1.1 Background of the Study:
Over the years researchers have conducted experimental evaluations of several high-quality model programs to determine the effect of early child education. These programs were developed to improve children’s academic skills and cognitive development. Few studies have considered whether they also improve children’s skills and behavioural problem. But several long-term follow-up studies have found lower rates of juvenile delinquency and antisocial behaviour as measured by criminal activity. It is not yet clear whether the decline is as a result of the effect of pre-nursery education. Can early childhood care and education raise a child’s test scores and promote school readiness? The best estimates of the effect of early childhood care education come from random-assignment experimental studies. These compare children with early training and those without, bringing into consideration the important background characteristics. Random-assignment studies, however are rare. And researchers who conduct them typically evaluate high-quality programs that serve only a few children, often at a single site, making it hard to generalize findings to large scale. Many non-experimental studies consider the effect of more typical early childhood care and education on children’s school readiness by taking advantage of naturally occurring variations in child care arrangements. Effect, according to the Oxford Advance Learner’s dictionary is the change that something or somebody causes or makes to something or someone else. The effect of early life education to an extent determines the child’s academic performance. Performance is how well or bad one is able to do something work or carry out an assignment, duty or task given to him/her. Performance can be said to exist in many areas of our lives. For instance, in the circular world, ones entertainment life can be assessed and the performance graded. A player’s performance can be assessed and graded. A nation’s economic performance can be said to be depressed, good or bad depending on their level of achievements. The management technique of a company is graded based on its performance. Now, in academics, a child’s personality traits like: restlessness, sharing, bullying, alertness, withdraw, assertiveness or self confidence can be graded. A child’s physical and intellectual development can be assessed and graded based on his/her performance. So also a child’s reading skills, mathematics skills, general knowledge and work habit. Academic performance is defined as how well or bad a child or pupil is able to do in the art of reading and writing. Academic performance of a child can start from his/her nursery life to primary level through secondary level to university level.
Nursery education is the educational group experiences planned for children who have not yet entered primary schools. It is the 1st stage in education given to children between the ages of 2 to 5 years depending on schools requirements. The basis of many learning exercises at this stage are sand , water painting, play, story telling, nursery rhymes and development of early literacy and numerical skills (survey on WAEC and result errors 2009). In the olden days, children’s education were solely left for parents to determine and cater for. But in recent times, both parents and government have their parts to play in the educational life of a child. The parents start the education of a child from home, immediately the child is born. They tend to equip the child with necessary norms and values of life, language, good habit, etc.
In Nigeria, it is government’s responsibility to promote the training of qualified nursery school teachers in adequate number. Government ensures the development of suitable curriculum. They supervise and control the quality of such institutions that have nursery in them. It is the duty of government to establish nursery sections in existing public schools. They encourage both communities and private efforts towards this. They also make provisions in teacher education programme for specialization in early childhood education. They also provide monitoring team for the supervision of schools, encouraging them to use mother tongue. They also provide enough books for schools. The purpose of nursery education is to effect a smooth transition from the home to the school, prepare the child for the primary level of education, provide adequate care and supervision for the children while their parents are at work. It is also meant to inculcate social norms, spirit of enquiry and creativity through exploration of nature, environment, art, music, playing with toys in a child. It also helps to develop a sense of co-operation and team-spirit, learn good habits especially good health habits and teach the rudiments of numbers, letters, colours, shapes, form etc through play (National policy on education, 4th edition, pg eleven, section two. Curriculum Conference committee in (1998).
Primary education is the first stage of compulsory education, it is preceded by nursery education and it is followed by secondary education. In most countries, it is compulsory for children to receive primary education, though in many jurisdictions it is permissible for parents to provide it. The transition to secondary school or high school is somewhat arbitrary, but it generally occurs at about eleven or twelve years of age. Some educational systems have separate middle schools with the transition to the final stage of education taking place at around age of fourteen.
The major goals of primary education are achieving basic literacy and numeracy among all pupils, as well as establishing foundation s in science, geography, history and other social sciences. Typically, primary education is provided in schools where the child will stay in steadily advancing classes until they complete it and move on to secondary schools. The children are usually placed in classes with one teacher who will be primarily responsible for their education and welfare for the year. According to National Policy on education 4th edition (2004) Pg 11 Section four, Primary education is the education given in institutions for children aged six to eleven plus. The primary level of education is the key to the success or failure of the whole educational system. This is because the rest of the educational systems is built upon it. The primary school education has six years as its duration.
Primary education is meant to lay a sound basis for scientific and reflective thinking in a child. It gives the child opportunities for developing manipulative skills that will enable the child function effectively in the society within the limits of the child’s capacity. Among all, primary education targets at moulding the child’s character, develop sound attitude and morals in him/her. Primary education helps a child to acquire citizenship education that will help him/her to participate effectively in the life of the society. It also helps a child to have a base from which he/she can further his/her education.
Considering the explanations above, the writer would want to reframe the topic to read, the change brought about by early childhood education on the reading and writing skills or abilities of a child in primary school. It is against this background that this study is undertaken to determine the role nursery education plays in the academic performance of a child in primary schools (particularly in Enugu East L.G.A.).