THE IMPACT OF EFFECTIVE CLASS SIZE ON THE ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE STUDENTS OF TERTIARY
1.1 Background to the Study
Education is a key factor for sustainable development (Chimombo 2005). The significance of education, especially in developing countries, is increasing because of progressing pressure to catch up with the developed world. (Hawkins 2012). Predictably, educational settings are different in developing countries than in developed countries because of the challenges and predicaments such as low quality of education and narrow possibilities in attending schools in rural areas because of far distances and high opportunity costs (Chimombo, 2005). For many years, researchers, scholars, educators, politicians and people in general have debated on the number of students a teacher can work effectively with to ensure students adequate learning and understanding. Although, most people would agree that having a few student to teacher ratio would benefit the student academically, many will also argue that it does not guarantee success and would cost school, education providers and government a great deal and resources.
Therefore, students achievement applies to making sure all students have the necessary skills and knowledge to function in school and society so that they may also succeed as adult (National Education Association, 2012). Class size can be categorized in two different perspectives. One is small class size and the other is large class size. Moreover, definitions of class size by education scholars vary across the research spectrum, but for the purpose of this study, small class size will be defined as classes with approximately 15 students. In describing a small group, Bray (1990) observed that they have few teachers with small pools of talent; offer limited range of subjects and characteristically finding it hard to justify costly investment on libraries. Their students lack competition and interest with relatively few peers as they get stucked with same teacher for an entire school career.
Therefore, while large or regular class will be defined as classrooms with approximately 24 or more students (Harris and Plank, 2010)., the term average class size is a calculation of the total number of students in a grade level divided by the number of classroom sections in that school or school district.
Class size refers to an educational tool that can be used to describe the average number of students per class in a school (Adeyemi, 2008). This varies from country to country. Kedney (2009) saw it as a tool that can be used to measure the performance of the education system. In relation to size, Stepaniuk (2009) reported that the rational utilization of classroom space depends upon class-size. This in turn would depend upon the area of the classroom. He argued that there are approved norms of class-size, 40 pupils per class for grades 1 to 8 and 35 pupils per class for the senior classes; while the standard allocation of class space per pupil is 1:25 square metres. In this regard, Dean (2014) compared class-size in some countries and found that Turkey, Norway and Netherlands had class-sizes of 20 or more; the UK, USA, Japan, Canada and Ireland had class-sizes of between 15 and 20 while France, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Italy, Luxembourg and Belgium had sizes of below 15. The Nigerian case is different from the above. In tertiary institutions like College of education, Ikere Ekiti, where there is different combination of courses to offered, large class usually occurred and the teacher or lecturer may not be able to control the large class size. Therefore, the effectiveness of such large class size has been noticed in the past. In the general studies classes for instance, students usually have poor performance due to unmanageable large class size.
In the last decade, between 2000 and 2010, there is unprecedented increase in the number of students in all the institutions of higher learning in Nigeria, College of Education, Ikere Ekiti inclusive. A lot of reasons can be attributed to the number of increase in student’s intake in schools during the period. One, was the introduction of National Examination Council (NECO) as new secondary school examination body in Nigeria and the result of the government policies at all levels to increase the enrolment of students and pupils at the primary, secondary schools and tertiary level of education respectively. As school population increases, class sizes also increase, the performances of students become an issue.
According to Dror (1995) class size has become a phenomenon often mentioned in the educational literature as an influence on student’s feelings and achievement, on administration, quality and school budgets. In his words he noted, that class size is almost an administrative decision over which teachers have little or no control. Most researchers start from the assumption that size of the class would prove a significant determinant of the degree of success of students.
