The Effect Of Environment On The Performance Of Secondary School Students In English Language
This study sought to identify factors that affect effective teaching and learning of the English language in the secondary schools in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State. The study was carried out using seven secondary schools as a random selection from schools located in both urban and rural areas. One hundred (100) English language students were equally used for the study. The instrument for data collection was the questionnaire and structured oral interview while simple percentage was used to answer the research questions.
The result of the study showed that large class-size, unavailability of qualified teachers, lack of students’ interest and no assignments to students were among the factors identified by the researcher will influence the performance of students in English language in the secondary schools.
In the course of the study, some questions were raised, for example:
- Does the school have enough qualified English language teachers.
- Is pidgin English allowed to be used as means of communication within the school environment.
Altogether, 15 questions were formulated and answered. Based on the two sets of instruments administered to 100 students from seven randomly selected secondary schools, some findings were made such as:
- Influence of mother tongue interference on the students’ mastery of English language.
- Pidgin English speaking in the school premises pose a problem on students’ performance in English language.
There are also lack of qualified English language teachers, well-equipped libraries and unavailability of instructional materials.
Based on these findings, the following recommendations were made:
- The government should employ more qualified teachers and expand number of secondary schools to reduce the ratio of students per teacher to 1:35 students as stipulated in the NPE or even 1:30.
- The language planners should work with the government to equip secondary schools with well equipped libraries, instructional materials, language laboratory and textbooks to enhance the study of English language.
- Teachers should be encouraged to take part in part-time programmes organized by many tertiary institutions in order to be more competent in their teaching career.
- A media should be used to enlighten parents on the need to provide conducive home environment for their children and encourage them to develop interest in English language and other subjects.
1.1 Background of the Study
English language occupies a prominent place in the Nigerian school curriculum. The English language is one of the legacies to bequeathed Nigerians by the British which will be difficult to do away with. This is because it is the major medium of instruction in our schools, of business transactions, of communication both nationally and internationally. It is equally the language of industry since science and technology are “sine qua non” for development. It is the language of mass communication and propaganda in mass media. In literature and Arts, it is the language of novels, poems, short stories, music and drama. In social occasions, English language is used for conversation and interpersonal relationship. It is also the key to educational advancement. The life-wire of all activities in all works of life and key for better job opportunities.
It is our official language and therefore imperative that every Nigerian should be able to read, write and communicate in good simple English. This is important if Nigeria should overcome its health, economic, political and social problems. For instance, health for all in the year 2020 will be unrealizable if citizens cannot read simple prescriptions in English; transfer of technology will also be unrealizable if many Nigerians cannot read and understand relevant books which are written in English.
The language is gradually losing its standard. This is because the multiplicity of languages in Nigeria has some influence on the English spoken by Nigerians. One is again baffled to notice that secondary school students perform badly in West African School Certificate in English language Examination. In view of this, teaching and the use of English language should be given prominent attention in secondary schools as the majority of Nigerian parents are illiterates and cannot provide a conducive home environment for language acquisition nor afford good schools for their children’s education Azikiwe (1985). The environment will always affect the language used.
The need for mastery of English at the child’s early stages in life is far reaching because it makes for effective communication, better understanding and academic performance as the child moves from one level of education to another. A child with a solid knowledge of English language at the primary school will encounter less problems in reading and understanding books and materials on science and technology which are to a large extent positively correlated with social and economic development. There is need therefore for much more concern about effective teaching and learning of English language in our secondary schools and about products of our secondary schools not being able to meaningfully express themselves in English.
From the foregoing, the English language is very important now that the country is geared towards technological, social, economic and political development. A solid foundation in English should be laid for the children, right from the start as the much-talked about transfer of technology will be meaningless if the majority of Nigerians are poor at English as most materials on science and technology are written in English. Lack of understanding of these materials and poor communication with experts will definitely hamper our move for national development in all spheres of life. Moreover, for success in the campaign on rural development currently going on which advocates literacy and awareness for rural dwellers, English should be given a premier position in education of the rural dwellers for them to be able to contribute effectively to the improvement and development of their families, communities and the entire nation.
Teachers of English have a role to play to lay a solid foundation for the teaching of English as a subject. The researcher therefore sought to find out from teachers of English in secondary schools as well as senior secondary students, the influence of environment on performance of students in English.
However, the English language is not an indigenous language to this country. Time was, when no word of English was spoken in Nigeria. It was about the middle of the 18th century when the English language started making appearance in the linguistic map of the country. The language came from Britons. Before the English language, other European languages exited, such as the Portuguese language. As far back as the 16th century, they came around the Niger Delta and Lagos. Trade was an important factor to the coming of the English language in Nigeria.
The pattern of trade was cocoa in exchange for gun-powder, clothing materials with the system of trade known as trade by barter.
