) who found that school nature have no influence of students perception of agricultural science concepts. Table 4 revealed the influence of school location on students perception of Chemistry concepts. The value of t-critical (1.96) is greater than the t-calculated (1.23) at 0.05 level of significance. The null hypothesis on school location is therefore accepted. The findings of this study is in agreement with those of Oyeyemi (1991), with Fakunle (1986) who found that school location have no influence on students perception of genetics concepts. Conclusion and Recommendations Based on the findings and discussion, it could, therefore, be concluded that majority (65%) of chemistry students perceived the senior secondary school chemistry topics 5

6 Perception Of Difficult Topics In Chemistry difficult to comprehend. The study also revealed that gender differences of the students have no influence on perception of difficult topics in chemistry curriculum, while school nature influenced perception of Chemistry topics. Emanating from the findings and discussion, it was recommended that SSCE chemistry curriculum be reviewed by examination bodies such as WAEC, NECO, National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) and other study holders. Government should encourage mission and communities to establish co-educational schools, rather than single sex school. Above all, some of the existing single sex schools in the country be converted to co-educational schools if the declining trends of students performance in sciences is to be raised. References Ahiakwo, M.O. G (2002). Mathematics achievement and academic performance in Chemistry. The Nigerian Teacher Today, 8 (1&2) Betiku, O.F. (2002). Cognitive styles and academic performance in Chemistry. The Nigerian Teacher Today. 10 (1&2) Fakunle, J.A. (1986). Relationship among school location and students level of cognitive development in genetics. Journal of Science Teachers Association of Nigeria, 24 (1&2), Ibitoye S.J. (1990) Performance evaluation of Agricultural science Education in some selected secondary schools in Kwara State. Oro Journal of Educational Studies, 4 (1) Idowu, M.A. (2002) Gender difference of students achievement in mathematics: A case study of pre-nce students in College of Education (T) Lafiagi. Nigeria Journal of Gender and Development, 3 (1), Iyewaran. S.A. (1985) A study of the relationship between teachers behaviour and students achievement. Journal of Science Teachers Association of Nigeria, 21 (2), Jimoh A.T (2003). Chemistry topics in the senior school chemistry curriculum as perceived different by in-service Net Teachers. Nigeria Journal of Educational studies and Research, 4 (1), Mustapha, M.T. (2001). Learners perception of the Nigeria Certificate of Education integrated science curriculum and its relationship to classroom principles. Journal of Science Teachers Association of Nigeria, 36 (1&2), Nneji, N.G. (1998). Students teachers and examination perception of difficult topics in applied electricity and factors responsible for the difficulty levels. Journal of Science Teachers Association of Nigeria, 23 (1&2), Okeke, B. & Ezekannagba, C.N. (2000). Chemistry education in the science of formality for sustainable development. 43 rd Annual Science Teachers Association of Nigeria (STAN) Conference proceedings Onwuka, w. (1981). Curriculum development for Africa. Enugu:, African Feb Pub. LTD. Oyedeji, O.A (1992). Areas of difficulties in primary mathematics curriculum as perceived by in service. Mathematics teachers. Journal of Science Teachers Association of Nigeria, 26 (2), Oyedokun, M.R (2002). Identification of difficult topics in the senior secondary school certificate Biology syllabus as perceived by students. The Nigerian Teachers Today, 6

7 10 (1&2) Oyeyemi F.O. (1991). Conception of selected Genetics concepts held by senior secondary school students in kwara state. An unpublished M.Ed. thesis: University of Ilorin. Philips, C.O. (2002). Gender difference in business mathematics reference in continuous assessment and final examination in tertiary institution in Niger State. Nigeria Journal of Gender and Development, 3 (2)

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