[lg policy] Nigeria: Stakeholders flay govt policy on English Language

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jan 12 16:16:04 UTC 2011

 Stakeholders flay govt policy on English Language
 Wednesday, 12 January 2011 00:00  Nigerian Compass
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*In a fresh move to redress the trend of mass failure in school, especially
in English Language and Mathematics, the Federal Government has unfolded
plans to replace English Language with English Studies. But stakeholders say
such move will not address the problem. KAYODE OLANREWAJU, YEKEEN NURUDEEN,

THE Federal Government is uncomfortable with the alarming rate of students’
failure in core subjects such as English Language and Mathematics at the
Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE).

To address this problem, the Federal Government last week, spoke of plans to
replace English Language with English Studies in the secondary school

This, according to the Education Minister, Prof. Ruqqayatu Rufai, who
unfolded the government’s initiative at a meeting with heads of agencies
under the ministry, will not only reduce the incidence of mass failure but
also improve the reading culture among students.

She expressed optimism that the initiative would yield the desired results
and checkmate the anomaly that over the years had dogged the education

In the results of the November/December 2010 West African Senior School
Certificate Examination (WASSCE) released by the West African Examinations
Council (WAEC) in December last year, only 20.04 per cent of the candidates
who sat the examination obtained credit in English Language, Mathematics and
at least three other subjects.

In 2008 and 2009, the percentage stood at 23.54 and 21.96 per cent

The scenario is more worrisome with the National Examination Council (NECO),
which recorded about 18.7 per cent in its May/June 2010 SSCE.

Faced with this appalling situation, the minister said: “Come 2011 academic
session, English Language as taught in schools will now include some
portions of literature and will now be called English Studies.

“The move, when properly articulated, will check mass failure in our schools
among students in English Language and will go a long way to encourage
students to read more,” the minister had told the gathering.

However, stakeholders are divided over this move, which they consider as
another policy somersault and lack of will power on the part of the Federal
Government to admit its failure to give the country qualitative education.

Itsejua Sagay, a Professor of Law, said, “I cannot understand why government
in this country would not want to take responsibility for its failure. If we
had a government that is ready to take responsibility, it would not believe
in policy somersaults but would be ready to admit its failure and find
immediate solution.

“What do they meant by changing from English Language to English Studies.
What are they going to achieve with this? Why is our government dodging the
need to make our children proficient in their studies? All these policy
somersaults will lead us to nowhere, because they are distractions which
will do more harm than good for the nation’s education sector.”

To address the ugly development, he maintained that teachers must be well
remunerated, schools must be adequately equipped with up-to-date training
facilities, while training and retraining of teachers must not be

For students to be proficient in English Language, the government should
stock school libraries with books rather than playing lip service to
education development.

Mr. Iloh Stephen, a communication expert, argued: “What is the essence of
English Studies without functional libraries in schools?”

He recalled his secondary school days at Ajuwa Grammar School, Okeagbe-Akoko
in Akoko North-West Local Government Area of Ondo State; how their
Principal, Chief Guy Garguilo, made Library an integral component of the
school curriculum.

Stephen reminisced: “Then, Library was a period on the timetable for Form
One and Two and attendance was taken very seriously, because that class was
being supervised by the principal himself. He would lead us to the library
and read some novels to us. Apart from this, it was compulsory for every
student to borrow books at least on two-week basis.

“The principal on weekly basis would go to the borrowers’ list to check for
students who had not borrowed books in those two week. he would force such
students to borrow books; and after reading them, they would be asked to
narrate what they read to Garguilo. That was the routine.

“It was a competition among the students as we were reading novels as
Treasure Island, Animal Farm, James Hardley Chase collections, Mills &
Boons, African Writers Series, among others. Because of this, we had many of
the students obtaining A1 in English Language.

“Going through our secondary schools today, how many schools have
well-stocked libraries, not to mention having Library as part of their
curriculum and timetable. These, among others, are the issues the government
should address and not merely change the nomenclature of the subject.”

