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THE IMPACT 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:
1. Does the school have enough qualified English language teachers.
2. 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:
1. Influence of mother tongue interference on the students’ mastery of English language.
2. 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:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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,
1. It is taught as a subject.
2. It was used as a medium of instruction
3. It was a yardstick for certification
4. It was also promoted in making it a criterion for upward mobility.
5. 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.
(a) It will instill in the learners/students the quest and zeal to study and master English.
(b) To the teachers, it will enable them to be committed by making adequate preparations of their lesson note and lesson plan.
(c) 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.
(d) 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.
(e) 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
1. Does the school have enough qualified English language teachers?
2. Does the class size influence or affect written assignments to students?
3. Does the school have a well-equipped library?
4. 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:
Environment: 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.
Pidgin English: A language that developed when individuals from different linguistic backgrounds here and there are in need to communicate; used basically for mutual intelligibility.
Lingua-franca: It is an accepted official language in a multi-lingua society.
Interference: Negative influence of one language to another usually due to proper mastery of one and an imperfect mastery of the other.
Mutual Intelligibility: Understanding among language speakers when each of them speaks.
Home Background: there are factors influencing a child from his or her family environment.
Mother Tongue: The language of a child’s mother or parents.
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