Background of the Study
The English language plays crucial roles in the life of Nigeria as a nation, roles that date back to colonial era. According to Osisanwo (1990:50) the English language is Nigeria’s lingua franca, the language of the government, judiciary, legislature, commerce, a school subject as well as the medium of instruction. Obuasi (2001:109) opines that the English language is a unity language. It is introduced early to pupils in the nursery schools. Pupils in primary schools and students in secondary schools spend either five or six years learning the English language. Yet, students’ achievement in this highly valued language is often poor. The poor performance of students in this language is authenticated by a WAEC (2004) publication. According to entries and results in the publication, students performance in the language was truly poor. For example, between 2001 – 2003, the failure rate in May-June examinations was as follows: 43.81% in 2001, 42.61% in 2002 and 38.81% in 2003. The percentage pass in May-June examinations for the years mentioned above was as follows: 20.07% in 2001, 24.57% in 2002 and 29.03% in 2003. The failure rate for the years 2001 – 2003 in the October/ November examination was as follows: 42.56% in 2001, 44.79% in 2002 and 29.20% in 2003. The percentage pass was as follows: 22:72% in 2001, 19.03% in 2002 and 30.50% in 2003. But for the 2003 October/November examinations that had more passes than failures, every other year in the data had more failures than passes of the candidates that sat for the English language examinations. In addition to the above data, WAEC Chief Examiners (1999-2002) in their reports also show that students don’t achieve much in the English language. For example, in 1998, the reports say that candidates performance was extremely disappointing. Many students could not spell the commonest English words. They used (there) for (their) (where) for (were), (once) for (ones) and (had) for (heard). In 2000, the reports say that candidates’ performance was rather disappointing. Candidates’ answers revealed an ignorance of the rudiments of the English language. In 2002, the reports state that candidates’ performance was not impressive. Candidates showed lack of familiarity with the required format.
Many factors have been adduced for students’ poor achievement in the language. Some of these factors include bad language planning/policy as well as methodologies Tollefson (1991 in Ogidi 2005: 231). Methodologies could be defined as ways in which things are either done or imparted. Some methodologies may not be apt for teaching second language learners and when such methodologies are used, learners may not learn enough to help them achieve much in the target language.
Another factor that may affect performance is the issue of gender. According to Offorma (1990), language learning calls for a lot of work which includes repetition, imitation of sounds and words, drills and so on and girls find them more interesting than boys. She goes on to state that it has been established by psychologists that girls have more flair for languages than boys.
A strong factor that has so adversely affected students’ performance in the English language is the issue of the knowledge of grammar or the knowledge of the structures of the English language. Students’ weakness in grammar could be buttressed by WAEC Chief Examiners’ (1998) reports on language and specifically their reports on the English Language.
The reports of May/June (1998) state that in English language, it was observed that candidates exhibited poor knowledge of the rules of grammar which hindered good essay writing. The reports go on to say that in grammar, the candidates language is fast degenerating into pidgin English. The marker of present tense 3rd person singular has disappeared. Students are no more familiar with rules of concord and correct tense usage. They do not see what is wrong in writing ‘John beated me mercilessly’ or ‘I has stop going to school’. Poor performance in the English language due to lack of the knowledge of grammar is so often reported in many of WAEC Chief Examiners’ Reports. Two years after the (1998) reports mentioned above, the Chief Examiners (2000) reported that many candidates exhibited poor knowledge of grammatical rules. They could not present their answers in simple correct English. Again in 2002, the reports state that candidates showed poor knowledge of grammatical rules not only in English language but also in business subjects like History, Economics and Government. Also poor expression of points in the business subjects affected their scores.
From what has been stated so far in the WAEC Chief Examiners Reports, it appears that the poor achievement of students in the English language and other subjects was due partly to poor knowledge of grammatical rules or poor knowledge of the structures of English language. Teaching of grammar in schools is not new. Almost always, the grammar-translation method has been used in most schools to teach grammar. Yet, there is this exhibition of poor knowledge of grammatical structures.
Grammar – Translation method is a method that deals with the learning of structural rules which describe how words combine with each other to form sentences. According to Richards and Rodgers (1995) the grammar-translation method is a way of studying language that approaches that language first through detailed analysis of its grammar rules. In this method, language learning is more of memorizing rules and facts just to be able to manipulate the morphology and syntax of the foreign language. It lays emphasis on accuracy. Qing-xue and Jin-fang (2007:69) add that the students’ native language is maintained as reference system in the acquisition of the second language. Language learners are passive in language learning and teachers are regarded as authorities.
There are other methods that could be used in the teaching of grammar. One of such methods which is recent and highly advocated for is the communicative method. It is a method Qing-xue and Jin-fang (2007:71) opine that sees the need to focus on communicative proficiency rather than on mere mastering of structures. They go on to say that this method:
aims to make communicative competence the goal of language teaching…it encourages activities that involve real communication, carrying out meaningful tasks…Language learners are expected to be negotiators, teachers to be organizers, guides, analysts, counselors or group process managers.
Yanfei (2002:1) adds that the goal of this method is that learners will be able to use language appropriately in social context.
The grammar-translation and communicative methods are two out of the methods that can be used in teaching the grammar of English language. While the use of grammar – translation method dates back to the 17th century, the communicative method is a more recent method. While the former is teacher centered, the later is learner centered. Therefore, there is the need to determine the effect of grammar – translation method, communicative method and gender in students’ achievement in the grammar of English Language.
Statement of the Problem
Students’ achievement in English language in Nigeria is poor. Some factors have been deduced as reasons why students don’t achieve much in this language. One of the factors is the lack of the knowledge of grammar inspite of the use of grammar-translation method in teaching English language. A remedy is needed. This work suggests that an effective method in the teaching of grammar may improve performance. This study, therefore, poses this question: What effect will the use of communicative method have on students’ achievement in the grammar of English Language?
Purpose of the Study
The main purpose of the study is to determine the effect of grammar-translation method and communicative method on students’ achievement in the grammar of English language. Specifically, the study intends to determine:
- the effect of the use of communicative and grammar-translation methods on students’ achievement in English language.
- the effect of gender on students’ achievement in English language.
- the interactive effect of methods and gender on students’ achievement.
Significance of the Study
The governments, owners of private schools, parents, principals and teachers have despaired over the alarming rate of failures each year when English language results of examinations are released. Most students are disillusioned because of the D7s and E8s that would hardly secure them admission into tertiary institutions. Results of this study will inform proprietors and teachers of the method that will help make their students better achievers in English language. Again, the results of this study will help curriculum planners in projecting the effective method that will bring about greater achievement in English language. In addition, text book writers and publishers will be informed of the effective method and tilt towards its use as they write and publish their work.
Scope of the Study
The study investigated the performance of some senior secondary school (SSII) students in the English language in two co-educational schools in Nsukka Education Zone. The investigation compared the achievement of male and female students who were taught grammar using the grammar-translation method with the achievement of those who were taught grammar using the communicative method.
The following research questions are used to address the problem of this study.
- What are the relative mean achievement scores of students taught grammar using the communicative and grammar-translation methods
- What is the effect of gender on students’ achievement in English language?
- How do methods interact with gender to influence students’ achievement?
The following hypotheses were tested at probability level of 0.05.
- There is no significant difference in the mean achievement scores of students taught grammar using the grammar-translation method and the communicative method.
- There is no significant difference in the mean achievement scores of male and female students
- There is no interactive effect of method and gender on students’ achievement in grammar of English language.