EFFECTS OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY ON THE ACADEMIC PERFORMANCES OF STUDENTS IN SECONDARY SCHOOLS
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
English Language proficiency refers to the ability of students or learners to be able to possess writing skills, listening skills, reading skills and speaking skills in English Language. According to American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language (ACTFL, 2008), language proficiency or linguistic proficiency is the ability of an individual to speak or perform in an acquired language. It argued that theories vary among pedagogues as to what constitutes proficiency.
The multi-lingual and multi-cultural nature of Nigerian polity on the one hand and the absence of a national unifying indigenous language on the other have led to the adoption of English language as a medium of intra-national and inter-national communication (Fakeye 2006) . More importantly English language has become the pivot on which the educational wheel of Nigeria rotates. The 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 Ajufo (2007).
The poor performance of students in English language at public examinations in recent times has been explained as a major cause of the decline in academic achievement and standard of education in Nigeria. As Maleki and Zangani (2007) observe, having difficulties in grasping fully the contents and concepts of the various subjects of the curriculum taught in the target language (English language) seems to be one of the most serious problems that EFL students face in their particular course of study.
This is the same problem with Nigerian ESL students whose performance in the various schools subjects at public examinations is nothing to write home about. This might be due to their weaknesses in English language, the medium of instruction, which may have negative consequences on their overall academic achievement. In the argument of Feast (2002), when students are deficient in the language of instruction, it follows that they would not perform well in the various school subjects taught in the target language. Therefore, the overall performance of Nigerian ESL students depends, to a very large extent, on their English language proficiency. Bachman (1990) defines language proficiency as the language ability or ability in language use. Oller (1983) avers that language proficiency is not a single unitary ability, but that it consists of several distinct but related constructs in addition to a general construct of language proficiency.
The relationship between students overall academic achievement in the content areas and their language proficiency has been examined by scholars. Butler and Castellon – Wellington (2000) compared students’ performance in content areas to concurrent performance on a language proficiency test and found a correlation between the two. Ulibarri, Maria, Spencer and Rivas (1981) examined the relationship between Hispanic students’ performance in English language tests and their achievement in Mathematics and discovered that the language test data were not very useful in predicting achievement in Mathematics. Bayliss and Raymond (2004) examined the link between academic success and second language proficiency and concluded that the relationship between academic achievement and language proficiency disappears as students approach native-like proficiency levels. So this study focuses on the effects of English language proficiency in secondary schools, using Iwo local government as a case study.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The level of English language proficiency has been an important requirement for the comprehension of other subjects offered in secondary schools. The poor performance of students has been connected to poor English language proficiency.
The poor performance of Nigerian senior, secondary school students in various school subjects at public examinations has often been blamed on their weakness in English language which is the medium through which knowledge in school subjects is transferred to learners.
Deficient English Language use skills could affect academic performance of students in a country like Nigeria where English Language is a second language.
This may result in poor academic achievement of students in cataloguing and classification. Students who have low English Language use skills might find it difficult to comprehend cataloguing and classification rules taught and may also be unable to express themselves properly in written tests and examinations.
The intent of this study is to investigate the effect of English language proficiency on the academic performance of students in secondary school, using Iwo local government as a case study.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The general objective of this study is to investigate the Effects of English Language proficiency on the academic performance of students in secondary school. The specific objectives are:
1. To find out secondary schools in Iwo local governments have qualified English Language teachers.
2. To ascertain the level of English language proficiency among secondary school students in Iwo LGA.
3. To investigate the impact of English Language proficiency on the poor academic performances of secondary schools in Iwo LGA.
4. To know if English language proficiency affects the rate at which students understand other subjects.
5. To examine if students with poor English language proficiency are able to express themselves properly in written tests and examinations.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The relevant research questions related to this study are:
1. Do secondary schools in Iwo local governments have qualified English Language teachers?
2. What is the level of English language proficiency among secondary school students in Iwo LGA?
3. What is the impact of English Language proficiency on the academic performances of secondary schools in Iwo LGA?
4. Does English language proficiency affects the rate at which students understand other subjects?
5. Are students with poor English language proficiency able to express themselves properly in written tests and examinations?
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The study provides an insight into the root cause of falling standard of secondary education in Nigeria.
Findings from this study will also help to raise the proficiency level of Nigerian secondary school students in English language as a way of addressing their poor academic achievement. The curriculum planners and all stakeholders in Education would also be sensitized about the indispensable position of English language in the overall knowledge acquisition process in formal education.
This study will enhance the existing body of literature by contemplating the areas of the literature that have not yet been examined or considered and incorporating these factors into the current study. The study will thus form the basis for further studies in the field.
1.6 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The scope of this study is focused on the effects of English Language proficiency on the academic performance of students in secondary school, using Iwo local government area as a case study.
1.7 LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
Some of the major constraints the researchers encountered in putting up this research include lack of time, lack of willingness to give information by respondent and also limited resources.