Proficiency In English Language As A Determinant Of Students Academic Performance

Project and Seminar Material for English Education

Proficiency In English Language As A Determinant Of Students Academic Performance


The study examined proficiency in english language as a determinant of students academic performance in secondary schools in Sapele, Delta State”. . The study employed the survey design and the purposive sampling technique to select 450 students in secondary schools in Sapele, Delta State. A well-constructed questionnaire, which was adjudged valid and reliable, was used for collection of data from the respondents. The data obtained through the administration of the questionnaires was analyzed using the Pearson correlation analysis.

The results revealed that: Students’ proficiency in English impact in their all-round academic performance is potent. Students’ attitude and environmental background towards English effect in their academic performance is potent. English proficient teachers on determining students’ academic performance is potent. There is positive and significant relationship between proficiency in English and students all-round academic performance (r=0.772; p<0.05). There is significant influence of student’s attitude and environmental background towards English that will affect their academic performance (r=.896; p<0.05). There is a positive and significant relationship between English proficient teachers and students academic performance (r=0.772; p<0.05).

the study concludes that the proficiency in english language determines students academic performance in secondary schools in Sapele, Delta State.

The study suggested; The English teachers should continuously update themselves with new approaches, methods, strategies and techniques in teaching the English subject; The Science and Mathematics teachers should support the English Program of the school; The SSS students should realize the importance of English language in learning Science and Mathematics concepts; The school administrators should have concrete plans to develop and monitor their students’ English language proficiency throughout their stay in the institution; The curriculum designers and developers of the System should revisit the existing curriculum programs of the system, particularly English, Science and Mathematics by taking into consideration the result of the study.

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

Globally, various studies have been made on proficiency not just in the educational sector. What makes this research unique is the preparedness of the researcher to make an in-depth study on secondary school student’s proficiency in English and its role in their academics in Sapele, Delta State.

In Africa, Orgunsij & O (2009) argue on the fact that English language play the fundamental role of being the sole channel for instruction in Primary to Tertiary schools in Nigeria. It is important to know that students acquire knowledge of various school subjects at different stages which can only be done through the use of English language. That is to say, how well students progress in their academics, depends basically on their level of English proficiency.

According to, there are twenty-two countries in Africa where English is an official language. However, there are also countries in Africa that use English as a major language, but not as an official language (EFL). Readings from Wikipedia EFL (English as an Official language) English Proficiency Index, 2017 rankings score calculations showed that Nigeria ranked 31st and scored 54.74% with a moderate proficiency band. This shows that the Nigerian educational sector has a lot of upgrading to do.

The country is a mixed population of the old and the young and if the young are not properly taught the intricacies and rules pertaining to English language then she has failed. According to (Ogunsiji and Olanrewaju, 2002), English language is a language without which there could not have been an entity called Nigeria. This implies that Nigeria cannot thrive successfully without the use of English. However, since Nigeria has become an ‘entity’, there are still so much setbacks in the performance of students in English not only in the University but in other levels of education like the primary schools and the secondary schools.

English being the language of instruction in institutes of learning in Nigeria, is one compulsory subject not just for the Arts but the Sciences as well which also has an effect on all other subjects if not learnt. It is not just a language for communicating but a necessity for every secondary school student to pass any examination termly, let alone gain admission into the higher institutions to study courses like Theatre Arts, Law, Mass Communication, Linguistics and other art oriented courses. It is sad to say, but the instruction of learning cannot be passed across if the instructor is not a proficient speaker of English.

A lot of public and government owned secondary schools and sadly government approved private schools are faced with the problem of teachers in the English Department not being able to speak and construct correct English while teaching and even when written. Untrained teachers in this field flourish in the educational sector without questions asked. They are employed to teach English but the reverse is the case. Instead of students to grab correct use of grammar from their teachers, they pick up grammatical errors, finding it hard to distinguish between good and bad English. On the long run, secondary school students will keep struggling to construct simple and complex sentences now and in the nearest future if not transformed.

