Background of the Study:
The English Language is the Language Nigerians inherited from the British. Azikiwe (1998) pointed out that the English Language was introduced in 1842 by the first batch of missionaries who arrived in Badagry for education and evangelization. In order to bridge ethno-linguistic barrier .the colonialists implanted the English Language in Nigeria. Today, it is absolutely an essential medium of interraction amongst the different ethnic groups in Nigeria that have no known national language.
It is a compulsory subject in both primary and post primary schools in Nigeria. The study and the use of the English Language are taken serious amongst students and the school authorities of the various higher institutions of learning through the Use of English Unit –General Studies. Examination bodies such as the WAEC, NECO, and JAMB recognize the great importance of the English Language for their candidates and make it compulsory in their examinations.
Besides, there are educational, edifying, and recreational writing in the English Language. These write-ups are popular with the general reading public and in the prescribed texts of various examination bodies. There are printed and well-written books in English in fiction, drama, poetry, current affairs and literary criticism. Above all, the English Language is one of the mediums for instruction in schools in Nigeria. In fact, it is the Language of communication – instruction in the classroom, decoding and encoding of prints in texts in English and media announcements, diplomatic relations as well as in maintaining contacts with former colonial lords.
In many countries where the English Language is being studied including Nigeria, it is common to find parents, teachers, and even the government crying about the standard of both the spoken and the written forms of the language amongst the students. This is because a good pass in the English Language qualifies a candidate to secure admission in school and get good job. It is Nigerians official Language.
It is pertinent to state here that a good mastery of any language is measured by the standard of the language’s spoken and written form. According to Collier (1987) without oral and written English Language skills, students are hard pressed to learn and demonstrate the knowledge of mathematical reasoning, science skills, social studies concepts and so forth. Students who lack proficiency in English are at a decided disadvantage in school. The WAEC Chief Examiner’s Reports of November/December (2002) stated that candidates’ Performance was poor in the English Language and that generally; the performance of the candidates was not impressive. In this report, the main weakness observed in the students’ scripts range from insufficient exposure to the skills of writing, lack of familiarity with the required formats, construction of loose sentences, transliteration from mother tongue to the abuse of basic rules of grammar. The report further advised that candidates should read novels, good magazines, and journals.
The WAEC Chief Examiner’s Report of May/June, 2003, confirmed a similar observation. However, this report advised that:
- Schools should drill candidates on essay writing skills;
- Candidates should be encouraged to read literature books for examination purpose as well as to improve their command of the English Language.
Besides, Ohuche (1992:13) has already pointed out that despite all the changes introduced in the secondary school English Language \curriculum, students have continued to perform poorly in the language. According to him, the greatest shortcomings of these students are in their inability to express ideas correctly in English. When these students enter tertiary institutions, many of them do not gain much from the service English Language lecturers give, for the mere fact that the number of them in a class makes it difficult for the teacher to handle their individual problems. The level of academic achievement for students with limited proficiency in English has lagged significantly behind that of their language majority peers. One congressionally mandated study reported that these students receive lower grades, are judged by their teachers to have lower academic abilities, and score below their classmates on standardized tests of reading and mathematics, according to Moss and Puma (1995).
From the above reports, it became pertinent to look into the learning and writing of the English Language essay of the Senior School Certificate Exam, which often is given much mark allocation than other parts of paper 1 of the English Language to show the importance of writing. Writing is invaluable for effective and efficient diplomatic ties. For the fact that very few students who write the Senior School Certificate English Language Examination obtain credits or distinctions make it a thing to worry about.
Many Language teachers often use essay writing while assessing students literacy development over time since it tests the ability of the students to use English as an effective means of communication to express themselves with clarity and coherence in a manner appropriate to the situation. The process of learning to write clearly and effectively is not a simple matter of acquiring information or memorizing rules. It requires a parallel and simultaneous process of learning to read with more sophistication. Because reading and writing are related activities, learning to write entails a complex interaction between writer and reader. Students write; teachers respond. But a teacher’s response must be more than “correcting” and more than perfunctory grading: Evaluations most involve a detailed reaction, often in conference with the student; to each piece of writing.
Good teachers want to teach as many students as they can teach well. But if teachers are forced to respond to the writing of more than sixty students weekly, they will necessarily oversimplify their responses. Students will regard their own writing as a mere exercise, unworthy of careful attention or serious thought. About five and four essay topics are often set by WAEC and NECO respectively in Senior School Certificate Examinations. Candidates are required to write on ONE. The topics cover a wide variety of essay types such as expository, argumentative, and letter writing.
Exposition is detailed explanation. Expository writing explains a process, an idea or a feeling (Ukwegbu, C. et al 2004). Experts claim that expository writing is not a single form of writing but an amalgam of different writing genres. A good piece of expository writing has the following core features: It involves analysis of key points; A definition of key concepts; A well-defined point of view; A logical presentation of details, and an explanation of details (Otagburuagu, Obah, and Ogenyi, 2001).
