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JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT VOLUME 5 NO 2, DECEMBER, 2007

FUNCTIONAL LITERACY AND THE UNIVERSAL BASIC EDUCATION IN IMO STATE.

Dr P.N. Opara
Department of Technical Education, Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki

Abstract

Functional literacy is the focal point of a good educational system. This study therefore X-rays functional literacy in the primary and Junior Secondary Schools in Imo State under universal basic education. The study reveals the meaning of functional literacy, the true situation on the ground, facilitator of functional literacy, indicators of functional literacy and recommendations. Questionnaire were used to establish the indicators of functional literacy. Also interview was used to find out the true situation regarding level of adequacy of the operation of the universal basic education in ImoState. The result of the study revealed that though the UBE in ImoState has been making effort in the area of the provision of infrastructure, a lot needed to be done for functional literacy to be realized.
Keywords: literacy; education; functional; school


Introduction

Literacy is the ability to read and write and the ability to use language proficiently (Collins Concise dictionary). The word functional simply means to be practical. Functional literacy therefore is the practical ability to:-

  1. Read and write
  2. To acquire practical and salable skill to make a living in the world of work
  3. To be able to associate, communicate and work together with others in unity, peacefully and successfully to achieve a particular purpose.
  4. To be dynamic and abreast of resent inventions, discoveries, information and communication technology, and how to utilize them in the ever changing world.
  5. To acquire knowledge about the world in which we live.

Functional literacy helps in the realization of national goals which is the foundation and bases for the national policy on education. The National goals of Nigeria which can only be realized through functional literacy include to build.

  1. A free and democratic society
  2. A just and egalitarian society
  3. A united, strong and self-reliant nation
  4. A great and dynamic economy
  5. A land full of bright opportunities for all citizens. (National policy on education 2004).

Education is an instrument of change and also an instrument for national development, through fostering the worth and development of individuals. There is an urgent need for functional literacy for the promotion of a progressive and united Nigeria. Consequently the quality of instruction at the primary and junior secondary school levels have to be oriented towards inculcating values such as:-

  1. Acquisition of competencies necessary for self reliance
  2. Promotion of the physical, emotional and psychological development of all children
  3. Moral and spiritual principles in Inter-personal and human relations
  4. Faith in mans ability to make rational decision.
  5. Shared responsibility for common good of the society.
  6. Respect for the worth and dignity of individual.

The UNESCO and the UNDP for a long time have exerted their energy and resources to a

 large extent in the reduction of illiteracy in the world, hence the Slogan “Literacy is a human right”. In the 1980s “Education for all by the year 2000” re-assured Nigerians that illiteracy in Nigeria would be a thing of the past by the year 2000. In the period 1965-1974, the UNESCO and the UNDP pursued a project called “Experimental world literacy program” (EWLP) which aimed at promoting economic growth among the poor nations with emphasis on the literacy of the populace. Also the year 1990 was declared the “International Literacy year” followed by the “Decade for Literacy”. Inspite of all the efforts made by individual nations, the UNESCO and the UNDP on the other hand, the rate of literacy in the world is depreciating. See table.


 

1970

760 million

33%

Of the world population

1980

824 million

29%

1990

882 million

25%

2000

912 million

22%

UNICEF Report (March 1990)