As a researcher, learning English has been observed to be more than just speaking or generally for communication in terms of trade, religion and so on. The populace have narrowed their mind-set to “Go to school so you can know English.” That is, so the child or teenager can understand and communicate in English (though briefly) when spoken to.

English proficiency is a student’s ability to use English to make and communicate meaning verbally and in writing during the course of learning. Proficiency in English can be defined as English language learners’ communication information, ideas, and concepts necessary for academic success whose first language is a language other than English and who is unable to perform ordinary classroom works in English (Driscoll, 2003).

Academic performance according to Igbinosa (2014) is the outcome of learning endeavour specified and signified by a test conducted which considers a learner as having passed or failed. Jansen (2004) defined academic performance as the process of developing the capacities and potentials of the individual student so as to prepare that individual to be successful in a specific society or culture. That is to say, a student cannot attain success if ones’ academic performance is poor. According to Daller and Phelan (2013) posited that English language proficiency for normative speakers is a key factor in academic success. Of all the variables that affect students’ performance, language is the most essential (Haydar and Uyar, 2011).

All secondary schools in Nigeria as well as Sapele local government area to be precise have English as the primary official medium of instruction, this research is focused on these students’ inability to communicate in English Language either in Speaking, Writing or Reading and how this is a detriment to their Academic performance on the long run.

Poor academic performance at secondary school level of education is a product of the student’s English proficiency, the teachers, the school, home, and environment and so on. While the teachers have a role to play, a large percentage and portion falls on the students English proficiency.

Proficiency in English is of utmost importance and is regarded by various researchers as one of the determining factors of academic performance. This topic tackles the issue on whether English proficient students are academically successful, how proficiency in English can be useful in their academics as a whole, what makes and does not make students proficient and so on.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Many people as well as scholars have stressed that proficiency in English is a criteria for secondary school student’s academic performance. A great deal of the rules and principles guiding subjects like Maths, Literature, Christian Religious studies amongst many others are rooted in the usage of English. Students that have low English language use skills will be unable to express themselves thereby having an adverse effect in their written tests and examinations. The lack of English proficiency in various subjects among secondary school students across the country and in Sapele to be precise, seems to fall greatly on the certain factors such as;

  1. The ineffectiveness of subject teachers.
  2. Lack of drive on the part of the students.
  3. Environmental (class size) / Governmental (the curriculum) factors.
  4. Difficulties in reading comprehension.
  5. Home factor inclusive.

Some researchers have documented findings on the necessity of English proficiency among not just secondary school students but the teachers who have a mandate to impact sound knowledge in students and likewise be role models in different Nigerian institutes of learning. Based on the above listed factors, the researcher seeks to carry out research on the Proficiency in English being a determinant in Secondary school student’s academic performance.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The objective of this study is to thoroughly examine Proficiency in English as the prerequisite of students’ academic performance in three selected secondary schools in Sapele.

  1. Certain specific objectives that drive the hammer to the nail will;
  2. Examine students’ proficiency in English and its impact in their all-round academic performance.
  3. Establish the influence of students’ attitude and environmental background towards English language on their academic performance.
  4. Establish the influence of English proficient teachers on students’ academic performance.

1.3 Research Objectives

  1. To establish student’s proficiency in English as a second language in learning in Sapele.
  2. To find out the effect of proficiency in English language on student’s academic performance.

1.4 Hypotheses of the Study

H1: There is no significant relationship between English language proficiency of school students of and their average grade during the previous year.

H2: There is no significant relationship between the English language proficiency of the respondents and their grade during the first grading period in the academic year 2019-2020.

1.6 Significance of the Study

On completion of this study, it would have been determined through data analysis gathered that the independent variable considered in the research on English Proficiency determines the dependent variable.

This study is of great importance because its outcome/results would help pin point the correlation between proficiency in English as a determinant for success in the academics of students as far as the findings of various factors that may affect the academic performance of students have been recognised in this study. On the long run, proficiency in English is considered one of the prominent factors.