Expository essay is written quite often in the present tense, which involves the use of the active voice. The present tense is generally preferred because the process, concept, or idea being explained has relevance not only for a particular time but for most, if not for all times. (Ukwuegbu, C. et al 2004)
In argumentative writing, the audience or the reader is being persuaded to agree to the writer or speaker’s point of view on a controversial subject matter. Since there are always two sides to an argument, this kind of writing requires one to: prove a point present a view point; balance two sides of an argument. However, most candidates’ argument is often illogical and the conclusions often do not follow from the reasoning that had gone before. Many candidates lack the appropriate vocabulary to put across their point of view (Ukwuegbu, C.et al
2004). Meanwhile, a good argument should:
- Have a clear statement of what is to be proved in the proposition;
- Be based on good evidence. This consists of facts that are established. It should not be based on unverifiable information or propaganda.
- Have its evidence directly related to the issues of the argument; it must be backed by authoritative evidence that is current;
- Deal with issues raised in the proposition, not with personalities.
- Must be arranged in a logical order in order to make a maximum impression on the reader,
- Avoid errors in reasoning called logical fallacies such as the following examples:
- Hasty generalization
- Begging the question,
- False analogy
- Non-sequitur (it does not follow) and
- Ad Hominem (Ogbuehi, 2004.)
Descriptive writing, on the other hand, is another type of writing which is important because many aspects of life demand a person’s ability to give accurate descriptions. One may at one time or another be required to describe a person, a place, a process, a scene and an event. It is made in such a way that the mental picture of what is being described is fully registered in the reader’s mind. On this, some candidates may not possess the appropriate vocabulary to convey their description. The topics are treated scantily giving rise to lazy descriptions, which do not register any impression with the reader. According to (Ukwuegbu, 2004) the students’ descriptive writings are often marred by mother tongue influence resulting in usages that do not conform to standard English.
Another type of essay writing is narrative. Narration is writing about a succession of events or story telling. The events may be factual or imaginary. It usually follows a chronological order of events. Narration focuses on actions and so involves the use of action words (verbs). But it must necessarily include description. This is because one probably will not portray actions or movements very well unless one relates it to the readers, a description of the people or things participating in those actions.
Letter writing, which is an aspect of writing, is one of the kinds of writing where students are expected to choose from. It plays an important role in the social and business life of people in our contemporary society. Letters are written to give information to people whether they live with us or live many kilometers away from us. Letter Writing can be categorized into three major kinds based on the social universe of the product. The informal letter is one’s private correspondence, while any official letter is regarded as a formal letter. Formal in this context means ‘organized’ (Otagburuagu 2001:87). The semi-formal letter mixes the conventions of the formal type with those of the informal.
For the researcher to give this work adequate treatment, the core part of this work-class size need to be discussed in this background. Language teaching is an art. It is teaching man to communicate with the verbal tool in which his uniqueness rests. The formal teaching of a language takes place in the classroom, even though in the modern computer world, the electronic media may take teaching outside the conventional classroom. Language teaching audience could vary from one to several people. This means that a language class could be
- Small (ii) normal (iii) large, (Otagburuagu 1998). Before the Nigerian Civil War and indeed the oil boom period, which brought about the Universal Primary Education (UPE), language classes were normal. At the moment, there seems to be no controversy about normal language class size. But certainly, some concern has been expressed about large language classes, Otagburuagu (1996), and Otagburuagu and Enuesike (1998).
The ever-growing world population and the craze for education means that classes will continue to grow. Ngonebu and Oluikpe (2000) in the Nigerian Universal Basic Education Journal maintained that the introduction of UBE into the nation is one of the steps in improving the literacy level of the Nigerian citizens. This is because UBE is directed towards sustainable and efficient education of all cadre of the Nigerian populace-the young and the adults. The broad objective is that there would be increased enrolment in the school system. In other words, the implementation of UBE will lead to an astronomical rise in educational enrolment. This rise in the number of school children will mean an increase in class size, thereby, a rise in the pressure on the class teacher.
Ngonebu and Oluikpe (2000) stated that a common feature in our institutions of learning is the large number of students taught by a single teacher. With such a high teacher-student ratio, the teacher has no option but to adopt self-help measures, which are in no way ideal or adequate for appropriate Language learning. This is why; the researcher wants to investigate the effects of class size in Senior School Students Essay Writing in English Language.
At the University level, the government advocates an admission ratio of 60:40 in favour of the sciences. This shows that English Language classes have also witnessed an increased enrollment across all the educational levels. Otagburuagu (1991) pointed out that the fact that before 1970, English Language classes at all levels of the educational system in Nigeria hardly exceeded 40 students per class; but between 1970 and 1990, an explosion occurred in enrolment in educational institutions without a corresponding rise in academic staff and materials. The result was that the average class size, whether for the teaching of English Language or any other subject for that matter, grew significantly to challenge the managerial expertise of the teacher.