A functionally literate person therefore is one who possesses the level of literacy adequate for one to function normally and effectively in the society. Ansre (1976) asserted that any country which takes seriously, the need to deploy its human resources maximally cannot afford to do so on linguistic grounds. If the language or languages selected to be used for resource exploration and wealth acquisition are those mastered only by a small minority of the population, the under employment and the emergence of an exploiting and wealthy minority can be the only result expected. There is no way we can achieve maximum development without harnessing the literacy capacity of the youth. Unfortunately, most of our youth especially in the south-east avoid going to school. They prefer going to learn a trade and make a living through it. Surprisingly, the so called illiterate craft or trades men own most of the small-scale enterprises (SME) in Nigeria Nwachukwu (2006) emphasized that if the illiterate small scale industry operators will increase their productivity in terms of modifying their know-how, increase the rate and range of their services, give more job placement to our unemployed youths, accumulate capital and know-how to re-invest it into the economy, modernize their products and know where and how to market them here and outside Nigeria, we must give them literacy and numeracy. The “Asian Tigers” emerged a world legend in economic supremacy as a result of functional education and literacy (World Bank report 1995). It is a common observation that our youths of primary and Junior Secondary School, even Senior Secondary Schools and sometimes university student cannot speak and write correct and good English. The universal basic education has the responsibility of making sure that the literacy given to our pupils and student is functional.
Universal basic education is meant to cover the
1.         The early childcare and socialization
2.         The formal school systems of primary school to the end of junior secondary school.
3.         Out of School, non formal education for persons who left school before acquiring basic needs for life long learning.
4.         Special group such as nomadic population, migrant fishermen etc.
5.         Acquisition of functional literacy and numeracy and life-skill for adults
6.         Adolescent and Youths who did not have the benefit of education through non-formal skills and apprenticeship training.
The objective of the universal basic education scheme include:-

 1.         Developing in the entire citizenry, a strong consciousness for education and a strong commitment to its vigorous promotion.     
2.         Provision of free universal basic education for every Nigerian child of school going age.
3.         The drastical reduction in the incidence of dropout from the formal school system through improved relevance, quality and efficiency.
4.         Catering for the learning needs of young person who for one reason or the other have had to interrupt their schooling through appropriate forms of complementary approaches to the prevision and promotion of basic education.
5.         To ensure the acquisition of the appropriate level of literacy,  numeracy, manipulative, communicative and life–skill as well as the ethical, moral and civic values needed for laying a solid foundation for life-long learning.   
The role of the federal ministry of education in the implementation of the UBE Scheme can not be over emphasized. The federal ministry of education is the Chief Matron and Midwife of the UBE scheme.  The states and local government are accountable to her. The role of the federal ministry of education in the UBE Scheme include
1.         To provide a legal framework in form of an enabling law stating the structure of the scheme and the role of other stakeholder
2.         To provide adequate funding for the scheme.
3.         To engage and adopt massive re-orientation and redirection and mobilization of the citizens about UBE.  
4.         To establish a powerful and effective commission to plan, supervise, monitor and evaluate the implementation of the scheme on a regular basis.
5.         To provide adequate infrastructural facilities.
6.         To take the issue of teachers welfare and salaries seriously. Lack of good remuneration, staff development and attractive, welfare package for teachers erode dedication and commitment of teacher.
7.         To provide for data collection, analysis and dissemination of information
8.         To provide the curricular, textbook and instructional materials.
 
The national policy on education (2004) specified that basic education shall be 9 years duration comprising of 6 years of primary education (lower basic) and 3 years of Junior Secondary education (upper basic). Also the policy stated that the education at this level shall be free and compulsory under the universal basic education program of the federal government. The policy also specified that skill acquisition at this level shall be by pre-vocational training which will introduce them to the world of technology. For our youths under the universal basic education to be functionally literate, they most be proficient in reading and writing, general knowledge, information and communication technology and saleable skill acquisition to make a living. The curriculum contact of the early secondary school was narrow, yet it met with the needs of those days. The graduates were functionally literate and could give meaning to their lives. In recent years the growth and development in information and communication technology has rendered the old system to some extent obsolete. For the present day student to be proficient and functionally literate they must undergo basic training in information and communication technology (ICT) especially computer education. Adamu (2006) noted that the Nigerian government has identified I.C.T as a venture that can help in the delivery of quality and functional education or literacy. He added that ICT will greatly improve the life of Nigerians. Galbreath (2000) noted that the prevalence and rapid development of information and communication technology (ICT) has transformed human society from the information technology age to the knowledge age. (Lopez 2003) added that ICT has significant impact on traditional school system, provided innovative opportunities for teaching and learning, and has also engendered advances in research on how people learn, thereby bringing remarkable changes in the structure of education. The International ICT literacy (2001) specified that cognition proficiency, technical proficiency and ICT proficiency are the fundamental set of skills and knowledge required to fully attain the proficiency needed in the use of ICT tools and resources.
 Ighofovwe (2005) reiterated that the last 20 years has experienced great changes in the way of life as a result of explosion in information technology. He added that the people of the world are developing strategies on how to adapt to the new world information system.

