Problems Of Teaching And Learning Social Studies At The Primary School Level

Problems Of Teaching And Learning Social Studies At The Primary School Level

Problems Of Teaching And Learning Social Studies At The Primary School Level

Social studies as primary and post primary subject deserves appropriate place in teaching and learning programmes. The teaching of it in primary schools poses a very great problem hence some students show apathy to the subject.

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Various authorities in Social Studies shared a similar view of what Social Studies is, In 1992, the Board of Directors of National Council for Social Studies held that Social studies is the integrated study of social science and humanities to promote civic competence within the school programme. Social studies provides coordinated and systematic study, drawing disciplines such as Economics, Geography, History Philosophy, Law, Political science, Psychology, Religion, Sociology as well as appropriate content from Humanities and Natural science.

Mkpa (1998) explained that Social Studies consists of knowledge, skills, processes and values to which learners are exposed in order for them to successfully achieve stated educational purpose.

Furthermore, Kissock (1989) maintained that social studies content is primarily made up of fact and statement which can be proved true.

Jarolimek (1988) held that apart from social science, other subject areas like Literature, Poetry, Art, Music and Drama can contribute valuable insight for children in their study of human groups. The pupils themselves are still another source of content for Social Studies.

Akintola (1987) at the Nigeria Educational Research Council Committee conference held at Jos spelt out the definition of Social Studies as those common learning of man’s interactions with his social and physical environment.

That is, it is not only a study, but the way of life, since man is influenced by his physical, social, political, economic, psychological and cultural environments.

It is important that Social studies teachers understand the role Social studies is expected to play in the society in order to achieve the desired result of exposing students to social studies learning and teaching.

The teacher should have a sense of direction, this implies that there is need for goals and objectives of Social studies to be known

Different countries have their various goals and objectives for Social studies, the most important thing is that, it is a ready tool used to sharpen the society.

Social studies was found to be a very effective means of bringing together all the diverse and heterogeneous groups that made up Nigeria.

The objectives of the new discipline, Social studies were therefore firmly rooted in the aims and objectives of the new educational system, in order to highlight the close relationship that existed between the goals of Social studies and the goals of Nigeria education.

These include:

1. The inculcation of the National consciousness and knowledge.

2. The inculcation of the right type of values and attitudes for the survival of the individual and the Nigeria society.

3. The acquisition of appropriate skills, abilities and competence both mental and physical as equipment for the individual to live in and contribute to development of his society, (Akude, 1986).

Against this background, this study concentrates on the discussion of the Social studies teaching and learning. This research is essentially aimed, at finding out problems teachers encounter in social studies pedagogy in Ihiala Local Government Area.

Teaching of Social studies

1. Instructional materials: The importance of instructional materials in a child’s formal and informal education cannot be over emphasized.

Eze (1994) charged that the child should be provided in abundance with objects to look at, touch, examine and experiment upon. The object chosen should be those which will satisfy his wants and desires and keep him aroused.

Plato equally warned that anyone who will be good at anything should practices that thing from childhood upward. So whoever wants to be a good builder should play at building children house, and those who have education care should provide tools for them.

The peculiar nature of social studies made it possible for great variety of resource materials to be employed in its teaching and learning. The material for social studies teaching is unlimited.

There are three majors problems concerning the use of instructional materials in teaching of Social studies. They are the problem of lack of fund, misappropriation of funds meant for the purchase of materials and making appropriate choice of materials to be used in a given time.

2. Problems of the subject itself: Social Studies is very vast and demands much of teacher’s and pupils’ time. If effective or meaningful integration of Social science subject is to be achieved, then there should be an increase in the length of period allotted to it presently in our school system.

3. Lack of trained teachers: The Social Studies course in many countries is handled by tutors who have little or no idea of what integrated Social Studies is all about, that is, those persons who are supposed to equip teachers with the rationale, approaches, content and methods of Social Studies are themselves not trained in these matters.

Odada (1980) surveyed 60 teachers trainers who taught Social Studies, one of his findings was that 70% of these trainers claimed complete ignorance of Social Studies. They regarded it as a vague and underdeveloped subject that had not explained all that it is about.

