The study attempted to investigate the effects of early childhood education on the cognitive development of primary one pupils in Kosofe Local Government Area of Lagos State. In this study, extensive and relevant literature review was carried out under related sub-headings. The descriptive research survey was used in this study in order to carry out the objective assessment of the opinions of the respondents selected for this study. In addition, the questionnaire was adopted for the collection of data necessary for this study, while the sampling technique was applied in selecting the samples for this study. In total, four null hypotheses were generated and tested in this study, with the application of both the Pearson Product Moment Correlation and the t-test of independence variable. At the end of the analyses, the following results emerged: that there is a significant relationship between pre-primary school education and cognitive development among children in schools, there is a significant difference between pre-primary school education and children’s school achievement in schools, that no significant difference exists between the speech development of children taught by parents and those taught by teachers and that there is a significant gender difference in cognitive development by children due to attendance of pre-primary education. Based on the conclusions of this study, the researcher recommended that the National Policy on Education should be reviewed to include among others the education of the Nigerian child from 0 – 2 years.
Introduction/Background to the Study
A baby is in the making as soon as conception takes place. Normally, it takes 9 months for a full grown baby in the womb to be born into the world, barring all accidents and pre-mature delivery. A baby right from conception, is a unique individual with his or her special characteristics, Caplan and Caplan (1995). According to them, the nature of children is such that no two children are completely the same or alike in everything not even identical twins. Thus, there are obvious differences that differentiate one child from another. Nwagbara (2003), the complexities in children result both from nature and nurture. Children go through different stages of development that is, from birth to young adults. This early years from 2 years to 6 years are critical in their development. During this period, children’s physical, mental and psychological development take a leap as they are in a constant state of flux. They are in the process of undergoing great changes and making significant development strides, especially in the area of language acquisition and development.
It is believed that children’s reading matter should be linked to their own spoken language as well as to their interest and experiences for intellectual growth. The focus on the cognitive growth of children is a welcome development (Anyanwu, 1991). This is because the brain of a youngster is “tabula rasa” ready to be occupied. Realizing that, educators go into searching for the appropriate stimuli that can yield the best result for the children. Webber (1970) opines that it must be recognized that something can be done about children’s intelligence as a result of the type of experiences provided for them.
Aiyedun (1984) is of the opinion that story books provide such experiences that can make for the intellectual growth of children. According to him, stories provide and improve reading, writing and thinking skills especially as they stimulate the intellect. Stories foster understanding of human actions. Just one story can form the bases for more detailed exploration of other actions. Selected experiences as reflected in story books give children the opportunity to use words that are familiar to them through their family life. Children are thus encouraged to extend vocabulary appropriately. Not only that they learn the vocabulary of colours, shapes, textures etc early in life as their story books are almost always pictorial. For the intellectual development of children, story books give the practice of the four language skills – listening, speaking, reading and writing. They also help children to learn new words as well as alternative meanings of words contextually. This is possible, especially if the language of the stories is not too simple.
According to Anyamelue (2003), it is important to give young children the quality care, nutrition and stimulation they need for healthy growth and development. Moreover, the holistic care of young children has been receiving recognition both in Nigeria and internationally. This was prominent in the CRC and re-echoed more recently at the Dakar World Education Forum, 2000. At the forum, the goal of expanding and improving comprehensive early childcare and education was re-affirmed.
One of the main features of early childhood is the rapid development of the brain. According to Godges (2001) “the last three months of prenatal life and the first two years after birth have been termed the most critical period to brain growth spurt”. This is because, during this period, more than half of the adult brain weight is added. It grows tremendously in the first few years of life, increasing to about 2/3 of adult weight by the end of the first year and to about 7.5% by the age of two years and 90% by the age of five. Thus, a five year old’s brain has developed almost to the level of an adult’s.
However, because of the rapid growth of the brain, the child needs adequate nutrition at this period. This is because, poor nutrition before and after birth and in the first few years of life can seriously hamper brain development. This can lead to neurological and behavioural disorders, which may manifest in learning disabilities.