Researchers the world over are now showing a growing interest into the investigation of large class size as it affects learning and achievement. Coleman (1989) contends that there is a growing need to study the large class phenomenon as it affects teaching and learning. Consequently, the present researcher has the need to investigate effect of class size on Senior Secondary School Students’ Performance in Essay Writing in English Language.
In Nigeria, the average class size varies from one level of education to another and at the tertiary level from one discipline to the other. The National Policy on Education (NPE) recommends a class size of 20 for the pre-primary level, and 30 for the primary level. The policy was silent on secondary education, but the practice has been to have a class size of 40. It then follows that anything in excess of the recommended number is abnormal, and if the excess is more than 10, the class can be regarded as large.
At the university level today, over 200 students share the same facility. In the Use of English Course, Classes range from 80 to 500 students while facilities and classroom arrangements have been for classes whose sizes would not exceed 40 or 60. The immediate result is that students struggle for seats and facilities. Otagburuagu (1992) pointed out, therefore, that there are attitudinal, cultural, political as well as pedagogic considerations inter-playing to make a particular class size ideal, normal, abnormal, large or unreachable. He stated further that while it may be outrageous to teach English in a class of 50 students in some advanced countries of the world, in Indonesia, such a class size would be regarded as ideal. Harmar (1991) considers a class of 40 as large since according to her, most of the students cannot get the chance of participating effectively in language activities. Virginia Locastro (1989) reports that in Japan, the average largest class size is 45 and the normal one is 38, while small class size falls between 4 to 7. The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recommend 1:30; 1:35 teacher/pupil ratio for primary and secondary schools respectively. From the present researcher’s perspective, a class in which the teacher is not able to give enough individual attention to students due to the size of the class can be considered as large. The incidence of large class negates the principles of communicative approach to language teaching. Many of the students will not have the opportunity of practicing the communication skills. This means they can neither try out their hypotheses of language use nor obtain feedback on their performance. Learners’ perceptions of difficulties in a large class reveal that their main problem is the ineffective management of the class-noise, too much noise, lack of individual attention to learners, teachers’ feedback on class assignment often is not forthcoming-all these are problems of management.
Gender is a variable that plays an important role in learning. It refers to varied socially and culturally constructed roles, qualities, behaviour and so on that are ascribed to women and men of different societies (UNICEF) Ashford, Locrory and Lortie (2001) see gender as the social definitions of male and female. It represents a socially constructed concepts and not a fact of nature with specific biological imperatives. The studies carried out by Okoye (2003), Onyegegbu (1999) and Lagoke, Jegede and Oyebanyi (1995) agree that there is a significant difference between the performances of male and female academically.
Gender comes into play in essay writing if we remember that personal orientation and thinking styles play a crucial role in performance. Personality characteristics also play an important role in learning and performance. One of the chief aims in studying English is to express one’s thoughts effectively and in a written examination and this is best shown in a connected composition.
In the light of the above, the researcher intends to investigate the effect of class size on Senior Secondary School’s students’ Performance in Essay Writing in English Language in Nsukka Education Zone of Enugu State. This is as result of the apparent increase in enrolment in schools in the Zone due to the on-going Universal Basic Education Programme, as well as the new realization by most people of the need to be educated.
Statement of the Problem:
English Languages not only Nigerian’s official Language, but also the medium through which Nigerians interact with the outside world. It is also the medium of instruction at secondary and tertiary institutions. This has made it so important that it has remained a subject of constant examination and analysis. However, many students fail the English Language examinations because of a number of reasons. This prompts the researchers choice of effect of class size on Senior Secondary School Students’ Performance in Essay Writing in English.
The great philosopher essayist, Sir Francis Bacon, has written: “Reading maketh a full man, and writing an exact man”. Writing is said to be a highly sophisticated and individualistic activity. Since writing is a solitary affair, it is likely to be affected by the writer’s disposition and competence in writing components. The experience of several teachers suggests that the phenomenon of large class is widespread, and might have influence on students’ essays. Researchers the world over are now showing a growing interest into the investigation of large class size as it affects learning and achievement. The question, which this study seeks to provide answer for is “What is the effect of class size on Senior Secondary School Students’ Performance in Essay Writing in English Language.
Purpose of the Study
The general purpose of this study is to determine a workable panacea for the improvement of students’ performance in the English Language.
Specifically, the study intends to find out if class size has any effect on students essay writing in the English Language.
Again, this study intends to find out the mean achievement scores of male and female students in essay writing.
More so, the study stands to verify the effect of interaction of treatment and gender on students’ achievement in essay writing.