PARENTAL BACKGROUND AND THE LEARNING OF CONCEPTS BY 3– 6 YEAR OLD CHILDREN IN PLATEAU STATE

PARENTAL BACKGROUND AND THE LEARNING OF CONCEPTS BY 3– 6 YEAR OLD CHILDREN IN PLATEAU STATE

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background of the Study

Children learn concepts best when they are given a wide range of experiences with the object and situations that their developing vocabulary expresses. In this early processing of the world around them children aged 3-6 year, who are still at the pre-primary school level, may begin to classify objects and instances, and these classification tasks are essential to concept formation. Munn in Mangal (2011) defined concept as a process which represents the similarities in otherwise diverse objects, situation, or events. Similarly, Ross (2005) said that concepts are patterns, schemas or mental categories which enable people to interpret the objects of their thoughts; whether perceptual or imaginative. One can conclude that concept is a generalized idea about things, persons, or events. It stands for a general class and not for a particular objects or event. It is a common name given on the basis of similarities or commonness found in different objects, persons or events. It is also a mental disposition that helps in understanding the meaning of the objects of people’s thinking (Ugoji, 2000).

After looking at some of the characteristics of concepts above, one may easily conclude that a large portion of the words used and other

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symbolic expressions in human language represent concepts. The names: horse, tree, dog, table, chair, represent concept of things; father, mother, teacher represent concept of persons; honesty, truthfulness, cleanliness, redness, goodness represent concepts of qualities and characteristics and so on.

Judging the importance of concepts in human lives, one must try to pay due attention to their proper development from a very early age of live. In every sphere of human life, people are very much helped by the identification, classification, categorization and naming of the objects, ideas or events provided by their acquired concepts. Human environment is full of tremendously diverse things. It consists of an infinite number of living and non-living objects. Similarly, there are limitless ideas, thoughts, principles, formulae, theories and so on related to various aspects of human life and the environment. In such an environment of tremendous diversity one can adjust only if one has adequate power and ability to discriminate, classify, and categorize the things around one (in view of their similarities and dissimilarities) in specific groups (Wilson, 1997). Concept learning helps one a lot in this gigantic task of categorizing and classifying the environmental objects. Moreover, the concepts regarding people, objects, places, ideas or events provide human symbolic and verbal behaviour. What


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people think, understand, reason and judge is to a great extent controlled by their concepts (Ugoji, 2000). Therefore, they are regarded as an important tool of people’s thoughts and expression.

Concepts according to Wilson (1997) are divided into three types which include: Conjunctive concepts, disjunctive concepts and relational concepts. In conjunctive concepts, one may find two or more characteristics or features of an object quite connected or associated with each other. Their connection or association provides a unique identification and meaning to the related concept. One may consider the concepts of a game like football, game of cricket, game of hockey as different examples of conjunctive concepts. Each one of them has its unique identification in terms of a number of well-connected attributes or features in the form of fixed number of players, size and characteristics of a special playing field, the rules of the game, playing equipment and so on.

Disjunctive concepts have several characteristics or attributes present in them. It is not essential for them to maintain a connection or link between the conjunctive concepts. A single attribute or feature may appear in all the objects or items associated with such a concept for providing a unique similarity or commonness contributing in the learning of this concept. For example, the concept ‘source of energy’ has petrol, kerosene, oil, electricity,


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coal, atomic power, sun, wind and water as examples of the sources of energy. They all have one common feature or property, the potential for generating energy. However, they all have their own typical features and attributes which provide them their separate and unique identity. Relational concepts were seen by Wilson (1997) as concepts that could be found in some special and unique relationships between their features or attributes. For example, a family having more girls than boys, boys’ hostel, girls’ hostel, developed country, developing country and so on.

The need for concept formation as an important tool of people’s thoughts and expression permeates all the school subjects in the social sciences, humanities and the sciences. For students therefore, concept formation is not just for pleasure but to be able to understand information for proper adjustment in the environment (Wolf, 1997)).

Success in school requires that learners form appropriate concepts. However, evidences abound of poor academic performance among all categories of pupils and students in Nigeria and Plateau State in particular. For instance, the achievement of pupils in the transition examination into secondary schools in Plateau State in the past five years (2009-2013) has been declining steadily. A close analysis of the results shows that only 56%, 60%, 52%, 47% and 38% of the pupils passed well enough to be given


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admission into secondary schools; while many others were pushed into the junior secondary schools because of the nine year basic education programme in the country. This situation has continued to create concerns in the minds of teachers, parents, curriculum experts and evaluators especially when this trend of poor achievements in different school subjects has subsequently been confirmed by the recent West African Examinations councils’ (WAEC) Chief Examiners’ Reports for the y ears: 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. These reports show that students’ achievements were poor in many subjects. For instance, the West African Examinations Councils’ (WAEC) results of 2010, 20211, 2012 and 2013 indicated that only 24.94%, 30.99%, 25.99 and 29.27%% of the candidates who sat for the examinations obtained five credits including Mathematics and English language, which is the basic requirement for admission into Nigerian universities (WAEC, 2010-2013).