Mbugua (1987) studies the problems affecting the implementation and found out that teachers were not trained in integrated Social Studies. Another finding was that Social Studies tutors specialized any in-service course on the teaching of social studies in teachers colleges.

4. Examination: Examinations affect Social Studies teachers education in a number of ways, because schools and teachers are evaluated mainly on examination results, so teachers teach directly for what they think will come out on examination day.

Tomakle (1988) accounted for the low status of Social Studies instruction by lack of external examination of social studies. Students were required to pass national examinations in English, mathematics and a number of other subjects to be certified, they did not take an examination in social studies. This research is aimed at finding out problems teachers encounter in social studies pedagogy in Ihiala Local Government Area in Anambra State


Teaching of social studies has been faced with multi-dimensional problems, some of these problems include; lack of instructional materials, lack of trained teachers, problem of subject matter, ways of evaluating these problems have remained endemic and persistent in the teaching of social studies in many countries. The purpose and content were not relevant to immediate needs of the individual and the society at a large extent and the learners were encouraged to know more about the country of the former colonial master than about our own environment and pressing problem in their society.

So in the light of the forgoing it is necessary to investigate the problems teachers encounter in social studies pedagogy in primary schools in Ihiala Local Government Area in Anambra State. This study is concerned with finding out problems teachers encounter in social studies in primary schools in Ihiala Local Government Area.


The specifically, this study is designed:

1. To identify how purposes techniques influence the teaching and learning of Social Studies in primary schools in Ihiala Local Government Area in Anambra State.

2. To find out how qualified Social Studies teachers in Ihiala Local Government Area in Anambra State.

3. To identify how the use of instructional material affects the teaching and learning of Social Studies.

4. To find out whether primary schools in the Local government Area and also State in general, have well equipped and conducive libraries for studying.

5. To find out how evaluation techniques influence the teaching and learning of Social Studies.


This is of great significance because observations in schools today reveal that population of men and women who engage themselves as teachers of Social Studies in schools and other institutions of higher learning do not seen to understand Social Studies.

This study will be useful to primary school teachers of social studies. This study will open their eyes to the factors that militate against the teaching of social studies and would suggest steps to take in eradicating those situation. Thereby equipping them in order to enjoy teaching the subject.

Parents whose children are in primary school would benefit from this study because they would be enhance on their great impact towards effective social studies acknowledgement by their words. The researcher would also find this study useful, particularly researchers in the field of social studies education. Some of the findings would go some way to supporting whatever argument that may be put forward.


Many factors have been identified to militate against the effective teaching and learning social studies in primary schools in Ihiala Local Government Area thereby causing inefficiency and inproductive in the schools system. We shall nevertheless limit ourselves to these factors affecting the effective teaching and learning of the subject name above in primary schools in Ihiala Local Government Area. In other words our analysis and theoretical perspective shall for all intents and purpose be limited to those factors influencing the teaching and learning of the subject in the school system. With regard to limitation, it is a state fact that every researcher or even academic enterprise must encounter some constrains. In the course of carrying out this research, the researcher encountered the limitation of finance which severally limited the researchers ability to effectively travel around for research materials.

Also time was another problems as academic activities in schools were going on simultaneously at the time of research other limitations include resources an adviser and the attitude of the respondents which equally hindered the researcher activities along the process.


The following research questions were formulated to guide this study:

1. Are the teachers of social studies qualified to handle the subject?

2. How do government policies affect teaching of the subject?

3. Do the teachers of the subject use appropriate teaching method/learning aids?.

4. How often do the social studies teachers make adequate use of instructional materials/aids?

5. What are the problems that hinder the teaching of social studies in primary schools in Ihiala Local Government Area?


Social studies did not have single definition that is to say there are many definition from different people in different perspective of which a writer looks at it or base his work. Empirically, minded researchers on the contrary cannot be content with mere statement of opinions. Hence, in this chapter, efforts are being made to review research findings of scholars with a view to finding out some of the recurring problems that hinder the proper teaching and learning of social studies.

