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Background of the Study

Education is recognized as a potent instrument for social and economic development of individuals and societies. Secondary education is the form of education which children receive immediately after completing primary school education. It constitutes post primary education and sometimes serves as a link between primary and university education. According to Ogbonnaya (2010) secondary education is the form of education which children receive automatically after they have received primary school education. In the same light, Whitaker, (2001) asserts that, secondary education refers to full-time education provided in secondary schools usually for pupils between the ages of eleven or twelve and eighteen plus. All the above means that secondary education refers to education provided in the secondary school which is meant for primary school graduates and a processing ground for a career in higher education.

The broad aims of secondary education (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004) within Nigeria’s overall national objectives are preparation of students for useful living within the society and for higher education (p.17). It is of six years duration and is being given in two stages, the Junior Secondary School (JSS) and the Senior Secondary School (SSS). Each stage is of three years duration. Emphasizing the importance of secondary education, Ogbonnaya (2010) asserts



that it is a stepping-stone to higher education, helps in the development of the potentials of our youths and their cultural talents, encourages cooperation among students, helps produce good citizens and provides for differences in talents and opportunities as a result of its broad and diversified curriculum.The realization of the goals of education at the secondary level is to an extent anchored on effective supervision of instructions by principals who carry out the role on behalf of the Ministry of Education. As heads of school, principals are responsible for supervision of instruction at this level.

Supervision has been defined variously by different authors. Adiele (2000) asserts that it is a process of perusing or scanning a text for error or deviations from the original text. Similarly, Wilcox (2006) has it as a process of entailing general management, direction, control and oversight. Nwaogu (1990) sees supervision as an activity, primarily and directly, concerned with studying and improving the conditions which surround learning and growth of students and teachers. While, Kochhar (2005) asserts that, supervision includes those activities which are primarily and directly concerned with studying and improving the conditions which surround the learning and growth of pupils. Supervision is that which helps to improve the teaching function (Igbo, 2002). Supervision in this study refers to all efforts made by the principals to enhance teaching and learning in the school.

Historically, the concept of supervision has undergone some changes in the past. Supervision was mainly authoritative and prescriptive and it was not


until the past few decades that supervision began to be seen as a co-operative activity. It is well known that supervision of teaching and learning is the bedrock upon which the achievement of broad educational objectives could be attained, hence, the need for supervision of instruction in our schools. Supervision of instruction is of great importance in the improvement of teaching and learning in secondary schools in Nigeria.

The Federal Republic of Nigeria (2004) in her National Policy on Education clearly emphasized the need for regular and thorough supervision of instruction at all levels of education as a tool for educational advancement. Stressing the role of principals in supervision, Ndu (1994), asserts that supervision is an integral part of administrative process and functionally, it cannot be separated from administration. The writer went further to note that, anybody who occupies an administrative position, therefore, is expected to play some supervisory roles, hence, the need for the acquisition of supervisory competencies.

In Nigeria, the principal is the head of the school who is usually appointed by virtue of qualification and seniority. It is his duty to oversee the proper running of the school in terms of staff and student’s welfare, development and implementation of educational programmes. Various writers have expressed their views on who the Principal is, and vis-a-vis the supervisory roles and competencies. Consequently, Enyi (2011) in her work


describes the Principal as the accounting officer of the school, the chief executive and instructional leader. As an accounting officer, the principal oversees the day-to-day management of the school, and as an instructional leader, the principals responsibility is that of supervision of teaching and learning process in the school.

Stressing this, Ogbonnaya (2004) asserts that the most important function of the secondary school principal is the instructional leadership role in the school. According to this author, this role is exercised as the principal plans, organizes and promotes instructions. Similarly, Mgbodile (2004) added that principals are responsible for implementing educational programmes in schools by ensuring that conducive atmosphere is created for learning.

