Poor Educational System Blamed for the Declining Quality of English Language In Nigeria Over the Last Decade

Abuja, Nigeria. August 30th, 2016 –Latest public opinion poll results released by NOIPolls in partnership with Language & Skills Development Consulting Ltd has revealed that almost 7 in 10 Nigerians (68 percent) stated that there is a decline in the quality of English grammar in Nigeria within the last decade. Also, the poll revealed that factors responsible for the decline in the quality of English grammar in Nigeria were found to be ‘poor educational system’ particularly in education administration, and the state of infrastructure in the Nigerian educational sector. Other top factors responsible for this decline include; ‘dearth of qualified English language teachers’, ‘cultural/environmental influence, ‘influence of mother tongue’ and the ‘influence of pidgin  English’.

Furthermore, the results also revealed that reading culture in Nigeria is relatively poor, as only 4 percent of Nigerians read a book or a piece of literary material daily. The poll also shows that only 65 percent of Nigerians understand or communicate effectively in English. Additionally, analysis of results showed that 76 percent of Nigerians stated that proficiency in English Language should be a prerequisite when recruiting candidates for a job in Nigeria. Opinions were that this would help improve the quality of English Language in Nigeria, by putting pressure on prospective candidates to learn the basics of the language.

Finally, the poll revealed that 89 percent of Nigerians are willing to pay a fee to help improve their written and spoken English, however, for general  improvement  in  English Language in Nigeria; Nigerians recommend that ‘only competent teachers should be employed to teach English language’, ‘good reading culture across the Nigerian landscape should be promoted’,’ continuous training of English language teachers’ and ‘Improvement  of the standard of education in public schools’ among several other suggestions.

These are the key findings from the Decline in grammar Poll conducted by NOIPolls in the week of JULY 14th 2016.

Brief Background

English language was introduced in Nigeria in the early 19th century by the British colonial administration. English language which has been rated as the world’s most popular language is a foreign language to Nigeria, and has been adopted as its national language. The English language has played a major role as the language of political unity in the country for many decades. Ethnographically, Nigeria has up to 250 ethnic groups, and 521 recognized indigenous languages.[1]

Owing to the multi lingual and culturally dynamic society in Nigeria, English language should be far from extinction because it brings commonality between the diverse ethnic groups.

Grammar which refers to the way words are used, classified, and structured together to form coherent written or spoken communication is a symbol of a good command of the English language.[2] The extent of grammar development in one’s vocabulary determines the accuracy and proficiency of written and spoken expressions. Education through communication is a way whereby people or groups are exposed to numerous English grammars. English dictionaries, novels, textbooks and spoken words are the means through which people learn and re-learn the English grammar.

Over the past decade, there has been a growing argument that the quality of English Language spoken in Nigeria is on the decline. This argument suggests a disparity between spoken and written communication. With the growing influence of technology and the era of social media, English language communication is expected to be improving in Nigeria, instead there seems to be a decline in the quality of grammar spoken in the country. This is evidenced by the recent poor performance of Nigerian students in the study of English language.[3] On 24th April 2014, it was published by National Examination Council (NEC) that Nigerian students performed poorly both in English language and General Mathematics, but performed well in Islamic, Igbo and Arabic studies during the WAEC examinations. [4]

Language is the vehicle of social interaction and we need effective language to function properly in the work place, social interaction, and indeed, for functional literacy. It must be emphasized that "a person is functionally literate when he/she has acquired the knowledge and skills in speaking,reading, listening and writing which enable him/her to engage effectively in all those activities in which literacy is normally assumed in his/her culture or group. [5]

Based on the above, NOIPolls in partnership with Language and Skills Development  Consulting Ltd conducted a survey to measure the opinions of Nigerians on the decline of English Language. Language & Skills Development Consulting Ltd  (LSDC Ltd) is a language school, HR/Training firm and a Mystery Shopping Service Provider. It concerns itself with helping individuals and organizations grow and hone their English (and other languages) skill and also offers business consulting services.

Survey Findings

In order to ascertain the proficiency of Nigerians on written and spoken English language in Nigeria, respondents were asked to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 10 (where 1 is very poor and 10 is excellent) in the aspects of spoken and written English. The survey revealed that on the average, respondents rated themselves 7.1 and 6.6 in the aspects of written and spoken expressions respectively.