The trade took another dimension of slave trade which is known as the trans-Atlantic and trans-Saharan trades called “the triangular slave trade” (1879). The slaves carried to America learnt English there. Apart from the slave trade and explorers, the first deliberate effort to implant the English language was through the missionaries. We first had the Church Missionary Society also known as (C.M.S) which settled in Badagry. After them were the Presbyterians, the Methodists and the Baptists, before the Catholic came. They came to evangelize to preach and educate people about the evils of slave trade. The factors that contributed to the spread of the learning of English was that these missionaries needed people who would be educated in English to help in reading the Bible (lay readers) and in its translation into native language. Consequently, schools were established to train lay readers Catechist etc. There were clergymen like Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther who aided the spread of the language.
The English that was studied then was Queen’s English in the schools followed by religious knowledge, and Arithmetic known as 3Rs. With the help of the missionaries, the native languages were first documented. With the advent of missionaries, colonialism came with the entrenchment of English language in Nigeria. They came to protect their nations and so with time, district courts came and government domains unknown to most Africans.
During the colonial era, the colonialist preordained English language as the Queen of subjects so that the civil servants can serve them with it as a working tool. They started giving grants-in-aids, tied to the quantity and quality of English being taught in the school. With colonialism, the English language has been formally entrenched in Nigeria. Besides these factors, other factors have contributed since then. The educational system has promoted English language in Nigeria: Hence,
- It is taught as a subject.
- It was used as a medium of instruction
- It was a yardstick for certification
- It was also promoted in making it a criterion for upward mobility.
- It became as access subject for higher education, that is, if you want to attend a higher institution you must have your English language.
Again, some socio-economic factors have also contributed to the growth of English language in Nigeria. It gave access to employment right from the colonial era. People reverted those working with the white man. So, it gave a social status that is above average. Until recently, there was still prestige for someone with the mastery of English language.
1.2 Statement of Problem
Nsukka Local government is a bilingual society. It is inhabited mostly by lower-class citizens. This is why “vernacular” is commonly used in Nsukka Local Government Area especially among students of secondary schools.
It has been observed that there are many instances of physical environment in which a society lives being reflected in its language, often in the structure of the lexicon – the way in which distinctions are made by means of single world (Trudgil, 1971). For instance, the Bedowin Arabic has as large camel vocabulary whereas the Fulani of Nigeria has just one label similarly many words will be used to express cold in temperate region communities and hot in tropical environments and so in Nsukka Local government Area environment.
Since the government has implemented the educational language policy in the country, it is vividly true that environment handicap has contributed greatly to the problems but then there are equally other factors that have contributed to the total differences on English language mastery by students, in secondary schools in Nsukka Local Government Area such as:
Non use of learning activities, inadequate of skilled teachers, lack of operation of audio-visual with the aid of electricity, mother tongue, interference, pidgin English interference, lack of adequate library facilities, poor social infratructural facilities; physical condition of classroom situation. Lack of evaluation of inspectorate to schools. Finally, social class problem and lack of instructional material and poor preparation by teachers.
1.3 Purpose of the Study
The importance of the relationship between the English language and society cannot be over emphasized in education of the student and indeed in the growth and development of any community.
The English language plays a vital role to the government as it is being used for the purpose of government and administration, as documentation of government records; administrative instruction and minutes, legislation; court records and proceedings.
Again English is most noticeable in the field of education as it is being introduced as a subject in the first years of primary school and from the third year of the primary school up to university level as a medium of instruction. This in effect, means that the Nigerian child’s access to the cultural and scientific knowledge of the world is largely through English since the products of the schools will be absorbed into types of employment where English is the official medium of communication and where congruently, proficiency in English to a necessary qualification, the pre-eminent position of English in the educational system is likely to remain for long time.
Furthermore, in the mass media, English is in a predominant position. All the national newspapers are published in English, Radio, non-musical programmes, newscasters. Television are almost entirely in English.
Therefore, the main purpose of this study is to look at how some environmental factors affect students’ performance in English, its prospects and problems faced by students. In addition, the study is geared towards making some recommendations.
1.4 Significance of the Study
This study will be of great significance to the students, teachers, parents, educational planners, language planners as well as the government.
- It will instill in the learners/students the quest and zeal to study and master English.
- To the teachers, it will enable them to be committed by making adequate preparations of their lesson note and lesson plan.
- On the part of the parents, the feed back they get through their children’s results will motivate them to encourage their children in the requisition of the language.
- To the educational planners, they would be most privileged because the study will take the form of evaluation on what they have earlier planned, thereby putting into consideration the implementation of this policy. The language planners will discover from this study problems faced by their schools within this language community and design appropriate instructional materials for effective teaching and learning of the English language.