In an attempt to ensure the achievement of educational goals and objectives at the secondary school level, the principal as internal supervisor embark on some activities, like supervision of instruction as well as school administration. Consequently, they are empowered structurally with authority; functionally they occupy position which demands that they integrate roles, personnel, and facilities in order to achieve the desired goals of the system. According to Nnabuo (2011), the accomplishment of all these functions of supervision of instructions and school administration depends solely upon the administrative and management skill. According to Nnabuo, the principal as an internal supervisor needs some supervisory competencies. Supporting this view,


Eboka (2008) and Baudinette (2008) assert that successful administration of secondary schools requires competent principals with appropriate competencies. At this juncture, the question is what are these supervisory competencies?

In an attempt to answer above question, McClelland (2008), asserts that competency often describes any work-related skill; in this context, competencies refers to the underlying motives and habits — patterns of thinking, feeling, acting, and speaking — that cause a person to be successful in a specific job or role. In a related view, Oakland (2010) sees competency as a clustering of knowledge, skills, and abilities directly related to effective leadership performance. The writer went further to stress that competencies are defined in terms of specific behaviours.

In furtherance of the above, Blancero, Boroski, and Dyer, (2004) see supervisory competencies as the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other attributes required to perform desired future behaviour. In a related view, Mansfield (2000) asserts that supervisory competencies refer to skills and traits that are needed by employees to be effective in a job. The writer went further to stress that, it also involves those range of personal characteristics (for example, personal values, motives and ideas) which administrators bring to bear on their jobs. Similarly, Boyatzis (2002) assert that supervisory competencies are underlying characteristic of a person, in that it may be a motive, trait, skill, aspect of one’s self-image or social role, or a body of knowledge used, which is causally related to the achievement of effective, or better, work performances.


For the purpose of this study, supervisory competencies refer to knowledge and skills that are required by principals for effective performance of supervisory roles in schools.

It is consequent upon the above that, Mgbodile (2004), made an early attempt to identify some supervisory competencies. The author reported that for effective school administration, school administrators must possess and employ planning and decision-making competencies, leadership competencies, supervisory skills and skills for school climate management. In a related attempt, Akinola, (2001) limited supervisory competencies to, planning, organizing, coordinating, supervising and running a business, school or other institutions. No wonder, Ezeani,(2012) identified building trust, being visionary leaders, communicating effectively the vision of the school to all stakeholders and being exemplary leader as the supervisory competencies required by principals to enhance maximum productivity and psychological benefits of the school.

However, for the purposes of this study, attention was focused on the following four supervisory competencies; competency in instructional leadership, communication competency, information and communication technology competency (ICT) and human relations competencies. The choice of these supervisory competencies was based on literature evidence which revealed that principals seem to have problems with these competencies, most especially in the study area.


Literature evidence has identified instructional leadership competencies as one of the supervisory competencies area required by principals. The principal of a school exercises various supervisory roles in three major domains: instructional, curriculum and staff development. The principal ensures effective supervision by interacting academically and socially on regular basis with teachers and students within and outside the classroom. The primary aim is to monitor the implementation of curricular and ensure desirable increase in teachers’ capabilities, upgrade their conceptual knowledge and teaching skills, give them support in their work to facilitate better performance in teachers’ pedagogical practices and students’ learning outcomes in school settings (Adepoju, 2007).

However, the researcher observed that, the situation among secondary school principals in North Central States appears to be far from the desirable. Principals particularly, those from this zone no longer pay attention to that aspect of school administration that has to do with supervision of instruction. Some of the behaviours usually exhibited by these principals are lack of visitation to classroom, over concentration on administrative issues like admission of new students, collection of tuition, registration of students for external examinations. There is obvious inability to check teachers’ schemes, lesson plans and notes. As a matter of fact, students are no longer made to repeat any class even when it is obvious that their performance is extremely poor. The main reason for this is the fear of losing the students to other schools,


who are always ready to admit them without any transfer certificate or an evidence of promotion to the class they are seeking admission into.