These uninspiring achievements in the primary school transition examination into junior secondary schools and the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations (SSCE) are causes for concern. It becomes more worrisome when one considers that the weaknesses of the candidates were traced to inability to read, comprehend and answer the questions correctly. These made candidates to provide answers that were wrong. The problem


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was more obvious in comprehension and summary exercises in English Language where they were required to read and draw inferences since the answers were not given. The reports have it that candidates lost a lot of marks as a result of lifting “seeming answers” from the passage, and that many candidates were yet to come to grips with the skills of comprehension (WAEC, 2012: 86). All these go to a large extent to reveal that concept learning, especially at the early stage of life is a major problem that should be addressed

A number of conferences and workshops have been organized with a view to addressing the problem of poor achievement of children in the pre-primary, primary and secondary schools. As a result, a number of strategies have been recommended for teaching so that students can learn better. These include: Guided teaching method (Dagoli, 1999); Enquiry-Discovery method (Ekpo, 2006); Use of ICT in the classroom (Olorundare, 2006). All these recommended approaches look quite interesting in their theoretical orientation, but evidence shows that the problems are still prevalent, as could be seen from the WAEC (2010 -2013) Chief examiners’ reports.

Literature evidence emanating from Western Europe tends to suggest that certain factors like parental background and gender could have the potentials of militating against the learning of concepts, especially at the


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early stage of human development. Some of these parental background factors could be educational status of parents, occupational status of parents, housing location and condition, parent-child interaction.

Educational status of parents could mean the level of education acquired by parents, and their level of influence in the learning of concepts by children (Ogunlade, 1997). Educational status of parents may also include the provision of instructional materials in aiding children with regard to learning of concepts. Akpochafo (1999) investigated parents’ education and the effect it has on the children’s educational achievement in Benue State. Among the findings is that: educated parents encourage their kids to go to school early; guide them to good school and encourage them on to the best professions. The study also revealed that educated parents give their children financial assistance; help the children with their assignment at home or send them for extra-mural classes; show interest in their school work and take them out on excursion to places of interest.

Similarly, Ogalabu (1997) carried out a comparative study on the academic performance of children in the private fee paying schools with those at the public school. The study reported that the poor performance of children in public school should not always be blamed on the teachers who are always regarded as lazy and inefficient in their jobs. Instead, the


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contributions that educated and the rich parents make to the progress of their children should be taken into consideration. One wonders the extent parental educational status would influence the learning of concepts by children aged 3-6 years; who are still at the pre-primary education level, especially in Plateau State with their almajiri system of children’s upbringing. It stands to reason that if a parent’s level of education is high, that is an indication that he will be fully involved with the school social system, which will be related to the performance of the child. Such a parent would want to provide the necessary instructional materials such as, toys, books, picture, colours, to mention but few.

Occupational status of parents refers to the kind or type of occupation parents are involved in and the extent occupation of parents can influence or aid a child in the learning of concepts (Dubley, 1999). Parental occupation has been identified as one of the variables affecting children’s learning in schools. Most findings seem to support the view that poorly paid parents have difficult time sending and maintaining their children in school, unlike parents with high income who are better equipped. Okunrotifa (1998) carried out a study on the relationship parental occupation and academic performance of children in River State. The study reported that parental income and occupation are the main determinants of the individual’s social


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class. The type of occupation which one is engaged determines, to a large extent, his income and his ability to provide fund and other necessary basic facilities for a growing child which will enhance his learning and performance in school. Similarly, Blau and Duncan in Wegener (1999) tested the correlation between son’s occupational status with father’s occupational status. The study found that higher father’s occupational prestige could increase educational expectations for the child as well as providing financial resources to support higher education. When a child is ashamed of the parent’s occupation, because of the level of work done or kind of clothes demanded by the work, the child attitude will be adversely affected.

Housing location and condition refers to environment and the condition of that environment (Dubley, 1999). The location could be rural or urban and the condition refers to the availability of social amenities in that environment. In influence of environment on the academic achievement of children was investigated by Martin, Wood and Little (1999). The finding of the study revealed that a child is most influenced by his environment. The individual makes changes in the environment and the environment in turn, produces changes in the individual and his behaviour. Mangal (2010) carried out a study on the relationship between child’s home environment and the


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child’s academic achievement. The finding of the study revealed that the child’s home environment is usually important in the formation of cognitive abilities; that is, measured intelligence, his creativity, the manner in which he conducts interpersonal relationship and his level of thinking. The finding went further to show that acquisition and proficiency in learning is made possible by environmental influences. One wonders whether housing location and condition can aid the learning of concepts in children.

