English Language Skills Needed By Secretarial Students In Higher Institutions

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English Language Skills Needed By Secretarial Students In Higher Institutions


The research work focus on the English language skills needed by secretarial students in Higher Institutions. A case study of Osun State Polytechnic, Iree. The population of this research work comprises the total number of 54 students. The sample of the study consists of 27 students. And researcher use various textbooks and oral interview and a well structured questionnaires were formulated and administered.

Four researcher questions were used for this study

  1. What are the spelling skill needed by secretariat students?
  2. What are the speaking skills needed by secretarial students?
  3. What are the literary appreciation skills needed by secretarial students?
  4. What are the punctuation skills needed by secretarial students?

The findings from this research question are

  1. No English language spelling skill is too insignificant to influence secretarial students’ prospects
  2. Speaking skill is just as important as spelling competences of English language
  3. Literary appreciation skill language can contribute significantly to secretarial students’ prospects
  4. Many punctuation skill needed by secretarial students.

Recommendation were made that English language skill must be introduced into the curriculum of all secretarial and computer related courses. And it was conducted that English language skill is important that even the most insignificant English language skill can unexpectedly turn the table in a negotiation, interview or contest. The four English language skills are indispensable to successful performance of secretarial students.

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

Nowadays, in most large multinational companies, secretaries and administrative assistants play a crucial role in organizations’ human resources (Stevens, 1993). Tutar (2002) defines a secretary as an important person who provides communication support and acts as a communication link between people. Currently, secretaries have become much more important than receptionists or typists like in the past. They are a person who works as an executive administrative assistant, help their executive with many routine jobs and some particularized tasks. According to Stevens (1993), secretary, in the present role of administrative assistant, serves not only as a link between management and staff but also as a key support person for the executive. Recruiters have to consider many dimensions such as characteristics, knowledge, experiences, how get along with other people, and the most important skill for effective secretaries is “communication ability”. In working life, people need to communicate with each other in order to achieve their goals and the goals cannot be achieved without communications (Alessandra & Hunsaker, 1993).

Communication is the process of people sharing thoughts, ideas, feelings, and opinions with other people in understandable ways. Communication skills are composed of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Hurst (1991) points out that the communication is a two-way process between senders and receivers that send, receive, interpret and understand messages. Humans are social animals. They usually live in a group. Additionally, communication has become to be the most important component in human life. They learn and gain the new things through communication. In other words, communication is an essential part of families, education, business, etc. People in different countries have their own languages such as Thai, English, and Chinese. Due to trade liberalization, the central business language that people in different countries use to communicate is English language. English is accepted as the language for international communication or even theuniversal language, and it has also become the most universally learned, read, and spoken language (Kirkpatrick, 2007; Nickerson, 2005).

The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is comprised of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, The Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The regional cooperation will result in the free movement of goods, investment, services, labor skills, and free flow of capital. Therefore, it is a good opportunity for Thai people and those who are looking for a bigger business market for investment. Hence, in order to be more competitive in the AEC, the Thai workforce must be improve their job skills to respond to employers’ needs.
The World Bank (2014) lists a group of job-relevant skills, which include the job-specific skills of the workers as well as other skills to improve their productivity. These other skills are as follows:

  • Ability to think critically and analyze;
  • Problem-solving skills;
  • Capacity to learn new knowledge or skills;
  • Adaptation ability to apply knowledge and experiences for dealing with real situations;
  • Personal skills such as self-improvement, self-management, decision making;
  • Social skills, resolving conflicts, managing client relations, and strengthening social networks; and
  • Communication skills, consisting of listening, speaking, reading, and witting to communicate with other people, and using information, communication technologies (ICTs), and foreign language as a communication tool.

According to the World Bank in 2014, foreign language communication skills have become an important skill for workers seeking a chance to get a job in multinational companies or start their own business. According to Marilyn (2006), people who have higher English communication skills will get a better job and a better position in today’s world of business. English is an important factor preventing Thai people from taking advantage of opportunities in international business markets.

Therefore, effective secretaries are not only required to communicate in their mother tongue, but also in English language.

This study focused on the needs and barriers regarding the English communication skills of Thai secretaries in the workplace.

A special activity in this association is “Professional Secretaries’ Week” that is held in the last week of April every year, the same as secretarial associations in other countries around the world. The symbol of this activity is the prize announcement for the best employer and the best secretary of the association.

The members will benefit by improving their necessary skills, exchange good knowledges and experiences from real situations, and have a chance to connect with the people who have the same career field in other countries.

The results of this study will show Thai secretaries’ needs in English communication skills, the barriers that affect Thai secretaries’ English communication, and the most important qualification in order to be effective secretaries from the perspectives of executives and secretaries. Additionally, the needs and barriers in English communication can provide useful information to improve Thai secretaries’ English skills and enable other Thai people to get more opportunities in their working life and more opportunities to do business in the international markets.

Furthermore, the results of this study can be beneficial for English teachers, course designers, and English institutes to set out effective English training courses for improving secretaries’ English communication.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

All over the globe today, language skills, especially communicative skills in the English language, have become indispensable, be it in the academic or occupational environment. This is borne out of the fact that currently, a quarter of the world speaks English (World Economic Forum (WEF), 2020). The dominance of English as a global language today is further consolidated by the advent of new technologies like the internet and mobile telephony.

