Background of the Study
Language is an arbitrary system of symbols which enables man to communicate an infinite number and variety of messages, meanings, intentions, thoughts, requests and items of information. It is involved in thinking, memory and reasoning, problem-solving and planning. Indeed, language is involved in higher order mental processes. It is also a means of cultural and value transmission from one generation to the next or one country to the other (Uzoegwu, 2010). Language is a veritable tool of communication and it is an aspect of culture that is highly valued. It is used to convey ideas, thoughts and feelings and crucial for all aspects of learning. It is a vehicle of thought and the lack of command of a particular language makes thoughts inexpressible because only those who can understand any language can express themselves in that language (Onuigbo, 2009).
Language remains one of the most important characteristics of human behaviour and a uniquely human trait shared by individuals in different cultures. It is man’s ability to use language for purposes of communication that distinguishes him from other animals. In fact, man is the only animal that has evolved and perfected the use of language as a medium of expression. Of all the languages in the world, English Language seems the most popular. It is regarded as one of the major languages of African countries, so widespread in its use, and so essential a tool in everyday life. In many countries, including Nigeria, it is the official language, the language of administration of the law, and a medium of communication between people from different ethnic groups. It has been recognised as a powerful and an indispensable tool for national development and also the language of instruction at all levels in Nigerian schools. This is expressed in Mgbodile (2000), when he reported that in Nigeria’s educational system, English Language enjoys an unchallenged position. According to him
it became the first important subject in the school
curriculum, and a pass in it was considered compulsory
for the award of many of the country’s certificates including
the First School Leaving Certificate (FSLC ), the London General
Certificate in Education (GCE) and later the West African Senior
School Certificate (WASC) Even for admission into Nigeria’s higher
institutions, a good pa ss level in English was an important
condition. For employment in the Nigeria labour market,
a good knowledge was not only required but seen as an asset
English Language is the medium of instruction for all school subjects from the primary school level to the university, in addition to being a compulsory school subject that must be passed at all levels of education in Nigeria (Ajugo, 2007). In fact, a good mastery of English Language cannot be compromised especially in the Nigerian educational sector. This is because it has become the pivot on which the educational wheel rotates and as such proficiency in it will be a guarantor in making the learning of other subjects much easier. It therefore implies that students who are deficient in this language would not perform well in various other subjects.
In Nigeria, over the years, students’ achievement in West African Senior School Examination has continued to be poor as shown by WAEC Chief Examiners’ Reports. This is particularly worrying because it would be impossible for any candidate to do well in any other examination if English Language as a medium of expression is not mastered, a situation that does not and will never augur well for national development. Most of the students cannot advance to higher schools because of their inability to obtain a credit pass in this subject which is a prerequisite for admission into most courses in the tertiary institutions (Fakeye, 2002). Many of the students normally pass other subjects but English, whereas an excellent performance in these other subjects without a pass in English would amount to nothing. This low achievement is particularly evident in Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. It is disheartening to note that students’ achievement in English Language in Federal Capital Territory in public examinations such as WASSCE and NECO has been on the low side. In fact, the achievement has remained below 40% in the past six years. In 2005, it was 10.8%, 15.2% in 2006, 32% in 2007, 35% in 2008, 23% in 2009 and 17% in 2010. (Source: FCT Education Resource Centre, Measurement and Evaluation Unit).
In the Federal Capital Territory, a lot of efforts are made by the government to improve students’ general academic achievement and English Language in particular. There is the provision of instructional materials, improved instructional strategies, workshops and seminars and recruitment of qualified teachers among many other factors. Most schools in the territory can actually boast of standard student-teacher ratio, language laboratory, equipped and standard library, conducive learning environment, exposure to language based co-curricular activities and even international oriented exchange programmes aimed at improving the learning of English as a second language. In spite of all these efforts, there are still evidences of low achievement in the subject and the situation has left all concerned worried.
Federal Capital Territory, Abuja is a territory with a peculiar environment. This is because it is a place where people from different cultural, economic, social, religious and educational backgrounds converge. There are also people with diverse orientation and attitude towards education and life generally. As the administrative headquarter of Nigeria, people from all corners of the country have access to, and reside in the territory in pursuit of their livelihood. Children from these homes make up the students of the schools in the territory.
The home environments of these children differ in many ways. Home environment refers to all the objects, forces and conditions in the home which influences the child physically, emotionally and intellectually. Home environment varies in many aspects. Such variations can be seen in parental occupation, parental level of education, family size and type among many other variations. Students coming from different homes are affected differently by the variations academically, morally socially (Fakeye, 2010). Out of all the effects that the home environment may have on the child, academic achievement (intellectual) will be singled for this study.
In the FCT, there are different classes of occupations. These classes include political class, corporate executives, civil servants, public servants, clerics, big-time businessmen and women, traders, artisans and farmers. Some parents pay little or no attention to their children because they are so busy due to the nature of their occupation. This is usually at the detriment of the children who are left in the hands of house helps that automatically become part-time parents to the children. These children, in most cases may have enough money to spend due to the economic status of their parents. Unfortunately, these ‘part- time’ parents hardly ever play parental roles such as monitoring and supervising their academic activities. In the FCT, many adolescents are distracted from academics; especially those from wealthy homes. They spend their time in partying, jumping from one video shop to other and engage in some other activities that affect academic achievement negatively. This type of home environment makes little or no provision for family relationship and reduces parental involvement which is an influential factor in students’ achievement and motivation. This is because only students whose parents are closely involved in their school lives and who monitor their progress fare best in school (Pena, 2000).
On the other hand, some students come from home environments where the provision of basic needs of life is not quite easy. These children are expected to engage in hawking and doing menial jobs for the rich in the territory in order to raise money that will help in their education. Most times, they come to school psychologically depressed and physically weak, a condition that affects their attentiveness and participation in class activities.