Throughout this study, it will be established that proficiency in English is a direct link to the performance of students in secondary schools. If English as stated is proven as a determining factor, then issues of poor teaching skills in handling English language as a subject should be effectively looked into. This study would help in tackling issues pertaining to students overall performance in secondary schools, mapping out strategies to guide teaching curriculum which will in turn be of great aid to students guardians/parents including teachers.

1.7 Scope of the Study

The study has its focus solely on the experience of the Sapele indigenes on Okpe soil. It will focus on secondary school students in Sapele as the study covers three secondary schools located in Sapele, Sapele local government area where Okpe and Urhobo are the predominant indigenous languages while English language is learnt in schools. The population will be comprised of secondary students.

1.8 Operational Definition of Terms


Proficiency is the ability an individual has in doing something.

Language Proficiency:

English language proficiency of language proficiency referred the ability of an individual to speak or perform in an acquired language (Wiki; 2012)

English language:

The language originated in England which is now spoken in all parts of the British Isles, the Commonwealth of Nations, North America, and other parts of the world. It is one’s ability use the English language correctly.

Academic Performance:

This ascertains how well a student does in their academics. A learner’s capacity to perform successfully in their studies. It is the outcome of education the extent to which a student, teacher or institution has achieved their educational goals (Wiki; 2012)

Senior Secondary Schools:

These comprise of students in the higher part of the secondary school system of education (SSS 1-3).

Sapele Local Government:

This refers to the small local government in Delta State.

Chapter Five

Summary of Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations

5.2 Summary of Findings

The focal purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between the English Language Proficiency and academic success of secondary school students in Sapele.

It aimed to answer what are the profile of the respondents as to age, sex, Science grade during the First Grading Period in the school year 2019-2020 and their average grade during the previous year.

After undergoing a careful and critical analysis of data and organization of the collated data, the researchers came up with the following outcomes:

Respondents of the study comprised thirty eight (38) secondary school students. The age interval of 15-16 years old has the highest frequency among the respondents. There were twenty seven (27) female participants representing 71.05 percent and eleven (11) male participants representing 28.95 percent of the total population.

Eighteen (18) respondents with the percentage of 47.37 had average grades in the academe within the grade interval of 82-87 with a satisfactory level.

Grades of the majority of the respondents in English during the first grading period lie within the grade interval of 82.87 (Satisfactory) with a frequency of twenty-one (21) comprising 55.26 percent of the total population.

Based on the English Proficiency Test results, the most frequent grade of the respondents lies within the grade interval 88-93 (Very Satisfactory) with a frequency of eighteen (18) comprising 47.37 percent of the total population.

The findings from the study revealed that there is a significant relationship between English proficiency and academic performance. This suggests that as English language proficiency increases, so does academic success.

5.2 Conclusions

The following conclusions were drawn by the researchers based on the over-all result of the study:

The study presented a strong positive correlation and definite relationship between English proficiency scores and Science grade which showed a computed value of 0.8. This means that English language proficiency results reveal a strong relationship between English proficiency scores and Science grade. Respondents’ most frequent grade lies within the grade interval of 88-93 with a very satisfactory rating.

On the other hand, the relationship of the academic average grades of the respondents taken during the school year 2011-2012 and their English proficiency scores had a computed value of 0.52. This implied that there was a moderate positive correlation between the two variables. English language proficiency skills can really contribute to the success of the respondents to their academic achievement.

Of the two mentioned findings, it can be again said that there is sufficient evidence to reject the null hypothesis.

5.3 Recommendations

The researchers made the following recommendations for the enhancement of the English Language Proficiency as highly suggested on the derived findings and conclusions:

  1. Encourage students to read by citing articles for further readings.
  2. Teachers as role models should use English language in handling English subjects so that students will also be perceptive and responsive.
  3. Practice the English speaking policy.
  4. Organizations like Theater Guild, Dramatics Club, and Toast Master’s Club might be facilitated in by the members of the English Club.
  5. An English club action plan has to be crafted.

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