Further analysis revealed that the female respondents rated themselves higher than the males at 7.3 compared to 6.9 in written expressions and 6.8 compared with 6.5 in spoken expression. This is in line with a perception that females in their formative ages tend to be more language active in terms of communicating with the English language.  Analysis of results based on gender revealed that women tend to understand the phonology and semantics of the English language better than men.

The poll also sought to measure the opinion of Nigerians about the decline in the proficiency of written and spoken English language within the period of ten years in Nigeria. The survey results revealed that 68 percent said ‘Yes’ it has declined and this further supports a World Bank  report, which revealed that Nigerian graduates have low performance in the area of mastery of the English Language and that the weaknesses were predominantly detected in oral and written communication.[6] The respondents from the South East zone had the highest proportion (85 percent) of Nigerians who believe that there is a decline in grammar.

In addition 32 percent disagreed; they maintained that the quality of the spoken and written English language in Nigeria has remained intact over the last decade. The largest number of respondents that differed about this decline is seen in the North West zone (44 percent).

To gain more insights, those who claimed that there was a deterioration in the proficiency of English language were further asked to mention factors responsible for the drop in its quality. The largest proportion, 23 percent, mentioned poor educational systems as one of the factors responsible citing that majority of schools, both elementary to tertiary, face the more urgent problem of basic infrastructure, lack of habitable classrooms and amenities students needed to study effectively. Another 21 percent blamed the teachers for the woes saying it was due to lack of qualified teachers. In order to study English language and master it, the student must be assisted by the teacher to acquire skills in the language which are speaking, reading and writing. But the survey revealed that teachers are not as devoted and dedicated to the cause of education as their predecessors.

The variation in the academic attainments of students could be related directly to differences in the home and its influence,while, 11 percent blamed it on cultural and environmental influence. The influence of modern technology was also mentioned by 9 percent which could be further supported by the study conducted by the Pew Research Center which found out that most students now rely mainly on search engines for assignments .

A child's first educational experience is centred in the home; his/her ideas, attitude and general pattern of behaviour are as a result of his/her childhood rearing, therefore, 8 percent said poor parental upbringing is responsible for the decline. Other factors mentioned were Lack of interest to learn (7 percent), poverty (6 percent), laziness in learning (5 percent), among others. Teachers as a group, 2 percent, also blame government for unattractive conditions of service and poor physical facilities in some parts of the educational system.

Furthermore, the poll sought to find out the opinion of Nigerians regarding testing English grammar proficiency when recruiting candidates for a job position. And analysis of results showed that 76 percent of Nigerians nationwide stated that, it is important to test a candidate’s proficiency in English Language when recruiting for a job position. Further analysis of this response revealed that most respondents in this category supported this notion because they think that it is important for employees of any organization to have a great command of English Language, so as to be able to engage all and sundry within their work environment and beyond.

More so, some respondents in this category supported the motion because English Language is one of Nigeria’s lingua-franca and hence a proficiency in the language is paramount when recruiting candidates for a job position.  More analysis of results across geo-political zones revealed that the South-South region (81 percent) had the highest percentage of respondent in this category, while the North-East region (66 percent) had the lowest percentage of respondents in this category.

On the contrary, 19 percent of respondents nationwide stated that they do not think proficiency in English Language should be tested when recruiting candidates for a job position. Further polling  showed most candidates in this category stated this fact because they think the proficiency in English grammar test should only be considered when the job role requires such.

Analysis of results across geo-political zones shows that the North- East region (27 percent) had the highest portion of respondents in this category, while the South-South region (12 percent) had the lowest portion of respondents in this category. It is however interesting to state that 5 percent of respondents nationwide were ‘indifferent’.   

The poll having established that about 68 percent of Nigerians nationwide think that there is a decline in the quality of spoken and written English grammar in Nigeria (see figure 4) the survey then sought to explore the opinion of Nigerians on measures and actions required to improve the quality of written and spoken English Language in Nigeria and analysis of results revealed that 29 percent of respondents nationwide stated that schools should ‘employ competent teachers’, this entails employing teachers that are qualified, certified by relevant regulatory bodies and properly equipped to teach English language. Whereas, 15 percent of respondents nationwide stated that ‘cultivating reading culture’ among the citizenry would help curtail this decline in the quality of written and spoken grammar in Nigeria.

Most respondents in this category backed up their standpoint by stating that reading good books develops one’s vocabulary, choices sentence structures  to emulate, and familiarity with writing itself. Further analysis of results revealed 11 percent of respondents nationwide stated  ‘continuous training of teachers’.