The possible cause of students poor performance in social studies had been examined by Walberg (1974). He observed, “About one-third of practicing teachers are not trained”. He further stressed the need for continuous training and restraining of teachers to keep them abreast with new concepts in teaching.

He also emphasized the need to re-educate the older teachers whose ideas tend to be old fashioned, and therefore need retaining to avoid pouring new wine into old keg.

The way a teacher appreciates the concept of social studies influences the way they approach the course (subject) while teaching it. It research findings have pointed to the fact that, social studies has never been well taught in Nigeria and that about one-third of practicing teachers in Ihiala Local Government Area are not trained, it boils down to the fact that the teaching process is defective.

Defective teaching may lead to poor performance of students in social studies. It is taking cognizance of this fact that this review aims at focusing on the problems of teaching and learning social studies as shown by previous research findings.


Social studies is a new discipline introduced in the Nigeria Educational curriculum in the early 1960s. As a concept; its definition is still very controversial. This controversy stems from the fact that the concept is dynamic in nature.

Akinlaye (ed. 1981:4) states that during the colonial days, there were no clear-cut policies about the national social and political institutions in African countries. In Nigeria before and after independence in 1960, there were widespread feelings that the colonial education as provided by the British, was inadequate to meet the needs of the youths and the society. In media education, road construction, commerce and other national developmental issues, Nigerians were hardly consulted no matter what directly affected their lives.

All the policies and programmes of government then were designed in British colonial office and brought for implementation. Nigerians are not only victims but also products of that education. From this we can infer that the goal of colonial education was to train Africans to serve the interests of the colonialists. It is unfortunate that aspect of training still lingers in our country Nigeria even after gaining political independence in 1960 (Nweke 2003).

The history of social studies in African can be traced to the London Oxford conference of African Education, which resulted in the Mombassa conference of 1978. The Mombassa conference which was attended by independent educators, representatives of higher institutions and government officials from eleven African State, created the African social studies programme (ASSP).

They observed that the colonial educational system did not serve the interest of African. They therefore, set out the social studies programme (ASSP) it was accepted by all including Nigeria and made to be adopted to suit the peculiar needs of individual members countries.

The great concern shown by Nigeria resulted in forming and educational system would incorporate social studies. The federal ministry of education crated educational arms like N.E.R.C. and G.E.A.C.

These bodies among other things were to ensure that social studies was firmly established in Nigerian educational curriculum to inculcate our value system and to combat the manifold social problems which had been bedeviled our present society.


Various authorities in social studies shared a similar view of what social studies is, in 1992, the Board of Directors of National Council for social studies and the primary membership organization for social studies Education adopted the following definition.

Social studies is the integrated study of social science and humanities to promote civic competence within the school programme. Social studies provides coordinated and systematic study drawing discipline such as Economic, Geography, History, law, philosophy, political science, psychology Religion, Sociology as well as appropriate content from humanities and natural science.

According to Mkpa (1998) explained that social studies consists of knowledge, skills, processes and values to which learner are exposed in order for them to successfully achieve stated educational purpose.

Jarolimek, (1977:4) defines social studies as a discipline that concerns itself with learning about people, how and where they live, how they form and structure societies, how they govern themselves and provide for their material and provide for psychological needs, how and why they love and hate each other, how they use and misuse the resources of the planed that is in their home.

Kissock (1981:3) seem to adopt a similar view by concept social studies as a programme of study which a society uses, to instill in the student the knowledge, skill, attitudes and actions it considers important concerning the relationship human being have with each other their world and themselves. The emphases again are on the needs of the society and relationship between human being and his environment.

Ikwumelu (1990:3) notes that the subject social studies has been described differently by different persons as an “extended civics elementary social science and general studies”.

The vagueness that surrounds the meaning of social studies does not end with the scholars and teachers, educational administrator, parents and even the government seem to be more confused about the subject.