Facilitators of functional literacy
The facilitators of functional literacy in our school system will therefore include:-

  1. Availability of standard class rooms
  2. Availability of a comfortable staff room
  3. Availability of integrated science laboratories
  4. Availability of well equipped introductory technology laboratories
  5. Availability of computer laboratories for ICT (information and communication technology)
  6. Availability of adequate number of teachers
  7. Availability of well qualified and experienced teachers
  8. Availability of well equipped libraries
  9. Adequate remuneration, regular payment of teachers salaries and good welfare facilities (e.g. staff quarter, health insurance scheme, social amenities). Etc.
  10. Good feeding for students (boarders)
  11. Availability of Teaching aids/literacy materials
  12. Availability of inter-college academic competitions
  13. Oversea linkage programmes
  14. Clubs and societies e.g. Computer club, debating society etc.
  15. Excursion to places of interest example airports, hydro electric generating station, sea ports, railways station, industries etc.

A few interviews with the staff of the schools management board and the state universal basic education in Owerri revealed that all the facilitators above are inadequate in all the Junior secondary school. Which means a lot of work still needed to be done by the government of Imo State and the state universal basic education. Also the government has promised free universal basic education and free books, which means that books will be bought for the pupils or the students by the government. To what extent is it achieved? The real situation on ground is that books are not bought for the students. Most parents have relaxed and are not buying books for their children. Without relevant and approved text books, how can functional literacy be realized. It is like going to farm without farm implements.

The available classroom in the junior secondary school are inadequate, hence a single class that should be 25 to 30 students takes about 60 to 80 students. Some students stay outside the classroom, by the widow side. Most class rooms do not have window nor ceiling and in some cases the roofs are leaking. The classrooms are not comfortable for learning purposes.

Laboratories like the introductory technology laboratory and science laboratory are not existing. Coupled with the lack of technical teachers. Imo State has no department of technical education in the universities. Hence teachers of introductory technology are not being produced in the state this is the major reason for lack of technical Teachers in the state.

The use of teaching aid and literacy materials are not being maximized. Information and communication technology through ICT programmes is lacking. Computer literacy is only available in a few schools.
The teachers in primary and junior secondary school do not have adequate remuneration, regular payment and good welfare facilitate to encourage and motivate them to put in their best. Because, salary is not regular most teachers look for a second job or private practice to meet up with challenges of life.

Identification of Measures of Functional Literacy

 

Indicators of Functional Literacy

Strongly Agreed

%

Agreed

%

Disagreed

   %

Strongly
Agree

 %

1.

Penetration (ability to dig deep into problems and provide solution.

19

19%

75

75%

6

6%

0

0%

2.

Judgment

7

7%

75

75%

18

18%

0

0%

3.

Expression on paper

4

54%

21

21%

25

25%

0

0%

4.

Oral Expression

50

50%

25

 

25

25%

0

0%

5.

Numerical ability (If applicable)

26

26%

50

30%

24

24%

0

0%

6.

Relation with colleagues

20

20%

75

25%

0

0%

5

0%

7,

Relation with the public

75

75%

25

 

0

0%

0

0%

8.

Acceptance of responsibility willingly

50

50%

25

25%

25

25%

0

0%

9.

Reliability under pressure

70

70%

30

30%

0

0%

0

0%

10.

Drive and determination

73

73%

27

27%

0

0%

0

0%

11.

Effective use of figure

25

25%

75

75%

0

0%

0

0%   

12.

Loyalty

52

52%

48

48%

0

0%

0

0%  '

13.

Honesty

75

75%

25

25%

0

0%

0

0%

14.

Reliability under pressure

100

100

0

0

0

0%

0

0%

15.

Sense of responsibility

85

85%

20

20%

0

0%

0

0%

16.

Appearance

40

40%

35

35%

25

25%

0

0%

17.

Punctuality

45

45%

55

55%

0

0%

0

0%

18.

Drive and Determination

60

60%

40

40%

0

0%

0

0%

19.

