Education is the most important component of human resource development and is accorded a pride of place in many countries’ developmental plans and activities. The importance of education cannot be overemphasized and underestimated because no country has succeeded without educating its people.
Education, be it in its formal or informal forms, basically entails pedagogy. And, for teaching to be effective, there’s a need for educational aids or instructional materials as they are popularly referred to. Again their importance in the delivery of lessons or knowledge cannot be overemphasized.
Teaching is not an easy profession, neither is the acquisition of knowledge as easy as it may seem. Therefore, teaching aids are necessary for today’s approach to education as they aid students to learn and make the education process interesting since it engages both teacher and student in different ways. Teaching aids make learning permanent since they help attract the attention of the seekers.
But, what are educational or teaching aids? According to Eya (2015), educational aids are all forms of information carriers that can be used to record, store, preserve, transmit, concretize, or retrieve information for teaching and learning. Wale (2014) believed that the use of teaching aids would make discovered facts glued firmly to the memory of students.
There are different types of educational aids. Ogwa (2015), classifies them into the following: audiovisual aids, tools, equipment, machines, charts, and other Information and Communication Technology (ICT) instructional materials.
Bulama (2011), further explains that “In the same sense, instructional facilities for vocational and technical education encompasses all basic hand tools, types of equipment, classrooms, workshops, laboratories, electrical and electronic instruments among others which help the learner to learn properly.”
The above suggests, therefore, that education across all levels should be carried out with teaching aids to make learners conversant with them to prevent an inability to utilize them in the future.
Instructional materials serve as supplements in verbal instructions. They provide variety and encourage healthy classroom interaction, as they create better situations for teaching beginners. They often match the mental level of the learner, as they can be entertaining and informative at the same time.
Unfortunately, teaching aids are neglected in our education systems today. This has made students be at a disadvantage which affects their academic performance because they find it very difficult to understand the jam-packed theoretical knowledge given to them.
For instance, while this writer was on visitation to the Government Primary School, Igbo Imabana in Abi Local Government Area, Central Cross River State, a primary four pupil could not identify a telephone when he was shown one.
The pupil had, before then, heard the word, “telephone,” but had not seen one before. The pupil even said he knew that a telephone was a communication gadget but, confessed, he had not seen one before. That is an example of the disadvantage the boy suffered since there was no educational aid to help him digest the lesson practically.
While one may argue that the community is a poor agrarian one and that his parents or neighbors may not be able to afford a phone given poor network penetration and other socioeconomic factors, the school should be a platform of hope and should have that teaching aid else the knowledge gained will be too shallow for the 21st century.
This writer later discovered that the school does not have a functioning library. One can only wonder how the teachers cope in teaching learners of that age verbally and expect them to fully understand.
A lack of instructional aids like charts, posters, whiteboards, blocks, cards, clay, crayons, chalks, etc. plays a significant role in the learning process. If resource materials are used widely, they enhance the lesson impact. Availability of a wide variety of educational aids can stimulate interest and actively engage learners in class.
The journal of research in special educational needs volume 13, issue 2 pages 159-167 clearly shows that educational aids have a great impact on the academic performance of students, and inadequate facilities translate to poor academic performance. For this reason, it is very important that students, especially from the elementary education level, should be well-equipped with educational aids because children learn most from what they see and use more effectively than what they hear or are being told.
This, however, does not suggest that all educational aids should be used at all times, as there is a need to clearly define which is best for a particular subject. However, some basics guide the development of educational aids. Firstly, they need to be simple, brief, and related to the objectives of teaching. Educational aids should be a big door to be seen by all the students, and teachers must use proper teaching aids according to the interest of the students, which means they have to be prepared and planned just like lesson notes.
It should be noted that educational aids differ according to class and level of education as well. While those in primary schools may be simple and playful, those in secondary schools, which is the intermediate between elementary school and college with subjects offerings in technical, vocational, or college preparatory courses, infrastructures such as well-equipped workshops, introductory technology laboratories, science laboratories, and computer laboratories, should be a compulsory requirement.
In another visit by this writer to the Government Secondary School, Akim, a Senior Secondary School (SSS) class 3 confirmed that they are being taught computer science, but they do not have a computer science laboratory. One can only imagine students who graduated from secondary schools without adequate facilities and then gained admission into the tertiary institution to study any vocational courses or even technological courses without the foreknowledge of ICT gadgets, it will be difficult for them to cope in their courses.
At the tertiary institution level, the situation is not so different right now. For instance, a student of educational technology at the University of Calabar was asked the following questions: What are the technological gadgets you can use to teach the English language in class? What job can you do as an educational technologist?, How many of these gadgets have you been opportune to use? The answers were negative.
One student answered this way: “I know many gadgets I can use to teach but have not been able to make use of them or even sure if I can use them except I go for extra tutoring for it, but we have been paying money for production but haven’t seen anything we have produced.”
As funny as that may sound, that is the reality – a final year student of educational technology who can not make use of possible electronic educational aids. That is a failure in learning, you can only imagine such a person as a teacher.
Current students who are already disadvantaged will only produce worse students when they become teachers, as they can’t compete favorably with their global colleagues.
Therefore, there is no gainsaying that inadequate educational aids have reduced the ability and the confidence of students across the different levels of our educational system and there is only one way to solve this – improved funding for education to procure more educational aids and further training of teachers.
There is an urgent need for all stakeholders in the education sector to come together, brainstorm on the best way forward as all hands need to be on deck to make sure students have the necessary educational aids to learn and, where available, be utilized.
We can salvage our educational system only if we, the people, decide to take matters into our hands and stop waiting for the government that has shown, physically and otherwise, that they are not ready to help. But again that is why we have the Parents- Teachers Association (PTA).
Blessing Isong is an IT student from the University of Calabar with CrossRiverWatch.
NB: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Blessing Isong, and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.
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