In Nigeria, however, Okoro (2005) reported that the class-size in College of Education ranges between 35 or40 students. He argued that few pupils per class are uneconomical, as they do not make full use of space, teachers and teaching materials. Adeyemi (2008) too, reported that average class-size influences the cost of education while capital cost could be reduced by increasing the average class-size in schools while Nwadiani (2010) argued that the higher the class-size, the lower the cost of education. He contended however, that most classrooms are over-crowded spreading resources thinly and thereby affecting the quality of education. Ajayi (2010) supported the viewpoints and argued that in order to control rising capital cost of education, the average class-size could be increased. These points were also supported by Toth and Montagna (2012) who reported that the increase in enrollment in many institutions which has become major concerns of students could definitely lead to an increase in class size. Commeyras (2010) however, disagreed with these arguments and reported that effective teaching seems impracticable for teacher educators having large class sizes of 50, 75, 100 or more. In terms of outcomes, Schultz (2013) classified the outcomes of education into two categories from the economic point of view. These are consumption and investment.
Cohn (2005) referred to the consumption aspect as that related to benefits derived by students. He regarded the investment component as including a variety of outputs related to the enhancement of an individual’s or society’s productive skills. Thus, Blaug (2013) argued that the extension of education tends to raise the earnings of those who benefited from it. In this regard, Simkins (2011) reported that output “represents the immediate results of the system’s activities.” According to him, “the main outputs in education are expressed in terms of learning, that is, changes in the knowledge, skills and attitudes of individuals as a result of their experiences within the educational system.” He argued that the educational system is a productive system in the very sense that it produces outputs especially various forms of learning.
Tertiary institutions examinations in Nigerian schools dated back to the advent of formal education. Since then examinations have occupied a central place in the Nigerian educational system .According to Fafunwa, (1989) examination has been “the sole criterion of quality” in Nigeria and “once a higher percentage of the students pass their external examinations, the school is considered to be of a high quality.” The importance of examinations in Nigeria even extended beyond this point. This importance as entrenched in the Federal Government of Nigeria National Policy of Education was in the fact that all College of Education should gear their programmes to meet the requirements of model, he alleged that the various inputs are processed examinations being conducted for the School Certificate. Toward this end, Fafunwa (2014) argued that “it is an educational truism that examinations control the curriculum and whoever controls a country’s examination system controls its education.”
The relationship between class size and academic performance has been a perplexing one for educators. Studies have found that the physical environment, class overcrowding and teaching methods are all variables that affect student’s achievement (Molnal, 2010). Other factors that affect student’s achievement are school population and class size (Gentry, 2010, and Swift, 2010). The issue of poor academic performance of students in Nigeria has been of much concern to all and sundry. The problems are so much that it has led to the decline in standard of education. Since the academic success of students depends largely on the school environment, it is imperative to examine the impact variables of effective class size and school population on the academic performance of students in tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
So therefore as a result of the above, the study was conceived to investigate the effect of the class size on the academic performance of students in Nigerian Tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The coming of democracy in Nigeria after a decade of military rule in 1999 ushered in a new era which came with what Luckett and Adelugba (2000) and Ojo (2003) refer to as the ‘massification’ of education and the ‘diversification’ of the classroom, especially at tertiary level. This means that tertiary institutions in Nigeria have over the years seen an influx in the enrolment of students from all parts of the country and the continent. It is widely known that Nigeria is currently experiencing enormous challenges in institutions of learning due to a plethora of problems. To this end, Gibbs (1992) has advocated for what he terms “flexibility, choice and movement around the system”, to be put in sharp focus as instability in these centres creates many societal and economic problems. It is important to try and attend to these problems from all possible angles.
A perception exists among parents and teachers that smaller classes are better than larger classes. Some researchers have technical concerns about the research designs of studies that report a link between reduced class size and improved achievement, including the project of the Universal Primary Education Board( UPEB) study. Other studies address concerns that are based on the cost effectiveness or program design of smaller classes. But elaborate surveys like Akinbode and Tijani (1991) studies of class size and other educational factors (most of which have been conducted in primary schools in the Western Nigeria) tend to show an inverse connection between achievement results and student preparation. In other words, the two educationists concur that class size matters a lot for students who are unprepared and come from disadvantaged backgrounds but matter little for students who bring more in the way of social capital, aptitude, and other resources to the classroom. Akinbode and Tijani (1991) conclude that the overall evidence suggests that class size plays little or no influence on student achievement. This however has not quelled the debate. Notwithstanding the factors mentioned above, the debate still leaves the question of whether the marginal loss of learning all other students experience as a result of having one more student in class outweighs the marginal benefits that one more student receives.