Resourcefulness

75

75%

20

20%

5

5%

0

0%

20.

Effective application of Professional/ Technical/ administrative or other acquired knowledge

78

78%

20

20%

2

2%

0

0%

21.

Fore site

78

78%

20

20%

2

2%

0

%

 

 


From the percentage of respondents, it can be observed that all the indicators of functional literacy listed are important in assessing an individual's level of literacy. If we consider our performance in the place of work after our education in relation to the indicators of functional literacy, we can now be able to say if we are functionally literate or not. Also, we are now looking at the changes that has taken place in a person as a result of the education or training he has undergone.

Recommendation
  1. The federal and State Government should be committed to the need of quality education by ensuring adequate funding, provision of facilities and encouragement of staff.
  2. Educational institution should be made to be entrepreneurial. It should be practical and production oriented so that it will inhence increase in wealth.
  3. Education should be free, universal and compulsory in order to get most Nigerians to be functionally literate.
  4. Equipment for skill development in workshops, science laboratories and computer laboratories should be adequately provided and equipped.
  5. Books and learning materials should be adequately provided for in school libraries and classrooms. Also students should be made to purchase all necessary text books.
  6. The curricular must cover all the areas of need and development of the country: health, religion, Agriculture, skill and technology, social and citizing education, cultural and creative arts, and information and communication technology (ICT)
  7. The curricular must cover the three main areas of the taxonomy of educational objectives: cognitive, affective and psychomotor domain.
  8. The Curriculum presently used in primary and Junior secondary schools should be reviewed to ensure that it meets the needs and aspiration of Nigeria as a nation and adequately measure up with the current trend in the world (globalization).
  9. Evaluation and assessment of individuals should be based to a large extent on the indicators of functional literacy.
  10. The state and federal government should embark intensively on the academic and economic empowerment of youth.
  11. The Universal basic education should ensure among other things programme completion, students competence, cost efficiency, employment placement/further education placement, employer-student satisfaction and realization of expected value of the education given
  12. There should be sufficient public enlightenment and social mobilization.
  13. Reliable data and data collection must be insisted upon.
  14. Proper planning, monitoring and evaluation must be carried out.
  15. The recruitment, education, training, retraining and motivation of teachers must be given due attention
  16. There should be provision of adequate infrastructural facilities
  17. There should be proper administration or management of the entire UBE Scheme. 
References

Adamu A.U (2006)Information and Communication Technology: A challenge to educational development in Africa. Abuja. Conference paper. African Convention of Principals. August, 2006.

Ansre G.L(1976) National Development and language policy formation and implementation paper presented at the 21st West African language congress, University of Ife, Ile-Ife

Fafunwa, A.B.(1974): A History of Education in Nigeria, London: George Allen and Unwin

Federal Republic of Nigeria (2004) National Policy on Education. Yaba Lagos Nigeria: NERDC Press

Galbreath, J. (2000), Knowledge management technology in education: An Overview of Education Technology, 40 (5), 28-33.

International ICT Literacy Panel (2001) Digital transformation: Aframe work for ICT literacy. Retrieved 2005 htt://.www.est/org/media/test/information and communication technology litereacy/ictreport.paf.

Ignoforwe J. (2005).The place of information and communication technology in the administration of secondary schools in

Lopez, V. (2003) An exploration of the use of information technologies in the college classroom. College quarterly 6 (1) retrieved March 8th 2004 from http://www.collegequaterly.ca/2003-vol06-num01-fall/lopez.htm.

Majasan, J.A. (1998) Qualitative Education and D
evelopment. Ibadan Spectrum Publishers Ltd

Nwachukwu J. (2006) Functional Literacy and Adult Learning in Nigeria: Mother tongue is a Realistic
Option. Paper presented at the Regional conference of the Reading Association of Nigeria  Ebonyi State University Abakiliki 15th – 18th Nov. 2006.

Olelewe, J. (2006) ICT and Functional Literacy, paper presented at the Regional Conference of the Reading Association of Nigeria, Abakiliki 15th -18th Nov.

UNICEF (1990) World Conference on Education for all background document WCEFA JOMTEIN –Tailand New York.