An English teacher in one of the secondary schools in Lagos, who does not
want his name in print, argued that government is merely creating additional
problem for the system.

“Many of the students go to school without books; even the ones they have
they do not read. Teachers are more or less spoon-feeding the pupils.

Though he affirmed that English Studies has already been introduced at the
Junior Secondary School (JSS) level, he said he believed the failure level
would increase rather than decrease.

“If the children who could not read or write simple English are now
subjected to or confronted with literary terms and literature, which will be
too cumbersome for them, what then will the result be?” He asked.

But an official of the Nigerian Educational, Research Development Council
(NERDC) explained that what the Federal Government want to do is expose
pupils to all the ingredients of the language such as composition, grammar
and literature.

He maintained that it would be bad for students to study the language
without knowing its components; hence the new initiative.

Alhaji Musa Talle, National President, National Parent Teacher Association
of Nigeria (NAPTAN), is not impressed with the new Federal Government
initiative either.

Does government have to come up with ‘English Studies’ in the place of
‘English Language’ to make pupils proficient in their reading? How many of
the policy makers in the country today went through ‘English Studies’ before
getting to where they are today? He asked rhetorically.

While restating parents and teachers’ readiness to support all genuine
efforts to transform the education system, Talle said the current initiative
by the Federal Government would be absolutely unnecessary if it would in the
end retard the sector.

What the country needs now, he noted, is for the teachers and other workers
in the sector to be well remunerated, while schools should be equipped with
adequate facilities required to transform the system.

“No matter what name the government adopts, if schools have no functional
and well equipped libraries, it would be an exercise in futility,” he

While describing the government’s move as another policy somersault, Prof.
Ukachukwu Awuzie, the National President of the Academic Staff Union of
Universities (ASUU), wondered how changing the curriculum from English
Language to English Studies would address the lack of proficiency among the

He described the current move as another political statement from the
government, aimed at cementing their political office.

Awuzie said if the government is really desirous of addressing the problem,
it should convene an education summit where all stakeholders would meet and
brainstorm on the problems plaguing the sector, and proffer workable
solutions to them.

Such meeting, according to the union leader, would afford stakeholders the
opportunity to find lasting solutions to the problems of education so that
all forms of failure that had been a recurrent decimal from primary to
tertiary education levels would be a thing of the past.

His words: “The crises in the nation’s eduction as well as poor proficiency
among school children go beyond curriculum changing. The truth is that we
are facing serious problem of manpower in the sector.

“How many colleges of education and universities can boast of up-to-date
literature for their students? When the graduates of such institutions are
ill-equipped, what are they going to offer pupils at primary and secondary

“Therefore, it is unfair on the part of government to be talking about
changing the curriculum without taking into consideration giving the best
education to those at the tertiary level, because they are the one that will
train pupils at the primary and secondary levels.

“The multiplier effect of quality education at the colleges of education,
polytechnics and universities will be directly felt with better result as
well as proficiency of language among pupils.”

But Prof. Denremi Razaq Abubakre, former Vice-Chancellor of Al-Hikmah
University, Ilorin and now of the Faculty of Arts, University of Ilorin,

He believes government’s decision to replace English Laguage with English
Studies is a good one. He believes it would help students to read wider
since the subject will be more encompassing, as it go beyond merely knowing
the rules of the language.

Abubakre said that by the arrangement, student would now have to read more
of the literature, even when such a student is not an Arts student.

His words, “It is a good development. And what we call English Language now
is not English Language because the essence of the the language is for the
students to improve their vocabulary. Students are losing out because they
are merely learning the rules of the language since it is language-based.

“They are busy learning to speak, comprehension, lexis and structures,
composition while the rudiments that will make one master all these are
embedded in studying of the language more broadly.

“They will be reading more of literature now. And when you are reading
literature books, you are improving your language power.”


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