This study evaluated the teaching of English language in senior secondary schools in Gombe State. In doing so, the study adopted the evaluative survey research design. Evidence abounds of the low performance of Senior Secondary students in English language in Gombe State. The 2006 to 2011 report of the Chief examiner, West African Examinations Council reveals that candidates’ performance in the examinations between those periods was always poor. The report clearly shows that there was no improvement in the performance of candidates who sat for English language in Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSCE) in some states of the country including Gombe State. Therefore, the inclusion of Gombe State in the list of states with candidates whose performances were woeful in the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination, (SSCE) by West African Examinations Council’s Report, paints a clear picture of lack of adequate knowledge of the language among Senior Secondary School students in Gombe State. Perhaps, myriads of factors may have combined to account for this ugly state of affairs, which possibly could include motivational and curricula issues, among others as they relate to the teachers in the study area. The general purpose of the study is to evaluate the teaching of English language in senior secondary schools in Gombe State. Specifically, the study sought to: Find out the demographic characteristics of English language teachers, determine the methods used by the teachers in teaching the English language, ascertain the instructional materials available for teaching English language, ascertain the extent of the utilization of the available instructional materials in teaching the English language, and to find out the adequacy of classroom environment for the teaching of the English language in the senior secondary schools in Gombe State. The area of the study covered Gombe South Education Zone comprising Balanga, Billiri, Kaltungo and Shongom Local Government Areas of Gombe State. Five research questions and two null hypotheses were formulated to guide the study. The study population of the study comprised 113 English language teachers in all the study area in the State. Random sampling technique was used to draw one education zone (Gombe South Education Zone) out of the three education zones in Gombe State. Data were collected using a researcher- made teachers of English language Questionnaire (TELEQ). The instrument was validated by three experts and both from the Department of Arts Education, Science Education and the Institute of Education of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. The reliability coefficient of obtained were 0.98, 0.99, 0.94, 0.88, and 0.92 for section B, C, D, E and F respectively with a reliability coefficient of 0.94. Data collected were analyzed using the t-test statistics in testing the two null hypotheses at 0.05 level of significance. The findings of the study indicated that 59% of the teachers possessed B.ED degree, while 50% of teachers specialized in English language; 58% of teachers had 6-10 years of teaching experience; The finding on method of teaching indicate that direct method was the method often used with 95% in teaching while cognate and silence way methods were the least used while Radio cassettes is the instructional materials mostly used by the teachers. Base on the results, It was recommended that there should be adequate supply of English teachers in various secondary schools in Gombe State, teaching facilities should be properly upgraded in various secondary schools in Gombe State, the government should ensure adequate funding of all the secondary schools in Gombe State, and English language teachers should be motivated to enable them teach efficiently.
Background of the Study
No society can exist without a language since it is a means of communication among human beings. As human beings develop their linguistic repertoires through series of reinforcement, examples, imitations and precepts. In a strict sense, therefore, language, according to Wilson (2009), is an artificial and consciously organized method of control by the use of symbols and conventions which involve the notion of meaning. Language, according to Tondo (2002) is a system of conventional, arbitrary symbols by which members of a community communicate with one another. other. Wardhau (1988) defined it as some unitary system of linguistic communication, which subsumes a number of mutually intelligible varieties. Language is an instrument through which members of a given community communicate. Language gives its users the opportunity to communicate with one another in terms of feelings and desires (Linfors, 2009).
Nigeria is one of the countries with myriads of languages. Each ethnic group has its own language with its dialectal varieties. Bamgbose (2007) has estimated about 400 local languages in Nigeria, yet no ethnic group is ready to abandon its language since all languages are taken as veritable instruments of communication among the users. The absence of linguistic unity in the country has therefore led to the emphasis placed on the English language as a major medium of instruction in educational institutions in the country. English language was introduced into Nigeria by the colonial masters to help them administer the colonized people, spread their religion, and carry on their commercial activities. With the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates of Nigeria in 1914, English language became the official language of Nigeria and has continued to perform this function until today. In Nigeria, English is the language of politics, religion, sports, trade, and commerce, education, science, and technology.
Ufomata (2014) argued that the domains of English in an ESL context like Nigeria tend to be formal. It is the official language which in essence means it serves the language of government, education, commerce, and to a limited extent, social integration, especially among the educated elite. Within Nigeria alone, it is estimated that nearly 400 languages are spoken (Agheiyisi, 2004 Bamgbose, 2007). According to Ufomata (2014) in the context of such multilingualism it is important for the government to stick to neutral language such as English, as the official language. English has the additional advantage of long association, being the language of the colonial rulers. It is also a world language with all the advantages accruing to an individual who speaks such a language both nationally and internationally. Kachru (1986:1) argued that, “Competence in English and the use of this language signify a transmutation; an added potential for material and social gains and advantages. One sees this attitude in what the symbols stand for. English is considered a symbol of modernism, and an extra area for success and mobility in culturally and linguistically complex and pluralistic societies. English, Ufomata (2014). writes, enjoys a wider geographical spread than any of the indigenous languages within Nigeria. Whatever the language of discussion, a serious business transaction is sealed up in writing in English. In education, English is introduced as a subject from the first year in primary schools and used as a medium and subject of instruction from the third year through secondary and tertiary education. In recent years, oral English has become an integral part of senior secondary syllabus and examination in English language, Ufomata (2014). The official attitude of the regional examining body the (West African Examinations Council), which conducts these examinations, is that test of continuous writing, comprehension and objective test of lexis and structure should be assessed based on the mastery of standard of English language as currently used by educated African writers and speakers of English in the commonwealth.