- Finally, this work will be useful too to the government. It will enable them to make available trained personnel both for English language and material resources for the efficient implementation of the policy. They will also be geared to make and provide learning facilities and equipment such as textbooks, audio-visual gadgets, conducive classrooms and other language laboratory to aid and motivate the students in the proper method of studying English language.
In summary, this study will be an invaluable asset to parents in shaping the English language performance of their children because children are affected by the quantitative and qualitative limitations of parental language model.
T.R. Bimie (1972) and E.A. Hewit (1968) discovered through a research that teacher’s achievement in English is closely related to parental education and occupation. This according to them is because students are exposed to various forms of English most of which are not correct.
Again, these children as a result, pick up slangs, words and particular linguistic register that they eventually find difficult to drop. According to Durojaiye “The influence of a good home background is an invaluable aid to the child’s future language development.
1.4 Research Questions
- Does the school have enough qualified English language teachers?
- Does the class size influence or affect written assignments to students?
- Does the school have a well-equipped library?
- Do parents socio-economic status or background affect or influence students study of English.
This study is specifically concerned with the influence of environment on the performance of students in English language in secondary schools in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State. The environment in this sense comprises; the physical school environment, the community environment, home background (socio-economic status), facilities for language teaching and learning and language teaching professional background-teaching skills and commitment.
This study is restricted to the secondary schools in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State. The research work was constrained by inadequate time, finance and lack of cooperation from few persons questioned. The time alloted to this study was relatively limited. However, the researcher was able to visit all the places he intends to visit for collection of data.
In addition to having limited time, there was financial handicap as regards transportation to and from the town the researcher needs to gather information necessary for the completion of this work.
1.7 Definition of Terms
Some terms used in this study have been defined in their operation terms to suit the purpose of this study for instance:
This has to do with the whole personal behaviour together with conditions and influence that affect the development and life of the student.
Teaching Aids / Learning Activities:
These are materials which enhance teaching and learning, assist or promote the process of teaching and learning; such as textbooks, audio-visual equipment, chalk, chalkboard, biro, flashcards and charts.
A language that developed when individuals from different linguistic backgrounds here and there are in need to communicate; used basically for mutual intelligibility.
It is an accepted official language in a multi-lingua society.
Negative influence of one language to another usually due to proper mastery of one and an imperfect mastery of the other.
Understanding among language speakers when each of them speaks.
There are factors influencing a child from his or her family environment.
The language of a child’s mother or parents.
Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations
This study is concerned with the influence of environment on the performance of students in English language in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State. The work is divided into five chapters.
The first chapter was the introductory chapter. It dealt with one of the legacies bequeathed to us – Nigerians by the British which will be difficult to do away with. That is the coming of the Western Education in Nigeria as well as the emphasis laid on the teaching of the English culture and language. This is because English is the medium of instruction in our schools, of business transactions, of communication both national and international, the language of industry since science and technology are necessary for development. English is again the official language and therefore imperative that every Nigerian should be able to read, write and communicate in good simple English.
The chapter also entailed the purpose of the study which was to look into some vital issues in the use of English language as medium of instruction. In order to achieve the purpose of the study therefore, a number of questions were raised and answered. Some of the questions formulated include:
- Impact of class-size on students achievement in English.
- Lack of enough qualified English language teachers for the study of English language.
- Influence of mother tongue interference in the students understanding of English.
Moreover, the chapter incorporated the scope of the study, statement of the problem, the delimitation, limitation, significance of study and definition of some terms which brought the chapter to an end.
However, the signification of study will be of great importance to the students, teachers, parents, educational planners as well as the government. In other words, it will achieve the following purposes:
- It will instill in the learners/students the quest and zeal to study and master English.
- To the teachers, it will enable them to be committed by making adequate preparations of their lesson notes and lesson plans before hand as well as studying the language thoroughly.
- On the part of the parents, their children’s results will motivate them to encourage their children in the acquisition of the language.
- To the educational planners, they would be most privileged because it is a form of evaluation on what they have earlier planned thereby putting into consideration the necessary machinery for the proper implementation of this policy. They might also build on this study in the next educational plan.
- The second chapter contained the review of some related literature. This of course, was aimed at bringing to view some of the comments made by earlier writers concerning the topic under study. To this, some sub-titles were developed and used for the review.
Aspect covered by the reviewer included: school environment, class-size, home background (socio-economic status of parents) and other factors which influence English language and teaching and learning. The review of some available literature under the above sub-headings showed that most writers are in awareness of the influence of the environment on English language mastery by secondary school students and so they are in support of the use of English language as a medium of instruction in our schools, in business transactions, of communication and of industry, science and technology and commerce as stated in the National Policy on Education (1981).
They equally made obvious advantages to the studying of English language since the study will be an invaluable asset to parents in shaping the English language performance of their children because children are affected by the quantitative and qualitative limitation in parental language model. Some of these writers were J.R. Birnie and E.A. Hewit who discovered through a research that teacher achievement in English is closely related to parental education and occupation.
