Abysmal Failure in English Studies, Dearth of Expertise (1)

Written by Akeem Alao

The quality of a teacher is better assessed through the performance of their students, mostly in an external examination. Performance in an internal examination is believed to be influenced by scores in continuous assessments. It is a bit hard to genuinely assess the quality of the teachers through their students’ academic performance in internal examination. When students sit an external examination or face challenges outside their school, it then becomes easier to assess the teachers and their pedagogic services.
In the result released by an examining body recently, there was a shocking revelation that a larger percentage of the candidates brilliantly failed English Language. The performance of these candidates represents the quality of teaching in our schools. The truth must be told. It is unethical to trade or pass blames on the students. It has become characteristic of us teachers to blame our students for poor academic performance. We often claim that the students are faced with a lot of distractions such their activities on social media, affection for music and other sybaritic lifestyles. Sometimes we complain bitterly that the minds of the students are divided, they develop little or no reading culture, they bank largely on “special examination centres” where some assistance is rendered during examination. At times, blames are smeared on the parents. We complain that the students are overindulged and pampered rotten by the parents; they fail to complement teachers’ efforts. These are some of the flimsy excuses we pass to exonerate ourselves. It seems very hard for teachers to accept responsibility for their students’ poor performance.
Dearth of Expertise
In this part of the world, the teaching of the language, most especially at the primary and secondary school levels, is entrusted in the hands of teachers who are only passionate about the language but lack the intellectual and pedagogic expertise to teach it. In most schools, it is not uncommon to see teachers in sciences teaching English Studies, even the terminal classes preparing to sit WAEC and NECO. What is the fate of these students?
The teaching and learning of English Studies requires a sufficient knowledge of grammar, phonetics and collocation. It is required that whoever that shoulders the responsibility to prepare the students for examinations must be well-grounded in the above three area. There is a symbiotic relationship among them, and they require sound formal training. But it is unfortunate that most of us teachers of English Studies in both primary and secondary schools are completely weak in grammar and phonetics. It is utterly impossible for a teacher to give what they do not have. There is this erroneous belief that fluent speakers of English are ipso facto efficient teachers of English Studies. Some teachers pick up a grammar book and memorise all the archaic rules of traditional grammar. They lack the intellectual gravitas and academic qualifications to either perform beyond the textbook or ascertain if there are errors in the textbook.

About the author

Akeem Alao

Akeem Alao trained as a language teacher. He graduated from Adeniran Ogunsanya college of Education where he studied English/Yoruba Languages and Ekiti State University where he obtained a degree in English Education.

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