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THE WRITTEN ENGLISH OF UNDERGRADUATES ACROSS THREE ENGLISH LANGUAGE-BASED PROGRAMMES: IMPLICATIONS FOR CURRICULUM RENEWAL

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 Aug 07, 2022 |  09:16 pm |  73


THE WRITTEN ENGLISH OF UNDERGRADUATES ACROSS THREE ENGLISH LANGUAGE-BASED PROGRAMMES: IMPLICATIONS FOR CURRICULUM RENEWAL

 

CHAPTER  ONE

 

INTRODUCTION

1.1         Background to the Study

 This research work aimed at comparing the performance of B.A., B.A. Ed. and B.Ed English language students in written English, and identifying implications for curriculum renewal. Grammar, stylistic variation, discourse organization, mechanics of writing, vocabulary, expression, format and related errors constituted the variables used for the study.  This was done in recognition of the crucial roles that these variables play in the ability to write effectively.  One needs to imagine the futility of attempts to communicate effectively in writing with poor or lack of knowledge of these aspects of written English.

             Interest for the study developed out of the following circumstances:

(a)                the researcher’s exposure to university students’ performance in written English manifested in their written assignments, tests and semester examinations as well as research projects;

(b)               the researcher’s exposure to research reports and related academic works which describe the performance in question as poor (Adesanoye, 1976 and 1995; Bruns, 1992; Honey, 1995; Sledd, 1985; and Olaofe,1998); 

(c)                the long-standing controversy over superiority among the three programmes in terms of effectiveness in equipping students with a good command of the written (and spoken) English for effective communication (Adejare, 1984; Adeyanju, 1974, and

Olaofe, 1998) 

(d)               the researcher’s interest to investigate and obtain proof cogent                   enough to address the controversy mentioned above (Oderinde, 

                1990). and Olaofe, 1998). 

              Written English was chosen for the study in view of its far-reaching relevance to academic activities in formal school system. Other reasons include the dominant role that this form of English plays in the process of information dissemination, conduct of official communication within and among nations and the extensive research interests it generates in linguistics and literary studies across the world (Alderson & Scott, 1992; Bell & Burnaby, 1984; Beretta, 1992; Norris, 1990; and Rosen, 1988).

 The B.A., B.A. Ed. and B.Ed. English language students were chosen in consideration of the important role they play in the teaching and learning of English at various levels of education in the country. They constitute a good number of students who learn English at undergraduate level (JAMB,1998) and teach the language at post-primary and tertiary schools in the country (Adeyanju, 1986). 

The choice of B.A., B.A. Ed. and B.Ed. English language programmes was informed by their widespread adoption by Nigerian Universities and colleges of education (Adamu, 1994; NUC, 1990; & 1992). 

B.A. English language programme is offered in Faculties of Arts of the Nigerian Universities. The programme is designed to produce specialists in English language and/or literature (BUK, 1986; JAMB, 1988).  B. A. Ed. English language programme on the other hand was designed to produce professional and graduate teachers of English language and literature at the post-primary school level.  This programme is jointly offered by Faculties of Arts and

Faculties of Education in the universities (BUK, 1986; JAMB, 1998).  On its part, B.Ed.

English/Language Arts programme was offered either by Faculties of Education or Colleges of Education affiliated to them. The programme is designed to produce professional teachers for primary and post-primary schools (Abe, 1984; Olaofe, 1998; and Williams, 1990).

  The curricular content of the three programmes was also investigated with a view to ascertaining the programmes’ adequacy or otherwise in the various courses they offer.  This was aimed at identifying implications for curriculum renewal for the programmes and, in turn, addressing most of the students’ problems in written English.  

 

1.2         Relevance of the English Language in  Nigerian and Global Contexts

 

 The beginning of the relevance of English language in the Nigerian context was marked shortly after the arrival of the English colonists to the Nigerian scene. With their arrival, came the establishment of formal western schools, administrative machinery and business institutions which provided the initial and subsequent basis for the relevance of this language in the country.  This relevance has now reached a far-reaching dimension in Nigeria such that English is the official language, the medium of instruction and a core-subject at the primary and postprimary school levels as well as an area of specialization in higher institutions of learning. It is the language of the dominant print and electronic media, and the medium of communication in the law courts, parliaments and the executive arm of government (sections 51 and 91, and 53 and 95 of the Nigeria's 1979 and 1989 constitutions respectively, and Bamgbose, 1995). In the present dispensation, English is the unrivalled medium for wider communication in Nigeria; a master-key to knowledge in all disciplines, white-collar and professional jobs, social prestige and, to a considerable degree, socio-economic prosperity.

 Undoubtedly, the emergence of these cases of practical and important relevance of English to life generally in the Nigerian environment implies, for now, the indispensability of the language in the country.  One wonders, for example, how these instrumental functions of English can be adequately exploited if the language is not effectively taught and used especially at the undergraduate level.  This is more so in view of the expectation that undergraduates of the language may find themselves holding important positions as teachers, members of parliament, executives in public or private organizations, or journalists in the media.

  At the global level, the English language is reported to be used by not less than seven hundred million (700,000,000) people, half of whom are non-native speakers of the language

(Quirk, 1985:1). It is, perhaps, due to this enormous geographical spread of the language as a first, second or foreign language that English is described as “the language on which the sun does not set”, and “whose users never sleep" (Quirk, 1985).

This vast speakership and geographical coverage enjoyed by the English language indicates the need for research studies into the content of undergraduate English language programmes to explore ways in which their students can be more adequately equipped with the ability to communicate effectively in different communicative contexts.  Without this ability, they may not fit in well in the global context or into the public and private organisations at the national and international levels.

 Also, McCrum, Cran, & McNeil (1986) celebrate English as the language used in three out of every four world's mails, telexes and cables. These authors claim that more than half (50% +) of the world's technical and scientific periodicals are published in English, and that the same language is the medium of 80% of the information stored in the world's computers. These revelations show that this study is grappling with a language that serves as an international medium of communication for social, economic, political and educational purposes. That English language undergraduates are expected to find themselves in positions that demand the writing of mails, telexes, cables; as well as technical and scientific materials in order to meet such purposes, indicates the relevance of the study. 

  Another report on the global relevance of the English language indicates that over one billion and four hundred million (1,400,000,000) people live in countries where the language has official status (Graddol, 1996), and that one-fifth (1/5) of the world's population speak English to some level of competence. It is further indicated that English is the dominant language in the Internet, international sporting competitions, diplomacy, advertising, popular music, air-traffic and navigational control. It is also the medium of 60% of the world's radio broadcasts (Auletta,

1993; British Council, 1995; Kachru, 1983; Pennycook, 1994; and Strang, 1970).  The undergraduate students are expected to benefit from and contribute to these important world

affairs.

         With this position of English affecting the life of such a staggering number of people across the world, one needs to imagine how smooth and effective the process of Nigeria's internal and external diplomacy will be if diplomats and other top government officials, some of whom are expected to be graduates of English, have been well groomed to communicate effectively in




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