The influence of a good home background is an invaluable aid to the child’s future language development. One of such advantages in the fact that it brings the learner closer to the learning experience, thereby making the learning task less difficult.
The third chapter dealt with the research design and methodology which include the population of the study which is based on secondary school students and English language teachers in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State. Sample and sampling technique also based on seven secondary schools and 100 English language students, instruments of data collections were equally based on questionnaire and structured oral interview; this is followed by validity and reliability of instrument, administration of instrument and finally method of data analysis which was based on simple percentage technique.
Chapter four of the study contained the analysis of the data collected for the study. This chapter contains the interpretations of both the written responses by the students and the responses from the structured oral interview by some teachers and students.
5.2 Major Findings
Some of the findings which have been discussed in chapter four are:
- There are lack of qualified and experienced English language teachers in our secondary schools.
- The problems of large class size influence teachers’ willingness to give written assignments to students.
- Students are motivated to take part in schools debates, drama and creative writing.
- The pidgin English, mother tongue and language of local community influence students use of English.
- The parents’ socio-economic status influence greatly the students’ study of English as stated earlier because of extra coaches given to their children in the acquisition of the language (that is upper and middle classes).
This study gave an insight into some issues as they influence the implementation of the policy of English language as a medium of instruction in schools, of business transactions, of communication etc in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State.
The English language medium of instruction policy is implemented in all the schools the researcher visited as stipulated by the National Policy on Education. In addition to the above, the Federal Government states in section 51 of the Nigerian constitution of 1979, 1989 thus: “The business of the House of Assembly shall be conducted in English but the House may in addition to English, conduct the business of the House in one or more languages in the state as the House by resolution approve”.
As a matter of fact, English language seems to take priority over the indigenous languages. This is the reason why 5-8 periods of English language is taken by a class in secondary school while only 3 periods of indigenous languages is allowed.
In secondary schools, it is expected that the present dichotomy between the language and literature components of English studies will be discontinued. A situation whereby literature in English is treated in isolation from English language and as an optional subject in the curriculum at this level does not truly reflect the learning objectives of secondary schools. Literature as an embodiment of language should serve to make the teaching of English more realistic and interesting and expose students to the beauty and potential of language. Because many students are alienated from the study of literature in English in the later part of secondary education, many of them do not acquire extensive reading skills as well as wider experiences about life expressed by English literary texts. To sum up this point, man needs language for the control of his environment and the more intelligibility of the language, the easier the control and acceptability of the language. Furthermore, Nigerians often describe English as the official language of Nigeria but more often than not, when they do so, the words “official language” are used in a sense which is at once broader than the sense the words usually possess in native speaker’s English and which also excludes what in native-speaker English in the kernel of the sense. That is to say, English is the “official language” of Nigeria because it is the language used by officialdom; in official correspondence for example.
Since independence, there has been much debate on the issue and the argument for or against English as ‘an official or “the official” language’. An official language and a national language are of course by no means the same thing. Against English, it is argued that it is a language imported into Nigeria from Europe; it is a second language in Nigeria and therefore not the language in which Nigeria express their innermost thoughts; Nigerians can never achieve the same proficiency in English as native-speaker; English is as instrument of imperialism. English should be replaced by an African language that is truly indicative of the African identity.
However, those who argue thus do not necessarily desire that English language should cease to perform many of the functions it at present performs in Nigeria. They are not however agreed as to what the official or the national language should be in its place. Proposals include one of the existing indigenous languages. For one reason or the other, the Federal Government has not pronounced on the issue.
In the absence of any such pronouncement, English continues to perform many of the functions of a national language as well as those of an official language and probably would continue for a long time to do so even if some other languages were imposed on the country by the Government policy, especially if as in India, English language and some other languages are both recognized as official.
Since Nigerians cannot therefore do without the English language because of its importance, the government and the language planners should be very keen about the students mastery of the English language in totality by providing them more qualified English teachers that are committed.
The findings of the study have shown that the research effort in extension, have been concentrated in one Local Government Area.
Based on the above findings of this study, the researcher wishes to make the following recommendations:
- The government should employ more qualified secondary school teachers and equally expand number of secondary schools to reduce the number of students per teacher to the rather of 1:35 students as stipulated in the NPE or even to 1:30.
- The government should provide secondary schools with well-equipped libraries and instructional materials for effective teaching and learning of English language.
- The time allotted for English in the Time-table should be observed to enable the teacher teach his or her lessons fully, involving the students and giving them assignments.
- Principals should be encouraged to take part in the part-time programmes organized by many tertiary institutions by their principals in order to be more competent in their teaching career.
- The media should be used to enlighten parents on the need to provide a conducive home in the need to provide a conducive home environment for their children and encourage them to develop interest in English language and other subjects.
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