The objectives of social studies at the primary education is stated on (2004:12) of the National policy on Education which includes:

a. The inculcation of permanent literacy and numeracy, and the ability to communicate effectively.

b. The laying of a sound basis for scientific and reflective thinking.

c. Citizenship education as a basis for effective participation in, and contribution to the life of the society.

d. Character and moral training and the development of sound attitudes.

e. Developing in the child the ability to adopt to his changing environment.

f. Giving the child opportunities for developing manipulative skills that will enable him to function effectively in the society within the limits of his capacity.

g. Providing basic tools for further educational advancement, including preparation for trades and crafts of the locality.

h. Teaching the child good habits, especially good health habits.

i. To build confidence and attitudes in them for adult life.


An administration is effective when the aims of the organization are being achieved efficiently. Efficiency refers to cost. One can achieve an aim at an exorbitant price while another can achieve the same aim at less cost, thus making the latter more efficient.

Primary schools are schools for primary education. Primary education, according to the National policy on Education (2004:13) “is the education given in institutions for children aged 6 to 11 plus”. Primary school administration in Nigeria is a shared responsibility between and among groups and individuals. At the apex of primary school administration is the National Primary Education Commission (NPEC). Below the commission is the State Primary Education Board (SPEB) under which is the Local Government Education Authority (LGEA).

The Headmaster/Headmistress is under the LGEA and is in charge of the individual primary school. He/she works with Assistant headmasters and teachers to achieve the aims of primary education. All the organs and individuals work with line and staff officers to achieve the school purpose.

Those in the direct line of authority and responsibility in school administration are line officers. Thus, the Chairman of NPEC, SPEB, LGEA, and the H.M; Ass H.M. and the Teacher are line officers because they deal directly with the issues and problems of teaching. The other officers who advise, control and service teaching and learning such as the finance director, security officers, supervisor, clerical staff etc. are staff officers. For the successful administration of schools both the line and staff officers must work co-operatively.


In Nigeria, with a lot of disparities and diversities in people’s social behaviour, customs and beliefs and widening rural-urban economic status, the task of planning any educational programme, especially, much attention has been given by educators to the curriculum planning at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education while primary level suffers a neglect.

This practice is not in harmony with the proven truism which holds that it is at the primary level that the foundations are laid for complex behavioural structures. “It is during these years”, according to piaget and inhelder, “that the child develops the ability to think and thereby becomes less dependent on sensorimotor actions for the direction of his behaviour” (Watson and Lindgren, (1979).

Curriculum planning is the process of building a programme of learning experiences calculated to result in the attainment of set goals for a particular people (Onwuka, 1981). It constitutes choices among social aims, social theories, and psychological systems (Saylor, et al, 1981). It is the construction of a programme of activities in such a way that the pupils will attain as far as possible given educational objective.

According to Hawes (1979:33) the process involved in curriculum planning includes:

i. Gathering the basic information about the content in which the changes are to take place and about their feasibility.

ii. Deciding aims and objectives.

iii. Planning a strategy for change: to correctly deploy the resources in manpower, material and time.

iv. The process of curriculum development which involves devising the material and trying it out.

v. Its final implementation in schools with learners.

vi. At every stage a process of evaluation take place.

Alaezi (1989:134) Warns that if the school curriculum fails to contain the knowledge of the way of the society, there will be two consequences, first, the child at school will not learn the ways of society, and may grow up to reject the society or be a society misfit. Second, if the child rejects the society he will be unable to contribute to or get anything out of it, because the way of society and the elements therein are absolutely uncompromising.


The problems of teaching social studies at the primary school level include:

i. Brain drain

ii. Image problems

iii. The teaching environment

iv. Government policies

v. Teachers qualification.


Most trained teachers have their primary assignment elsewhere. They cannot be compelled to take social studies as their primary assignment. Some are presently teaching but are denied, the proper training.

Mobility and brain drain have had their own share of adverse effect on the teaching of social studies. Some trained teachers have gone to the banks, public and private sector in search of “greener pastures”. The reality is that many employers of teachers want their service, but they do not want to pay for the services rendered by teachers.

According to Farrel (1987), the educational system lack quality manpower because variable like pre-employment training, on-the-job training, recruitment, remuneration, personnel development and promotion are not properly addressed by government, thereby making teachers remuneration policies inconsistent with market rules and realities, resulting in qualified teachers abandoning the profession for other jobs with better remuneration. This suggest that government should build flexibility into the remuneration policies to make room for correction. Providing monetary and non-monetary incentives for teachers to improve their performance. Such incentive may range from salary increase to merit awards. If monetary incentives are crucial for recruiting the teaching force, then teachers will improve their performance in the classroom.