WEF (2020) observes that the internet, for instance, has given today’s Oxford English Dictionary editors wider access to non-traditional sources of linguistic evidence, enabling them to widen and improve the dictionary’s coverage of world varieties of English. These assertions of the ILO’s affirm that the world is becoming smaller and smaller with the improvements in communication in English Language (Esra, 2008). People from all over the world are interacting with each other in business transactions, collaborations, and in numerous other ways (Edwards, 2000). The changes in communication have created an increasing demand for English language skills. Mastery of English language skills is certainly not enough as new languages enter the corporate world. Nevertheless, the English language is still seen as the most effective way to communicate if a common language is not found between parties (Johns, 2001). Modern secretaries, by the very nature of their job, have often been found playing public relations roles. Most of the time, they also serve as the first points of contact in offices. Possessing good communicative skills in the English language, the main and official medium of communication in Nigeria, is very crucial for good customer service. Therefore, having strong communicative skills in English language by secretarial students is a way of ensuring that they have a somewhat guaranteed form of communication for their future professions.

Nevertheless, it has been observed that the performance of secretarial students of the Osun State Polytechnic in the English language keeps falling. This is evident among students as they often complain about their poor communicative skills in the English language, though their teachers are trying their best. Most students express worry about their inability to express themselves fluently in the language; knowing that the ability to speak, read, listen, and write is a major requirement in the job market for secretarial students. This implies that there is need to identify the English language skill needs of students offering Secretaryship and Management Studies as a programme of study in order to equip them adequately for the world of work. It is against this background that the researchers considered it necessary to find out the specific English language skills needed by secretarial students and to propose measures that can enhance the acquisition of same.

1.3 Research Questions

  1. What are the spelling skill needed by secretariat students?
  2. What are the speaking skills needed by secretarial students?
  3. What are the literary appreciation skills needed by secretarial students?
  4. What are the punctuation skills needed by secretarial students?

1.4 Objectives of the Study

  1. To determine the spelling skill needed by secretariat students?
  2. To evaluate the speaking skills needed by secretarial students?
  3. To examine the literary appreciation skills needed by secretarial students?
  4. Determine the punctuation skills needed by secretarial students?

1.5 Significance of the Study

The findings of this study will benefit companies with regard to designing appropriate courses to improve their secretaries’ English skills. Moreover, this study will benefit teachers or trainers with respect to developing their teaching materials for effective training courses for secretaries. Furthermore, the research results will be useful for people and other nationalities, enabling them to realize the importance of English communication skills and to prepare the national workforce for the competition ahead.

1.6 Scope of the Study

This study sought to establish from Secretaryship and Management students of the Osun State Polytechnic in the South-West Region of Nigeria what perceptions they have about the English Language course; what specific skill needs they have in the subject and suggest interventions that can help improve the impartation, acquisition and use of those skills.

1.6 Definition of Terms

The definition of terms in this study is as follows:

Needs in English communication skills are the necessary skills for secretaries when using English communication in their workplaces in order to be effective communicators.

Barriers in English communication skills are the obstacles that secretaries face when using English communication in their workplaces.

Chapter Five

Conclusion and Recommendations

The study concludes that English language is a fundamental requirement for success in both academic and occupational environments. It can be assumed as a practice that assists individuals to gain creativeness and develops their critical thinking capacities and also constitutes an important tool for the development of personalities and mental capacities of individuals. English language skills (reading, listening, writing and speaking) are necessary for a healthy intellectual growth and play a very crucial role in enabling a person to achieve practical efficiency in academic and occupational environment.

The study also observes that secretarial students barely practise the use of the English language especially by speaking it. The oral presentation course in the current Secretarial English syllabus (SMS 326E) in higher institutions in Nigeria only covers one semester – Semester VI. This duration is obviously not enough and should be extended for students to have more contact hours to practise. No wonder 38% of students identified speaking as the most difficult skill in the English language. This finding agrees to the assertion made by Adika (2003) that students hardly practise speaking the English language. To help students overcome the phobia of speaking English, the curriculum should be structured in such a way that they are given oral presentation opportunities throughout the duration (Levels 100 – 300) of their programme of study.

The findings of this study also affirm that all the English language skills are very imperative in the academic and occupational environments of every secretarial student. From the survey results, 60% and 28% of the respondents said they use the English language mostly at school or during studies and at work respectively. English language skills of students are very important in their academic lives, which in turn, lead to their use of same for occupational purposes.

A rather surprising observation the study made was that, at this age and time, secretarial students had very little knowledge in the use of modern communication tools such as emailing, PowerPoint presentation, and video conferencing. Only a few (10%) of respondents knew emailing, PowerPoint presentation (8%), and video conferencing (8%). In reference to the ILO’s (2007) recommendation, education and skill disadvantages can be overcome when individuals have broad-based education and training, basic and portable high-level skills, including teamwork, problem solving, ICT, communication and language skills. This makes them most employable, able to find and retain jobs and adaptable to workplace changes. Secretarial students should therefore be equipped with not just language skills, but also social and communication skills that are deemed relevant on the 21st century job market.

This study asserts that the most effective way of becoming proficient in English language skills is the constant practice of the four major skill areas including writing, speaking, reading, and listening. These four linguistic skills should be considered as a habit by secretarial students and repeatedly carried out to enable them excel in their academic and professional lives. To enhance their professional skills, they also need to acquire some basic knowledge in the use of modern information communication technological tools.

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