In our schools there are problems of poor performance of our students in both internal and external examinations, high level of examination malpractice, poor academic achievement of students, increasing cases of Cult activities, and lack of commitment of teachers to instructional delivery (Bello-Osagie & Olugbamila, 2009). Corroborating this, Uwadiae (2010) noted that the results of Senior School Certificate Examinations conducted by the West African Examination Council and the National Examination Council were extremely poor in Nigeria between 2007 and 2010. Similarly, in 2011 May/June Senior School Certificate Examination conducted by the West African Examination Council, only 30.99% of the 1,540,250 candidates obtained credit level passes and above in five subjects including English Language and Mathematics in the 36 States of the Federation, and the Federal Capital Territory (Owadiae, 2011). The abysmal performance of students in examinations has been largely attributed to inadequate instructional leadership and learning facilities (Earthman, 2002). A consideration of the above shows that there is a greater challenge ahead of external evaluators, principals and teachers partly because of the existing gaps and inadequacies in their instructional and supervisory duties.

Another supervisory competency required by principals is communication competency. Communication as an indispensable aspect of administration is simply the sharing of information between two or more


individuals or groups to reach a common understanding for organizational success. Hence, Ekwue (2008) asserted that without effective communication in schools, teachers and students will not know what duties they are expected to perform. Under such circumstances, they might be forced to act in certain ways which may be counter-productive. But with open communication, a unique school culture may then develop with the interplay of the various managerial practices.

However, from the researchers point of view, it appears that secondary school principals in the study area seem to neglect this aspect of school supervision, by hoarding information from teachers, students, non teaching staff and the members of Parent Teachers Association (PTA), delay information from getting to the staff, students and parents as at when due all these are the attitude principals exhibit. Hence, misunderstanding, suspicion, mistrust, students’ riot, parents demand for the removal of the principal and teachers’ refusal to help invigilate during external examinations are common behaviours exhibited by members. All these point to the fact that, principals in the study area seems not to be aware of the existence of communication competency. For this study, communication can be seen as the act of transmission of information between two or more, usually the sender and the receiver.

Information and communication technology (ICT) is another supervisory competency area required by principals. Edifiogho (2007) defined Information and Communication Technology (ICT) competencies as those skills and


abilities which school principals require for using computers to store and retrieve information when needed. ICT is the emergence of tools of microelectronic and telecommunication that are used in the automatic acquisition, analysis, storage, retrieval, manipulation, management, control, movement, display, transmission, reception, and interchange of quantitative and qualitative data (Boritz, 2000; Cheta, 2003).

To compete successfully in a competitive global economic environment, a highly skilled and educated workforce with aptitude and skills in the application of ICT is very essential. This makes knowledge and use of ICT central to education in the 21st century (Wolff and Mackinnon, 2002). The Association for African Universities (AAU) in an ICT Report (2005) noted that competency in ICT would facilitate administrative activities in staff management, students’ administration, finances, assets and maintenance, office activities and communication. In order to perform the duties of a principal effectively, Gurr (2000) and Bishop (2002) pointed out that the principals’ knowledge and competency in ICT is essential. Unfortunately, it appears that secondary school principals in the North Central States of Nigeria are still lagging behind in this march towards technological advancement. Principals in the study area still find it difficult to make use of internet facility even when such services are available in their schools. For instance, the researcher observed that some schools in the area have these facilities on ground, which were donated to the schools by Government and non-Governmental Agencies.


Unfortunately, these ICT facilities are just locked up without putting them to use, the major reason the principals give for not using them, was to ensure that they were not damaged.

No wonder, Odumaiye in Kwara State, and Adaji (2010) in Benue State noted that secondary school principals still hold firmly to the traditional manual methods of operations, due to incompetency in ICT skills. As a result of these, principals from these areas appear to be far behind in an age driven by ICT. An age where WAEC/NECO registration, checking of result, generation of mark and attendance sheet are done online and information from the Ministry of Education and Secondary School Board are sent online. To show Government resolve, principals in the area have been mandated to submit their E-mail address to the Ministry of Education. It is in view of this that, ICT competencies will be seen as those skills and abilities which principals require for using computers or other multi-media facilities to analyze, interpret, convey or retrieve information for the purpose of enhancing their supervisory duties.