There is research evidence to show that a baby’s brain is composed of trillions of neutrons waiting to be woven into the “intricate tapestry of the mind”. The experiences of childhood determine which neutrons are used, that wire the circuits of the brain. According to Hodges (2001), Begley observes that “the experiences of childhood determine whether a child grows up to be intelligent or dull, fearful or self assured, articulate or tongue tied”.
As Munonye (2002) puts it, there is also scientific evidence on the importance of adequate stimulation during early childhood period, necessary for the child’s cognitive development. There are definite periods in childhood development when the environment can influence how the brain is “wired” for certain functions like language, music, physical activity and even mathematics. It therefore means that the brain must receive the appropriate stimuli at the crucial time to perform these functions, else it may be impossible for it to “re-wire” itself later in life. Early childhood period therefore is a period that should be handled with utmost care.
Statement of the Problem
Most children these days do not develop cognitively due to lack of early childhood education which is mainly given to children firstly by their parents and secondly by their teachers who are also regarded as surrogate parents in the school. Majority of pupils in primary one in the Nigerian school system, did not pass through the pre-primary schools where children are taught basically through the methods befitting to the children’s learnability and comprehension in the early stage of life. Because of this lapse, most children in the primary schools fail to grasp the content of their lessons due to the fact that they started their early education from the stem instead of from the root.
Also, most of the teachers who are employed to teach at the primary one schools, do not apply the correct teaching methods that are comprehensible to the child, hence most children do not have high academic achievement in the early stages of their primary school education. Due to low cognitive development of the children, there has been poor academic performance virtually at all stages of our educational system. This is because what a child could not achieve during the early education, will be difficult for him/her to achieve at the apex stage of his/her educational life.
This study sets out to examine the effect of early childhood education on the cognitive development of primary one pupils.
Purpose of the Study
The specific objectives will include the following:
(1) To examine whether there is relationship between primary school education and cognitive development among children in schools.
(2) To investigate whether there is a difference between primary school education and speech development among children in schools.
(3) To differentiate between the cognitive development of children who were taught by their parents and those who were taught by teachers.
(4) To investigate whether there is general difference in the cognitive development of children who had pre-primary education and those who did not.
(5) To find out whether there is gender difference in the cognitive development due to pre-primary school education.
The following research questions will be asked in this study thus:
(1) Is there any relationship between primary school education and cognitive development among children in schools?
(2) To what extent can there be any difference between pre-primary school education and speech development among children in primary schools?
(3) How can we differentiate between the cognitive development of children who were taught by their parents and those who were taught by their teachers?
(4) How can we investigate whether there is general difference in the speech development of children who had pre-primary education and those who did not?
(5) Will there be any gender difference in the cognitive development of children due to pre-primary education?
The following research hypotheses will be formulated and tested in this study:
1. There will be no significant relationship between pre-primary school education and cognitive development among children in schools.
2. There will be no significant difference between pre-primary school education and children’s school achievement in schools.
3. There will be no significant difference between the speech development of children who were taught by their parents and those who were taught by teachers.
4. There will be no significant gender difference in the cognitive development of children due to pre-primary education.
Significance of the Study
The study will be of great benefit to the following individuals:
(1) Children will benefit from the findings and recommendations of this study because it will help their teachers and parents to be in good positions to help in teaching or instructing them on the appropriate language to be learned in their communities.
(2) With the recommendation of this study, teachers would be exposed to know how best to go about teaching or handling children at the lower level of our school system, the primary school. Not only that, they would be exposed to the appropriate methods to be used in teaching language to the child in school, especially at the primary school system.
(3) Parents would have a better insight on the essence of teaching the child to gain mastery of the language of his/her environment. Most parents do not know that they are the first teachers of the child at home. This study will expose them to the knowledge that they should be the first people to impart knowledge to the child, especially concerning children’s language development. With this study and its recommendations, parents would be able to know the best techniques to be always used in teaching language to the children.
(4) The society will be exposed to the proper knowledge of language acquisition to the child in the society. With the recommendations, the society will be able to know how best to assist the child in the area of acquisition and mastery of language.
Scope of the Study
This study will cover all the schools (primary) in Kosofe Local Government Area of Lagos State. Its main focus will be on the investigation of the effect of primary education on cognitive development of the child in the primary schools in Lagos State.