Respondents in this category opined that this continuous training of teachers of English language will ensure that teachers always improve their knowledge, evolve better methods of teaching and ultimately disseminate current and relevant knowledge of English language to students.

Also, another 11 percent of respondents stated that the ‘standard of education in public schools should be improved’ particularly infrastructural improvement, their opinion being that it would improve the learning condition in schools. Other suggestions included: ‘encourage English speaking and writing in schools’ (8 percent), ‘parental involvement’ (5 percent), ‘make quality education affordable’ (5 percent) among others.

The poll also sought to ascertain the reading habit of Nigerians and the survey results revealed that 59 percent of respondents nationwide stated that the last time they read a book ,journal, newspaper, or online publication was actually ‘less than a week’. Additional analysis results across geo-political zones revealed that the South-East region (70 percent) had the highest portion of respondents in this category, while the North-East region had the lowest percentage of respondents in this category. Analysis also showed that there were more males than females in this category (63 percent versus 55 percent).

Subsequently, the results revealed that 13 percent of respondents nationwide stated they had last read a book about ‘1-2 weeks ago’. Again there were more males than females in this category (14 percent versus 12 percent).Other mentioned reading patterns include: ‘3-4 weeks ago’ (8 percent),’1-3 months ago’ (9 percent), ‘4-6 months’ (1 percent) and ‘6-12 months’ (6 percent). Astonishingly, more analysis of results showed that only 4 percent of Nigerians read a book daily. And further analysis across the geo-political zones revealed that the North-Central (17 percent) had the highest proportion of respondents in this category. Overall, the daily reading habits of Nigerians was found to be poor in gender, geo-political zones and age-group categories.

In conclusion, the poll assessment of the opinions of Nigerians regarding the decline in English Language revealed that there is a considerable decline in the quality of English Language in Nigeria over the last decade. Nigerians cited ‘poor educational system’, ‘dearth in the quality of English Language teachers’, ‘cultural/environmental influence’ among others as reasons responsible for the considerable decline in the quality  of  English Language in Nigeria .

It is therefore imperative for key players and stakeholders in the  Nigerian Educational sector, as well as promoters of quality English grammar around the globe partner together to effectively to end this trending decline in the quality of English grammar in Nigeria by adopting new policies and necessary frame works.

Survey Methods

The opinion poll was conducted in the week of July 14th 2016. It involved telephone interviews of a random nationwide sample. 1,000 randomly selected phone-owning Nigerians aged 18 years and above, representing the six geopolitical zones in the country, were interviewed. With a sample of this size, we can say with 95% confidence that the results obtained are statistically precise - within a range of plus or minus 3%. NOIPolls Limited is the No1 for country specific polling services in West Africa. We conduct periodic opinion polls and studies on various socio-economic and political issues in Nigeria. More information is available at www.noi-polls.com

Disclaimer

This press release has been produced by NOIPolls Limited to provide information on all issues which form the subject matter of the document. Kindly note that while we are willing to share results from our polls with the general public, we only request that NOIPolls be acknowledged as author whenever and wherever our poll results are used, cited or published.

NOIPolls hereby certifies that all the views expressed in this document accurately reflect its views of respondents surveyed for the poll, and background information is based on information from various sources that it believes are reliable; however, no representation is made that it is accurate or complete. Whilst reasonable care has been taken in preparing this document, no responsibility or liability is accepted for errors or fact or for any views expressed herein by NOIPolls for actions taken as a result of information provided in this report. Any ratings, forecasts, estimates, opinions or views herein constitute a judgment as at the date of this document. If the date of this document is not current, the views and content may not reflect NOIPolls’ current findings and/or thinking.

Press Contact

The Editor

Email: editor@noi-polls.com

[1] http://www.onlinenigeria.com/languages/languages.asp

[2]   http://www.thefreedictionary.com/grammar

[3]   http://www.doublegist.com/student-performance-english-language-nigeria/

[4]   http://www.vanguardngr.com/2014/04/wassce-performance-students-decline-english-gen-maths/

[5]   http://www.freepatentsonline.com/article/College-Student-Journal/150965814.html

[6] http://www.worldbank.org/en/results/2016/07/18/nigeria-macroeconomic-stability-for-accelerated-growth-job-creation-and-delivering-services-for-the-poor