This study went further to consider human relations competencies. According to Nwaogu (1990), human relation is recognition by the administrator of the fact that man is more important than the work itself though the work must be done well according to established rules and regulations. The author also advanced that good humane in dealing with others especially the subordinates is very important. In line with Nwaogu, Ezeocha (1995) observed that in all terms of administration, human beings are involved and


administrators must recognize the dignity and worth of man for more effective administration. An investigation of teacher and principal perceptions of skills required for principal effectiveness found that human relations skills were typically chosen as the most important skill for administrators to possess (Kowalski, 2001).

However, the researcher observed that, it appears the situation is not so in the study area, as principals treat their staff as second class citizens, who do not deserve their respect. They nag at the teachers in the presence of students and visitors, the welfare of staff and their family members are not taken seriously. Principals in the area also, monopolize everything that happens in the school, the principal is also the vice principal administration, vice principal academics, the examination officer, and the finance clerk. They never render assistance of any sought to the staff and students even when there is need for such. Hence, it seems there is lack of commitment on the part of teachers, non-teaching staff and the students. For the purpose of this study, human relations competency can be seen as the principal’s ability to establish cordial relationship with his teachers/students, showing concern for their welfare, encouraging and motivating them.

At this juncture, it becomes pertinent to note that one of the major ways of addressing the challenges arising from incompetence of principals in supervision of instruction in the secondary schools lies in the identification of the supervisory competencies possessed and required by principals. This


informed the need for this study. However, it appears that supervisory competencies are influenced by a number of factors, which include age, gender, qualification, location and experience. Considering the importance of gender as revealed by studies, gender was chosen for consideration.

Gender, according to Ann-Maree (2004), is the range of physical, biological, mental and behavioural characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between, masculinity and femininity. Depending on the context, the term may refer to biological sex (i.e. the state of being male, female or intersex), sex-based social structures (including gender roles and other social roles), or gender identity. Similarly, Polland and Morgan (2002) conceptualized gender to mean the socially constructed behavioural expectations for male and females, as well as the rights and obligations granted to them by the society. They however agree that gender describes the biological sex of individuals in terms of being males or females. This study was limited to the male and female classification of gender, especially as it relates to secondary school principals.

A critical examination of gender as an influential factor in principal’s supervisory competencies shows that studies have been inconclusive on the relationship between gender and supervisory competencies. Some studies show that male principals are more superior to their female counterparts in supervisory competencies ( Njoku, 1999). Some studies show evidence that female principals perform better in school supervision (Osisioma & Nabuife, 1996). Specifically, Oplatka (2006) asserts that females in developing countries


generally exhibit a combination of masculine and feminine supervisory competencies, and attributed it to the dominance of male value in developing nations. Enyi (2011) asserted that female principals in Enugu State perform better in instructional supervision than their male counterparts.

Considering the controversy over the relationship between gender and supervisory competencies, this study made use of gender, as it tried to contribute in resolving this issue by identifying the supervisory competencies required and possessed by male and female principals in secondary schools in North Central States, Nigeria.

Statement of the Problem

Secondary education in Nigeria where youths are to be prepared for useful living and higher education appear not to be able to realize its objectives, particularly in the North Central States. It has been observed by the researcher as a teacher at this level that, the principals charged with the task of overseeing instruction at this level, seem to lack some supervisory competencies. The researcher has observed that, instructional leadership within the study area appear to have received less attention by principals, hence the prevailing rampant cases of exam-malpractices, mass failure in public examinations, and low academic achievements among students. Again, are the prevailing cases of misunderstanding, suspicion, student riots, and protest from staff, parents and high level of mistrust, which suggest ineffective communication by the principals.


Similarly, the researcher has observed that, principals seem to have little or no knowledge in the area of information and communication technology. As a result of this, there seem to be prevailing cases of poor record-keeping, inability to send and retrieve information, unnecessary waste

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