Though there is debate about the extent of benefits small classes bring, or how much it costs to achieve, there is at least some agreement in the literature that using certain tests, class size does matter in some circumstances. Educationists such as Bandele (2002) and Ajayi (1989) support this view. No such agreement exists in the literature concerning the effect of class size in higher education. Bowden and Mayokun (1998) have presented arguments that class size is the primary environmental variable college faculties must contend with when developing effective teaching strategies. They argue that while class size may not be significant in courses best suited for lecture style learning, courses geared toward promoting critical thinking and advanced problem solving are best taught in a smaller classroom environment. Their views are consistent with findings which suggest that students and educators’ motivation and attitude towards learning tends to be more negatively affected by larger classes. Boyede (1999) agrees that though they may have learned the material, students do not feel as satisfied with the classroom experience as they would have in smaller classes, suggesting that some learning opportunities may have been lost. Analysts such as Slavin (1989) and Luckett (1996) have raised several fiscal and implementation issues, including questions about whether the benefits of reduced class sizes are sufficient to offset the costs incurred to create them. To this end, therefore, the topic of class size has received a lot of public and professional attention. Organizational interventions in the educational fraternity in this regard are considered to be relatively new phenomena as, before the ushering in of independence in most African states; management in these institutions has always taken on a trial and error fashion. Calls for reduction in class sizes are rallying points for parents, educators, administrators and all stakeholders are trying to find a solution so as to introduce policies aimed at tackling the high class size challenge (Nzimande, 2009).
Due to the present economic recession, there is increased financial pressure being placed upon tertiary institution to show that the government funds are being used effectively and efficiently and to raise revenue for the proper running of the institutions. As part of effort and arrangement to fulfill this mandate, institutions of higher learning embark on giving provisional admission to intending students, which led to increase in the number of students in a class. Unfortunately, there is a lack of recent data for educational leaders to use in determining whether reduction class sizes is worth the economic burden it places upon school.
Therefore, several studies have been conducted by scholars on the issue of class and the academic performance of students in secondary schools in Nigeria, but researchers have not beam there searchlight on the relationship between the class size and academic performance in tertiary institutions in Nigeria, COE, Ikere Ekiti inclusive. For instance, Yelkpieri, Namale, Esia-Donkoh, Ofosu-Dwamena (2012) examine the Effects of Large Class Size on Effective Teaching and Learning at the Winneba Campus of the University of Education, Winneba), Ghana. The study opined that large class size is one of the problems in the educational sector that developing nations have been grappling with. Ghana as a developing nation is no exception and has its own fair share of this problem at the pre-tertiary and tertiary levels of education.
Owoeye (2011) examine the Class Size and Academic Achievement of Secondary School in Ekiti State, Nigeria. The study looked at the class size as it relates to academic performance of students in Ekiti state of Nigeria between
1990 and 1997. The study population was the results of the West African School Certificate Examinations (WASCE) conducted between 1990 and 1997 in 50 secondary schools in both rural and urban areas of the state. Additionally, there is a need to understand how effectiveness class size affects the instructional and classroom management practices of teachers/ lecturers. The performance of students in the college calls for proper investigation of causes of poor academic performance of the students . Although, several scholars have proposed various factors responsible for the poor performance of students, few researches has been dedicated to the correlation between effective class size, school population and academic achievement of students. It has been observed that College of Education, Ikere – Ekiti classes appears to be densely populated in the past but with the present trend in the Colleges of education across the country, the population are gradually decreasing on daily basis. It has shown the views of previous research on class-size in various countries. In view of the divergent opinions, the problem of this study was to determine what influence the effective class-size had on the quality of output from College of Education, Ikere Ekiti, Nigeria. This situation seems to be impairing effective teaching and learning process in the College of Education, Ikere Ekiti and hence the reason for embarking on this study.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The main purpose of this research project is to examine the impact of effective class size on the academic performance students of tertiary institutions in Nigeria. The specific objectives to:
- examine the influence of class size on the academic performance of students in College of Education, Ikere Ekiti, Ekiti state.
