1.1 Background of the Study

Science is a great enterprise which nations depend on, in order to advance technologically. Science education therefore in the advanced countries is receiving adequate attention because of its significance and relevance to life and society (Chinwe and Chukelu, 2008).

Science is the study of our environment through which people can develop both the mind of inquiry, discipline and logical power of thought. It has been identified as a veritable tool of solving socio-economic problem of mass unemployment, hunger, poverty, poor health facilities, rural-urban drift, population explosion, environmental degradation and a number of other problems besetting a developing country like Nigeria (Okoronka, 2004).

Biology is an integral part of science that focuses on living things (plants and animals). Biology as a branch of science and the prerequisite subject for many fields of learning, contributes immensely to the technological growth of the nation. This includes; medicine, forestry, nursing, agriculture, biotechnology and so on. The study of Biology in senior secondary school can equip students with useful concepts, principles and theories that will enable them face challenges before and after graduation (Nwagbo and Uzomaka, 2008).

It is obvious that no student intending to study the aforementioned disciplines can do without biology. These connectedness, among others factors have drawn attention of researchers and curriculum planners towards biology as a subject in the school curriculum (Kareern, 2003).

In spite of the importance and popularity of biology among Nigerian students in the senior secondary schools, students’ performance in biology had been poor (Ahmed, 2008). The desire to know the causes of the poor performance in biology has been the focus of researchers for some time now. It has been generally observed that poor performance in the sciences is caused by the poor quality of science teachers, overcrowded classrooms, and lack of suitable and adequate science equipment, among others (Abdullahi, 1982; Kareern, 2003). Students’ poor performance in biology are found to be the result of lack of practical activities and heterogeneous in terms of ability level. In addition, the laboratories are ill-equipped and the biology syllabus is over loaded (Ahmed, 2008).

According to Ogundipe (2006), a place where practical activities take place is known as the laboratory. That biologist work in the laboratory does not necessarily mean that practical can only be done in the laboratory. It only points to the fact that, the condition in the laboratory can be organised to make effective practical activities take place. Practical activities in Biology provide opportunities for students to learn Science by actually doing it.

Nzewi (2008) asserted that practical activities can be regarded as a strategy that could be adopted to make teaching more real to the students as opposed to abstract or theoretical presentation of facts, principles and concepts of subject matters. Nzewi maintained that practical activities should engage the students in hands-on, mind-on activities, using varieties of instructional materials to drive the lesson home.

The use of practical activities (approach) to the teaching of biological concepts should therefore be a rule rather than an option to Biology teachers, if we hope to produce students that would be able to acquire necessary knowledge, skills and competence needed to meet the scientific and technological demands of the nation (Nwagbo, 2008).

Obiekwe (2008) reported that all is not well with Science instruction in Nigerian Secondary Schools, and noted that science teaching lay extreme emphasis on content and the use of ‘chalk and talk’ method which does not enhance teaching and learning. This negligence and ‘shy- away’ attitude from activity oriented-method of teaching has led to abstraction, which makes the students’ less active, more prone to rote memorization and poor performance in Biology.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Not much attention has been giving to the performance of the students in senior secondary school subjects most especially in biology and biology practical aspect of biology in schools has been blamed on such factors as the inability of the school authorities to provide materials and equipment for practical work, teachers failure to recognize the importance of practical work in science teaching.

Anidodoh (2001) noted that a sound theoretical and practical knowledge of biology is needed for the management of our natural resources, provision of good health facilities, adequate food supply and favourable life environment. Thus, the teaching and learning of biology has to be encouraged in the schools.

A close look at the 2014-2015 SSCE result records shows that student’s performance has been very poor generally and particularly in biology practical, failure is a great problem as it will affect the students’ performances in senior secondary school. Moreover, this is an indicator no doubt that Biology practical is being relegated to the background in the scheme of senior secondary school education in Nigeria (WAEC Chief Examiner, 2016).

In the light of the above, it should be a general concern of every Nigerian including educational administrators, planners, Ministries of Education, educational research institutes, policy makers and the researcher to view this backwardness with some seriousness. It is against this backdrop that the present study critically explored the relative effects of Biology practicals on the secondary school students’ academic performance in biology with a special reference being made to some selected senior secondary schools in education district V of Ojo zone in Lagos State.

1.3 Purpose of the Study

The study is being conducted with the following purposes:

i. To examine the effect of Biology practicals on senior secondary school students’ academic performance in Biology.

ii. To find out if there is any significant difference between the achievement of male and female students taught Biology using practical methods.

iii. To investigate the effect of teaching method on senior secondary school students performance in Biology.

1.4 Research Questions

The research was guided by the following research questions:

1) What is the effect of Biology practicals on senior secondary school students’ academic performance in Biology?

2) Is there any significant difference between the achievement of male and female students taught Biology using practical approach?

3) To what extent does teaching method enhance senior secondary school students performance in Biology?

1.5 Research Hypotheses

The following research hypotheses were tested in the course of the study:

Ho1: There is no significant effect of Biology practicals on senior secondary school students’ academic performance in Biology.

Ho2: There is no significant difference between the achievement of male and female students taught Biology using practical approach.

Ho3: Teaching method is not a significant predictor of senior secondary school students’ performance in Biology.