SUPERSTITIOUS BELIEFS AND ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE OF PUPILS IN EARLY CHILDHOOD SCIENCE IN NIGERIA
In our traditional societies, members are brought up from infancy to view natural phenomena around them from the perspective of supernatural forces. This observation is a peculiar characteristic of the third world countries that are constituted by superstitious societies (Anonymous, 2006). In general, superstitious beliefs abound where there is a combination of factors such as paganism and dogmatic orthodox religion (Block, 1994).These complicate explanation of natural phenomena based on scientific principles.
Man’s fear arising from his inability to understand, control and predict natural event and phenomena, which are either relevant to or threaten his existence and wellbeing in his environment, places him in a confused state. Newport & Strousberg (2001) asserted that the absence of modern science from the traditional cultures of the world prior to the time of its birth in Western Europe gave rise to superstitions as the child of events in man’s attempt to control and predict nature. Superstition is a term employed to designate beliefs that are not consistent with acceptable notions of reality and possibility. It is a belief rooted in manipulation which exists in the realms of mystic or supernatural (Vyse, 2009). These beliefs influence the reasoning, thinking, creative ventures and understanding in man, especially children. It was this that lead Uche & Umoren (1998) to advise that when young children are being introduced to science by teachers, all superstitious ideas should be eliminated and that unless this is done,
the teachers can only succeed in producing people with dichotomous minds: divided between scientific explanation and superstitious beliefs.
Several studies have shown that pupils often bring with them to the classroom alternative conceptions of science. These alternative conceptions differ fundamentally from the knowledge that is transmitted by the science teacher. Researchers have labeled this phenomenon as alternative framework (Driver, 1989) or student’s prior/pre-instructional knowledge (Posner et al, 1982; (Idiong, & Andy, 1997). These studies contended that student’s prior knowledge does interfere with the learning of scientific concepts, attitudes, process and products, thus, their academic performance. Ingle & Turner (1981) claimed that learning of science in Africa has been made difficult by this conflict of science and culture. Their study tended to suggest a possible influence of superstition on pupils cognitive development, thus their academic performance. Whiting & Whiting (1990) emphasized that unique cultures allocate values differently and that those values have consequences for behaviour. They further claimed that value differences are accounted for with child rearing practices, family structure and belief system. Cultural values have much to do with individual’s behaviour in a number of social contexts. Value orientations are often discussed as important to understanding academic achievement.
Arciniega (1971) argued that contextually, desperate values affect the performance of pupils outside the dominant culture mainstream, while Hodgkinson (2004) noted that values and perceptions are related to pupils’ academic performance. Whiting & Whiting (1990) illustrated this social conflict of holding conflicting value orientation among the instance of the Mexican American children. These children want social acceptance but will not want to achieve this at the cost of giving up their heritage and belief. They want the beliefs of the dominant societal group but not the cost of their language, custom and cultural values. This kind of orientation is likely to affect the academic performance of such pupils. However, Whyte (1996) had earlier noted that though traditional Mexican-American children are oriented towards the authority structure of the family, which very well impedes achievement, there was a noticeable lack of information to explain the effects on academic achievement cross-culturally.
Ajikobi & Bello (1991) observed that some Nigerians are imbued with beliefs that have built in them a form of mind, which repulses explanation of a concept in ways other than theirs. This attitude is invariably transmitted to children such that any attempt to provide an alternative modern scientific explanation to such beliefs held are observed to evoke unwilling and non- co-operative attitude. This conflict normally affects the pupils’ cognitive development and could possibly affect pupils’ academic performance in the sciences. Since the early childhood forms the bedrock upon which the secondary and tertiary levels of education are built, it becomes necessary to begin at the early childhood level to lay the appropriate foundation in science education. It is at this level that science education seeks to awaken in the child the desire or otherwise to become a professional scientist and to experience jo y or excitement in the intellectual power of science. Very few pupils opt for science and there has been a general outcry over the low level of performance of pupils of sciences in both internal and external examinations in Nigeria (Uche & Umoren, 1998).
These previous research studies tend to suggest a possible influence of superstitious beliefs on pupils understanding of science, mainly at the secondary school level. It was our aim in this study to investigate if there is any relationship between pupils’ superstitious beliefs and their academic performance in early childhood science in Ogoja Educational Zone, South Eastern Nigeria.
- Research questions
This research work attempted to answer the following question: to what extent does superstitious belief influence academic performance of early childhood pupils in science in Ogoja Educational Zone of Cross River State, Nigeria?
- Statement of hypotheses
In other to obtain answers to the research questions, the following null hypothesis was formulated:
There is no significant relationship between superstitious beliefs and pupils’ academic performance in childhood science in Ogoja Educational Zone, South Eastern Nigeria.