Parent-child interaction is the way members of a family, particularly the parents relate to their children and the pattern of interaction could influence or affect the learning of concepts in children (Ogunlade, 1997).

Sarah Harkness (1998) studied the role of mothers and siblings in the first language socialization of Kokwestern children in Kipsipis community in Kenya. The finding of the study revealed that children who spent more time talking to adults were linguistically more advanced in relation to their age than their less talkative companions. Parent-child interaction seems to encourage more practice which in turn is associated with faster progress.

Durojaiye (1998) also investigated the influence of parent-child interaction on the academic achievement of their children. The finding of the study revealed that parent-child interaction is perhaps most important in the pre-school years where the foundation of attitudes of questioning, curiosity and


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investigation is first developed before being carried over to school. He also found out that children who interact very little with their parents and adults use mostly the instrumental and regulatory models of language; they rarely use the imaginative model of language. Okeke (1996) carried out a study on the pattern of interaction in the Nursery Schools children in Anambra State.

Results of finding shows that when children get to the nursery school, they become members of a new social group, they meet with different individuals with varying background and race. The findings of the present study may reveal the influence of parent-child interaction on learning of concepts by children aged 3-6, especially when the almariri system in the study area seems to restrict the level of parent-child interaction.

Gender refers to the beliefs that people have about the characteristics and behaviour associated with males and females (Ogunlade, 1997). Children learn at a very early age what it means to be a boy or girl in human society. This stereotype can manifest in learning of concepts through provision of instructional materials; especially when toys, books and other learning materials are bought according to the sex of children. It becomes necessary to find out the extent parental background such as the educational status of parents, occupational status of parents, housing location and condition, parent-child interaction and gender could influence the learning of


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concepts of children aged 3-6 years. Since the family is the first agent in the socialization process, it stands to reason that parental background as a factor could have the potentials of influencing the learning of concepts, either positively or negatively especially at the early stage of human development. However, the extent parental background factors could impact on the learning of concepts by children aged 3-6 years in Plateau State needs to be investigated.

Statement of the Problem

Children learn concepts best when they are given a wide range of experiences with the object and situations that their developing vocabulary expresses. In early processing of the world around them children begin to classify objects and instances and these classification tasks are essential to concept formation. The need for concept formation as an important tool of people’s thoughts and expression permeates all the school subjects in the social sciences, humanities and the sciences. It is important in academic achievement as it helps students to construct meaning from texts as well as to examine and extend the meaning of the text. Yet the prevailing problem in Plateau State, Nigeria is that the achievements of pupils in the transition examination into secondary schools have been declining steadily. For instance, a close analysis of the results of pupils in the transition


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examination into secondary schools in Plateau State in the past five years (2009-2012) shows that only 56%, 60%, 52%, 47% and 38% of the pupils passed well enough to be given admission into secondary schools; while many others were pushed into the junior secondary schools because of the nine year basic education programme in the country. Teachers, parents, curriculum experts and evaluators are worried, especially when the poor achievements have been blamed on inadequate reading comprehension skills, resulting from poor concept formation. It is believed that if the achievements of pupils and students in the transition examination into secondary schools and in the SSSCE remain like this, it will affect both the economic and technological growth of Nigeria. Evidence emanating from Western Europe tends to suggest that parental background as a factor could have the potentials of impacting on the learning of concepts, either positively or negatively especially at the early stage of human development. The extent parental background such as the educational status of parents, occupational status of parents, housing location/condition, parent-child interaction and gender would affect learning of concepts of by different categories of Nigerian children aged 3-6 years who operate in a different socio-cultural environment is yet to be determined. Pre-primary education is


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the foundational level of all education and also the learning of concepts is the foundational unit of all types of learning.

Therefore, the problem of this study put in a question form is: what is the concept learning achievement of children aged 3-6 based on parental background factors such as the educational status of parents, occupational status of parents, housing location/condition, parent-child interaction and gender in Plateau State?

Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of this study was to determine the concept learning achievement of children aged 3-6 based on parental background in Plateau State.

Specifically, the study sought to:

1.                 Ascertain the concept learning achievement of children aged 3-6 based on educational status of parents.

2.                 Find out the concept learning achievement of children aged 3-6 based on occupational status of parents

3.                 Determine the concept learning achievement of children aged 3-6 based on housing location/condition

4.


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