1.1 Background of the Study
Education has always remained a social process in capacity building and maintenance of society for a very long time. It is through education that members of the society acquire skills, relevant knowledge and habit for survival in the challenging world.
The educational system in Nigeria has experienced a lot of changes. The Universal Basic Education (UBE) is one of these changes. The universal declaration of Human Right Act which culminated in a world conference of education for all (EFA), held in Jomtien, Thailand in 1990, and it gave rise to the universal, free and compulsory education in parts of Nigeria (Dike, 2000). This programme was launched by the then president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Matthew Obasanjo in September 1999. This was subsequently signed into law in May, 2004 (UBE, Digest, 2004).
The intention of the Universal Basic Education was to make education universal, free and also compulsory from primary up to the junior secondary schools for all Nigerians irrespective of age, sex, race, religion, occupation or location. The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, section 18, sub-section 1-3, states the government shall direct its policy towards ensuring that the background of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) has been constitutionally enunciated as a means of providing access to education for all. The Universal Basic Education (UBE) would thus, lay the foundation for Basic Literacy, Numeracy and Communication in the society (Uyanga, 2012).
Ten years after in 2009, the Akwa Ibom State Governemt under the leadership of Governor Godswill Obot Akpabio actualized the nation’s plan by declaring a free and compulsory education, not only from Primary one to Junior Secondary Three (JS3) but extended this programme to Senior Secondary education in the state. With this policy, the state’s educational sector became rebranded repositioned and completely repackaged (AKSG, 2019).
Also, with the child’s right act by the state government just few months later, education in Akwa Ibom State became a fundamental right for all children residing in the state (AKSG, 2010). To show its commitment to the compulsory education the government established a new monitoring policy on 26th April 2010 to ensure the full implementation and to consolidate on the gains. Consequently, any child of school age found on the street during school hours (whether in uniform or not) was arrested alongside parents for prosecution (Akwa Ibom State Government, 2010).
The Universal, Free and Compulsory education policy together with Akwa Ibom State policy of free and compulsory secondary education have already brought about students’ population explosion in Akwa Ibom Schools. This implies that the number of students’ enrolment in the state Public secondary schools have tremendously increased.
With the growth or increase in teaching staff, the effectiveness of students’ performance have been reported to be significantly affected as well as effectiveness of the school administration may be faced with several challenges. (Oleforo & Anugwu, 2014).
A number of factors have been considered to relate with students’ academic performance in the English Language. Such factors include teaching methods, availability of learning materials, school location, motivation, interest and class size. With the rapid increase in the quantity (number) of students, investigating on the effect of free and compulsory education on students’ performance in English Language in Uyo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State is worth researching.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
English Language is a compulsory subject offered in Nigerian Schools at all levels of education; Nursery, Primary, Secondary and Tertiary levels. Apart from being a compulsory subject, students must possess at least a credit in English Language in both Junior WAEC and Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) before he is eligible for admission into tertiary institution(s) for any course of study.
Despite the importance of English Language and its declaration as a compulsory subject in Nigeria, students’ performance in English Language at internal and external examination is alarming.
With the introduction of the free and compulsory education by Akwa Ibom State Government in 2009, there is rapid growth of students population in Akwa Ibom Public schools and this may have either positive or negative effects on the quality of instruction and consequently on students’ performance in English Language.
This study therefore seeks to clarify the effects of free and compulsory education on students’ academic performance in Uyo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
1.3 Purpose of the Study
The main aim of this study is to investigate on “Free Education And Its Effect On Students’ Academic Performance in Public secondary Schools in Uyo Local Government Area.”
Specifically, the study seeks to achieve the following objectives:
1. To determine the effect of free education on students’ academic performance in Public Schools in Uyo Local Government Area.
2. To examine the effect of free education on the academic performance of students’ in rural and urban schools in Uyo Local Government Area.
1.4 Significance of the Study
This study will be significant in the following ways:
It would provide the Government, Ministry of Education and Educational Stakeholders necessary information regarding the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of free education to students’ academic performance.
It will spur the state Government, and Ministry of Education to always embark on routine inspection in our secondary schools.
It will remind the Government to massively recruit teachers for effective education of the ever-increasing number of students in our secondary schools.
1.5 Research Questions
The following research questions are posed to guide the study.
1. Does a free education have any significant effect on students’ academic performance in public school(s) in Uyo Local Government Area?
2. How does free education affect the academic performance of students in Urban and rural Public School(s) in Uyo Local Government Area?
1.6 Research Hypotheses
The following hypotheses were formulated in null forms to guide the study.
1. There is no significant effect of free education on the academic performance of students in Public schools in Uyo Local Government Area.
2. Free education does not significantly affect the academic performance of students in rural and urban schools in Uyo Local Government Area.
1.7 Assumption of the Study
The assumptions of the study were as follows:
1. Free and compulsory education have caused massification of students leading to increase in class size in Uyo Secondary Schools.
2. Larger class size due to free and compulsory education can negatively affect students’ academic performance because larger class sizes are difficult to control and manage by teachers.
3. The academic performance of students in urban school is expected to be better than the academic performance of students in rural schools having free education.
1.8 Delimitation of the Study
The study is delimited to free education and its effects on students’ academic performance in Public schools in Uyo Local Government Area. The study is also delimited to English Language.
The study is delimited to the examination scores of senior secondary one (SS1) students in the 2007/2008 academic session where free education was not yet introduced and students’ examination scores in 2010/2011 academic session where free education policy was fully implemented.
1.9 Limitation of the Study
At the time of the research, the researcher encountered difficulty in obtaining permission from the State Secondary Education Board Uyo. The Principals of the sampled schools were also reluctant in allowing access to their students’ examination results in the selected academic sessions.
However, with the letter of introduction sent by the researcher’s supervisor, access to the results was then granted.
1.10 Operational Definition of Terms
Free Education: This refers to education that is funded through taxation or charitable organizations or by the government rather than tuition fees. It is free from all forms of fees/payment.
Effect: This refers to a change in the academic performance of students that is as a result or consequence of free education.
Academic performance: This refers to students’ overall examination score after being taught or exposed to teaching-learning situation(s)