The teachers have over the years suffered several negative image problem which evokes traditional image of poverty, lack and marginalization, balance only by the stipend they receive as salaries.

The general outwork of a teacher shows negative image and suggests a botton line that could discourage hard work and encourage truancy and negligence, while it would be pointless not to acknowledge this fact, it is useful to underline that teachers could be fascinating and efficient professionals given the right motivation and encouragement to work.

We want to see a high standard of primary school education. If the image problem of teachers could be addressed then the vision of having a vibrant educational system will become a reality of the 21st century. The real challenges of course lies on the government. Over 80% of teachers live below the poverty line and are psychologically demoralized to carry out effective classroom work. Based on this would be easy to understand why people often seen a disconnection between, the teacher’s image and the reality of teaching in modern educational environment.


Teaching environment which is often an overlooked dimension of teaching, not only affect how easily students are managed, but also how well-enlightened, comfortable and colourful classroom is certainly more conductive to teaching and learning than a dim, drab and colorless one (Jacobson,1981). It is mythical to think that teaching as a practice in the developed nations can be imported to the developing nations state to produce the same result. In the reality, the environment in which teaching is expected to thrive in Ihiala turbulent one compared to that in the developed states.

The socio-economic instability in the developing countries threatens the entire education system. The political climate in the Local Government and State and also the country at large within incessant strikes, long duration closure of schools, no doubt has an adverse effect on the teaching and learning process. Hinchilitte, (1989:90), observed that “in local government areas many school in some areas have no roof or collapsed walls. In some part proof, the South children can be seen carrying their desks to school everyday”. In some cases, valuable lesson hours are lost to teachers trying to find suitable places for a lesson under trees and such environments that do not give room for any meaningful academic work, without doubt, poor teaching environment.


Education in local government and indeed the state over is the strongest weapon for development. (FRN, 2004).

It states that “the federal government has adopted education as an instrument par excellence for effecting national development.”

Over the years, the Nigerian education system has witnessed various change both in system and in policy affecting education, but the pathetic thing is that the method and timing of the changes always leave and be desired as stressed by (Okeke, 1985). When he asserted “the rapid changes in our educational system do not permit the internationalization of one be another is crushed upon us. The incessant change both in administration and in policies do not give much room for the attainment of our educational objectives or national goals”.

Anywiko (1991) for example, in 1960, we inherited the British system of education. In 1973 after the seminar on educational policy was held in Lagos, we came up with the national policy on education, which brought about the 6-3-3-4 system of education (after the American system). The implementation of this policy has been faulty and politicized.

In government budgetary allocations, teachers salaries and government expenditure on education also witnessed changes on the world over. Heyneman (1989), asserted that between 1975 and 1985, the proportion of educational expenditure on teaching matrices was almost halred in Nigeria from 7.6 to 4.2 percent.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, it fell from 4.2-1.8 percent.” Government has also made education budget the politically most sensitive item. Despite this, the salary level has continued to be very low, this had forced teachers to take up other jobs to survive, leaving their primary jobs of teaching to suffer. The government policy also imposes a very heavy syllabus on the children in order to enable them have maximal capability to learn through the social studies in the last six years of primary education. Here, the children have to master all basic skill structure and attitudes

Items of socialization. This approach is much demanding and less result-oriented.


Teachers are indispensable in the whole product of education because they activated the major catalyst that advise the whole process of teaching methodologies and evaluation strategies, the teaching will find it difficult to achieve their much desired learning objectives.

According to Akude (1986) he noted that those who studied other subject rather than social studies were drawn into the teaching of social studies because of the persistent death of social studies teachers.

It is therefore, believed that such branch of social studies teachers are devoid of necessary information and initiative that would have compelled them to search for new ways enhancing their teaching effectiveness.

