1.1 Background of the Study
In recent times in Nigerian, and more importantly in Akwa Ibom State, Public schools have suffered a steady decline in effective service delivery while few private schools have apparently been providing the needed alternative to parents seeking qualitative education for their wards. This situation becomes more worrisome as these private schools are free-paying and are operating in our urban and semi-urban areas. (Etim, 2009).
As Akwa Ibom State is predominantly a rural community, the educational fate of our children in these rural areas has been of very serious concern to the government of the day. Therefore, the goal of free and compulsory qualitative education for all is still a mirage. The government is aware that free – paying school provides alternative learning opportunity only to children of the privileged class. But majority of our children are still in the public school. The commitment of government in the provision of free and compulsory education for all children was enhanced through the provision of a conducive atmosphere for effective learning, teaching quality, inspectorate improvement and infrastructural development.
Measures that were recently taken have served as a great relieve to parents and motivator to students/pupils academic performance (Asuquo 2010). Several actions taken recently to improve upon the quality of education in both primary, secondary and in our territory institutions, include standardization of the inspectorate directorate with sufficient equipment to work with; the reform of the primary school curricular with a view to teaching literacy numerals skills: provision of the key textbooks, standard school libraries and complete refurbishing of dilapidated primary school building which were abandoned and unused in time past (Awana 2009).
These innovations in education sector have really affected secondary schools in Uyo positively and the pupils academic in both written and spoken English. The free and compulsory education which was formulated and aimed at answering these questions of “how well are children; when do we ensure effective learning in our school; what do we expect our children to do in our schools and who supervise the teaching in our school (Akpan 2000).”
Return to the basic is therefore a synopsis of the key components of education reform and its positive effect on the academic performance of students in secondary schools (Akpan 2010).
There are many benefits of this programme to justify the huge cost. Free and compulsory schooling ensures the knowledge of English language of the pupils and other basic subjects and this facilitate good citizenship and success in modern life. The free and compulsory education encourages the students/pupils to be educationally oriented and discourages them in getting involved in child labour and idleness.
Since this was introduced during the regime of Governor Akpabio, many Educationists and state holders in Education have criticized this both positively and negatively. Some say that enough facilities and equipment and human resources were not provided before the take off of the programme. Teachers were trained and employed to meet the population explosion which many schools have witnessed, hence, the poor performance in public examinations especially WASSCE. Some authors and educationists say that what the free and compulsory education has brought to our students are vital. It is the opinion of these people that it has really boost the ego of students and parents; that those who did not think of going to school have done so, but the question is, has this programme faired well with the students’ performance in WASSCE results?
1.2 Statement of the Problem
This study is poised to identify the influence of free and compulsory education on Academic Performance of students in Secondary Schools as per WASSCE results since its inception. It is a confirmed fact that a lot of candidates fail WASSCE in English because of many reasons. Some attribute it to the teachers, some attribute it to the free and compulsory Education. Some believe that since the introduction of free and compulsory Education results of students in final Examination is worst. This calls for an investigation to ascertain, this allegation by some Educationists, psychologists sociologists, guidance and counseling stakeholders in Education and parents.