Ufomata (2014) is of the view that as far as oral English language is concerned, no explicit policy statements have been issued. She goes further to argue that the mode of testing is still evolving, constituting additional burdens on schools since they are ill prepared for teaching the subject. She wrote that students generally are required to perceive and produce vowel/consonant contrasts and to recognize attitudinal functions of intonation. Ufomata observed that it is not clearly stated which accent is being tested. She wrote that the entire oral English examination has been known to be concludes in objective tests, with no perception on performance tests given. The author concludes that what seems to be the case is that whereas the educational authorities realize the importance of teaching English language (Oral English), in schools, they find themselves unable and or unwilling to provide the necessary funds and support for the effective teaching and testing of the subject. Ufomata stated that the results of a pilot study they conducted show that oral English is not taught in most public schools in Nigeria, and where it is taught at all, it is done inadequately and ineffectively. The importance of English is very much noticed in the field of education in Nigeria. English language is the tool for the effective teaching and learning of other school subjects. A credit level pass in English language in the senior secondary certificate examination or its equivalent is an essential requirement for admission into any higher institution of learning in Nigeria, no matter the course of study. As a result of the important role of the English language in the Nigerian educational system, the Federal Government, through her National Policy on Education (NPE, 2004) made English language a compulsory subject in her school system from the primary, secondary to the tertiary levels. Tiffen (2009) accurately captures all the pervading roles of English in Nigeria when he asserts that:
English can now be regarded as one of the major African languages, so widespread is its use and, so essential as a tool in everyday life. In many countries, it is the official language, the national language of administration, law, the national press, commerce and political unity, (p.56).
It is true that English still occupies a pride of place in our national life. The language still serves as the language of communication and interaction amongst the different ethnic groups in Nigeria whose languages are usually unintelligible. In spite of all the efforts to make Nigerians learn any one of the three dominant languages – Hausa, Igbo, or Yoruba as the national language, the English language has remained the common tongue of all tribes and the language of unity of the nation as a sovereign entity.
The need to have a single language as a means of communication in order to cement the relationship among people has always spurred the government to promote and vigorously campaign for the idea of every Nigerian mastering one of the three major ethic languages. This can be seen from the Federal Republic of Nigeria (2004: 9) document which states that,
In addition to appreciating the importance of language in the educational process, and as a means of preserving the people’s culture, Government considers it to be in the interest of national unity that each child should be encouraged to learn one of the three major languages.
Since this goal has not been fully attained, the desire of the Federal Government of Nigeria has centered on what to do to enable students attain some level of proficiency in English language and to also enable them to fully participate in the educational, social, economic, and political aspects of the Nigerian society which appear to be substantially driven by the English language.
Oluikpe (1979) in Otagburaugu (1996) cites the Daily Times editorial lamentation about the poor performance of students in English language. In his words: “This June all the Universities will produce as usual, thousands of graduates who assume that the nation is theirs merely by the fact of obtaining University education.”
University lecturers all over the country have had a litany of complaints, namely, the poor quality of the writing of their graduates. It seems insufferable that the nation should tolerate people who not only cannot write well but also are not humble enough to want to learn …One University is even suggesting remedial courses in English and writing for graduates. The same cry and complaint has continued nearly thirty six years after the Daily Times expressed this dismay on the poor English language performance of Nigerian students. Recently, the World Bank published a similar view: The recent study conducted by the World Bank (The Guardian 19, Feb, 2001) indicates an abysmally low level performance in English of Nigerian graduates. One of the two major areas where this extremely low level of performance is glaring is in the graduate’s poor mastery of the English language. The Guardian newspaper quotes the world Banks’ critical Report thus.
The shortcomings are particularly severe in oral and written communication … Most employers of fresh graduates observed that the quality of University graduates has worsened … Poor abilities in oral and written expressions of English were mentioned almost like chorus inadequate preparation in the English language was especially noted by Newspapers… where regular reporting and writing is required. As a illustration of the depth of poor English proficiency, one Banker told us that he cannot get five correct drafted sentences in one paragraph from recent University graduates … Some graduates who were recruited as senior managers cannot write a memo of three paragraphs …(1-2).
In spite of the pervasive role of the English language in Nigeria, it appears that the schools have been doing less than a good job in imparting the knowledge of the subject to the students. Teachers, educators, examiners, and even parents have often decried the mass failure of candidates in the English language examination in the SSCE and other similar examination bodies. Many teachers have no training in the teaching of English language in senior secondary schools in Nigeria. How well English language is in taught senior secondary schools in Nigeria is determined by a number of variables among which are: the personality of the teacher; the teaching experience; the method of teaching employed by the teacher; the teaching resources available to the instructor and his/her qualifications. The availability or lack of the above mentioned variables will go a long way in determining the student’s perception of the teaching of English language in senior secondary schools. This necessitates the introduction of language education.
Language education impacts the practical learning skills: listening; speaking, reading and writing to enable the students use the language effectively, competently and intelligently. According to Maurine (2008), the goals of language teaching are to improve the knowledge of language learners so that they can function better in their studies, in their work, and in their interaction with people from other cultures.
To re-engineer English language teaching and learning in order to make the products of Nigerian educational institutions contribute to sustainable development, the teacher will take into cognizance the important role the English language plays in the life of Nigerian users and tailor instructions to meet these goals. The target would be to make the learners master all aspects of the English sound system (phonology), its grammar and lexis the writing system, and the semantics for effective communication in that medium.
English language teaching and learning as a second language in Nigeria’s educational system is in the hands of English language teachers. The objective of second language teaching, according to Tiffen (2009: 14) is to make learners have a complete grasp of the subject matter of the language. He goes further to state that:
English language teaching in Africa is not simply a question of refining a language already known or of acquiring a certain amount of the language for cultural or limited purposes. It is a question of ensuring that pupils have a complete mastery of the language, and ability to use it, which is almost second nature.