The social studies course in the college of many countries is handled by teachers who have little or no idea of what integrated social studies is all about. Those who are supposed to equip teachers with the rationale, approaches, content and methods of social studies are themselves not trained in these matters.

In Uganda, for example, Odada (1980) surveyed teacher trainers who taught social studies, one of his finding was that 75% of these trainers claimed complete ignorance of social studies. They regarded it as vague and underdeveloped subject that had no experts to explain all that it is all about.


During the review of the literature we highlighted the concept of social studies, that social studies is controversial and that its concept is dynamic in nature. From the background of social studies the definition of social studies from various scholars was defined.

A brief history of social studies was also highlighted. The objectives of social studies deals with people’s attitudes, beliefs, values, norm and interaction with themselves and with their environment. Also, what primary education is all about was highlighted. And social studies curriculum at the primary school was also put in consideration. The teaching of socio-economic, socio-political and socio-cultural has some limitation, which mainly resulted from failure on the part of the teachers in explaining the strategies that were involved in a particular study of culture of society in which the teachers should anticipate the pupils to focus on the setting custom and action with a degree of scope and vividness that the stage rarely duplicates. This no doubt, will serve as a base for suggesting problems facing social studies teachers in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State.


Having studied the problems and prospects of teaching and learning social studies in the primary schools in Ihiala Local Government Area and having found some valuable and reliable information, the following conclusions are drawn from the research.

One of the biggest problem associated with the teaching of social studies in primary schools within Ihiala Local Government Area is lack of enough qualified social studies teachers.

One other observed problem is lack of guidance services in all the schools visited. As there are no guidance and counseling services in these primary schools, the students face the problem of career selection because there is no one to guide them on the subject to choose or select and put much interest in studying it. As a result of this, they choose at random any subject they want to with nobody to direct them. At times they run after other subject because they see their friends studying those subjects.


Taking into consideration the importance of this study with the view that this study could be used outside the area of study, the researcher has deemed it vital to give the following recommendations:

1. Adequate qualified social studies teachers should be employed to teach the subject in our primary schools as this will create effective teaching-learning environment. More so, the experiences they acquire to make the teaching of social studies more meaningful. The qualified teachers would be more committed and dedicated to the teaching of their subject better than the untrained teachers who picked up the teaching appointment because they do not get their desired jobs. Untrained social studies teachers lack the techniques of teaching the subject and so do not know the prospect that involved the teaching-learning of social studies. They are referred to as arm-chair” teachers who do more harm that good in the teaching of social studies.

2. The importance or prospects of social studies should be emphasized. This, the government can be do through the teachers by providing enough to social studies department so that seminars, debates, workshops, conferences and refresher causes can be organized to make social studies lively not only to the students but to the society at large.

3. Adequate and up to date data textbooks should be made available to the reach of the students in their libraries so that they can make positive use of the books. These books should cover topics of their syllabus in order to have an effective social studies learning.

4. In addition, more period should be allocated for social studies lessons as the syllabus is always wide in scope. The period presently allocated are too small for the coverage of the syllabus. The topics will be well handled and better understanding if more periods are allocated for social studies lessons.

5. Avenue for excursion to historical, socially and cultural centers or places should be created. If this is done, learning would be more permanent because students will be able to see for themselves what they have read in books and learnt in their classes.

“seeing they says is believing”, through this, students will have first hand information about social studies facts and events.

6. Guidance and counseling services should be established in all primary schools to guide the students on the subject and combination to choose for their career as well as those subject which individual students could perform better.

7. Students of social studies society and clubs should be established so that through this medium, students can encourage themselves in the learning of social studies and organization of places or centers.

Problems Of Teaching And Learning Social Studies At The Primary School Level


  1. please can I get solution to the problems of teaching Christian religious studies in secondary school

  2. the main failures are lack of trained teachers ,lack of study tours ,continuous and update changes in syllaybus according to current situation

  3. Babywhiteoku says:

    teachers should be enocorages to teach puipls to understand the uise of social studies in our contury today

  4. Azwikholwisi R Sibanda says:

    Mainly the failure of pupils in social studies is because of untrained teachers and wrong interpretation of the syllabus by teachers.

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