- find out the effect of socio-economics status on class size in College of Education, Ikere Ekiti
- evaluate how students in larger classes participate more actively than do those in smaller classes in the mainstream classroom?
1.4 Research Questions
The research seeks to answer the following questions that are designed to guide the study.
- What are the influence of class size on the academic performance of students in College of Education, Ikere Ekiti in Ekiti state?
- What are the effect of socio-economics status on class size in College of Education, Ikere Ekiti?
- Does larger classes participate more actively than do those in smaller classes students in the mainstream classroom?
1.5 Research Hypotheses
The following null hypothetical statements are made with respect to the objectives of the study.
- There is no significance relationship between the impact of effective class size and academic performance of tertiary institution students
- There is no significance difference between the socio-economics status of studets and class size in College of Education, Ikere Ekiti
- There is no significance relationship between larger classes participate more actively than do those in smaller classes in the mainstream classroom.
1.6 Significance of the Study
The Nigerian education system is progressively becoming more and more complex. Experience has shown that class size is a major contributing factor to the assumed ineffectiveness in many tertiary institutions in Nigeria. For instance, in the recent years, Nigeria has witnessed rapid educational expansion especially at the tertiary level without corresponding increase in the provision of essential facilities and this has resulted into large school size and eventually large class size; with its attendant problems of lack of facilities for teachers and also lack of good classroom management by the teachers. For instance, it has been observed that students may be too difficult to control by teachers in many of the large classes due to over congestion of students in these classes. Experience has also shown that teachers tend to lose the ability to attain or establish effective teaching in the overcrowded class than small class and this problem of large class size in tertiary institutions in Nigeria has been attributed to several factors, such as the introduction of too many subjects on primary school time-table, which invariably has given birth to accommodation of all the subjects on the school time-table couple with the shortage of qualified teaching personnel to teach these subjects.
Based on this, the research work contains the researcher’s contributions that would be of help and useful to education policy planners, Educationist, Ministry of Education authorities, Stakeholders, school administrations and management in senior schools towards helping students to improve the quality of facilities in the education system. Apart from the above, the research will provide valuable information on the influence of different interacting factors on the effects of class size on the teaching among tertiary education students. The content of the study will also serve as resource materials for others who want to carry out further research.
1.7 Scope of the Study
This study was limited to examining the impact of class size on the academic performance of tertiary institutions students in Nigeria, with emphasis on College of Education, Ikere Ekiti were used as respondents.
1.8 Limitations to the Study.
In the course of conducting this research work, some limitations were encountered by the researcher. These include the reluctance of some of the respondents in giving out relevant information needed for the research work. Factors contributed in affecting the researcher’s comprehensiveness and totality in carrying out this study includes, scarcity of relevant materials on the issue due to its continuous evolving nature, some questionnaire administered were not returned and most of the respondents failed to respond to some important questions and other tasking engagements. The above challenges would be overcome through persistence and the need to excel in the course of carrying out this study. Relevant stakeholders were contacted to get relevant information that is required to carry out the study.
1.9 Definition of Terms
Class size: Class size is typically defined as the number of students for whom a teacher is primarily responsible during a school year. The teacher may teach in a self-contained classroom or provide instruction in one subject.
Students/Lecturer-teacher ratio (also known as teacher-student ratio): Achilles (2013) defined students-teacher ratio as the number of student in a school or district compared to the number of teaching professionals.
Class size reduction: Class size reduction is the process to achieve class sizes smaller than the ones currently in place (Achilles, 2013).
1.10 Organization of Chapters
The study comprises of five chapters. The chapter one examines background to the study, statement of the problem, research questions, assumption of the study, significance of the study and limitations to the study, objectives of the study, research hypothesis, scope of the study, definition of terms and organization of chapters. Chapter two deals with or considers literature review and theoretical framework. Chapter three examines the research methodology, where sampling method, study area, data analysis would be considered. Chapter four looks at data presentation and interpretation. Lastly, chapter five examines the summary, recommendations and conclusion.
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