AUGUSTINE AYOM GWAZA
Department of General Studies Education,
College of Education, Katsina-Ala,Benue State.
E-mail: [email protected]
This study compared literature and non-literature students’ performance in English Language in secondary schools in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area, Benue State. Two research questions and hypotheses guided the study. The study adopted the Ex-post-facto research design. The population consisted of 20,041 senior secondary II students. A sample of 200 students was drawn from four sampled schools using multistage sampling techniques: stratified random sampling was used to select two schools both from urban and rural areas, while simple random sampling was used to select one contact class of SS II students as participants in each of the four sampled schools. Data were collected using Reading Comprehension and Grammar Performance Test. Mean and standard deviation were used to answer research questions, while t-test was used to test the hypotheses at 0.05 level of significance. Findings showed that literature students performed better than non-literature students in reading comprehension (0.02 < 0.05)and grammar (0.00 < 0.05). Based on the findings, it was recommended that senior secondary classes should read literary texts to broaden their knowledge, include Literature-in-English in their list of selected subjects. Parents should provide literary texts for their children. School administrators should organize inter-class and inter-school quiz competitions on literary texts.
Keywords: Reading comprehension, grammar, literature students, non-literature students.
BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
English Language is one of the core subjects in the curriculum of senior secondary schools in Nigeria. Oyetunde and Muodumogu (1999) posit that the status of English as a second language implies that it plays a very key function in the social, professional and educational life in Nigeria. The authors maintain that to be regarded as an educated Nigerian, some level of proficiency in English Language is required. A credit pass is also required in English language for admission into tertiary institutions and the universities across the country (JAMB 2016/2017 Brochure). However, reports have shown that students normally perform poor in English Language. Chief Examiner’s reports of WAEC (2017 and 2018) indicate that candidates performed poorly in English language, as many compositions were seriously marred by poor spellings, poor punctuation and faulty grammar. Majority of candidates were ignorant of the basic components needed in an essay topic such as content, organization, expression and mechanical accuracy. Most students do not have the knowledge of reading comprehension thereby leading to poor performance in that section of English language. Though, there are many components of English Language, this study will be comparing students’ performance in Reading comprehension and Grammar.
Reading is indispensable to a people in the promotion of their culture and civilization. If we are to sustain and enhance the current state of our technology and civilization, then we must learn and know how to read (Onukaogu, 2003). The author points out that reading will empower us to learn from the experiences of our predecessors and those nations whose technologies are ahead of ours. According to the author, a reading nation is a winning, progressing and living nation, and this calls for promotion of reading so that the generality of our people can read and have fulfilled lives. This implies that, (whether literature or non-literature), the need to have fulfilled lives calls for extensive reading. Oyetunde and Muodumogu, (1999) define reading as a process of obtaining information from print. This process of obtaining information from print is not as simple as the definition suggests, but a complex process that involves interaction or negotiation between the reader and the author, because reading that does not lead to comprehension is “barking at print”, a useless exercise, since the goal of reading is understanding.
Ochogwu (2014) believes that the attainment of proficiency in the use of English is possible through the four language skills, (listening, speaking, reading and writing). However, reading skills are not easily acquired naturally, like listening and speaking skills, because of the difficulties and complexities involved. Reading is regarded as a tool-skill because knowledge of all school subjects and further education is got through it and this must be taken seriously by literature and non-literature students. It will enable them have wide knowledge of all school subjects, since reading is regarded as a tool-skill.
Muodumogu and Ajenega (2011) posit that for excellence to be achieved in academics, learners need to be good readers that can read and comprehend texts in their various disciplines. Isiugo Abanihe and Maduabuchi (2009) assert that competence in reading is of utmost importance, since effective learning of any subject in the school curriculum depends to a large extent on the learners’ ability to read and understand. Reading Association of Nigeria (2007) asserts that reading is a kind of activity in which an individual must make use of his/her background experience, attitude and desires in negotiating, constructing and re-constructing meaning from the written text. It is a very active process in which an individual interacts with the voice or voices in a written text. Reading is anchored on special skills and strategies, which cannot be innately acquired but must be taught. This explains why literature and non-literature students should make use of their background experiences and desires to negotiate, construct and re-construct meaning from the written text, for better performance.
Arua (2009) states that the reader has to bring something to the reading process, as the meaning of a text will not simply manifest without the reader being actively involved. What the reader has to introduce into the reading process is his/her background knowledge. Meaning is at the centre of the reading process. It relates to content which itself deals with the knowledge to be acquired during the reading process. Reading is not just for school purposes but also for life, because it enhances the possibilities of success at school and beyond. Edomwandagbon (2005) opines that if students who are preparing for both internal and external examinations avail themselves of facilities in various libraries, read their notes and textbooks diligently, the incidences of cheating, impersonation and examination malpractice and cultism will be greatly reduced. Second language (L2) readers in academic settings most often need to develop ‘reading for understanding’ and ‘reading to learn. Under both reading purposes, it is possible to say that reading is ‘the process of receiving and interpreting information encoded in language form via the medium of print’.
The term grammar carries different meanings for different people, depending on the context it is used, the intended meaning and the background of the speaker. Hornby (2010) defines grammar as the rules in a language for changing the form of words and joining them into sentences. Opega (2005) posits that every language has a set of rules and conventions which, if correctly applied, produce well-formed and acceptable sentences. In the grammar of English language, the speakers must be conversant with how verbs, prepositions, adverbs and adjectives operate in sentences. Mastery of the order in which adjectives should appear, the correct question tag to use and the right way of punctuating a given sentence will help the students to make correct sentences. Opega (2005) maintains that grammar is concerned with the description of the relationships within the structure of language. Knowing the grammar of a language, essentially, means knowing the correct ordering of words to make meaning (syntax) and how words are formed (morphology) in that language. This implies that literature and non-literature students must know the grammar of English Language.
Grammar consists of rules of syntax, which specify how words and phrases combine to form sentences, and rules of morphology, which specify how word forms are constructed (for example, present and past tense distinctions; love, loved; number distinctions; word, words) and so on. Students should not only be able to produce grammatical structures that are formally accurate, but should be able to use them meaningfully and appropriately as well. No wonder, Oyetunde and Muodumogu (1999) posit that the term grammar has come to include not only the structure of a language but also aspects of usage and social acceptability.
Every language has a set of rules and conventions which, if correctly applied, produces well-formed and acceptable sentences. These rules are in the form of statements about how a language should be used to acceptable or unacceptable level in any language. It is the descriptive statement about the syntactic structure and the morphological feature that constitutes the grammar of that language. The aspect of English Language that concern this research are reading comprehension and the grammatical or syntactic structure.
Language is a rule-governed behaviour. To be able to use it effectively, one must know and apply its rules of usage. The study of grammar enables one to understand the phenomenon of language which affords one an insight into how language works, thus enabling one to use one’s knowledge of grammar in a practical way. Thus, it enables one to speak and write English correctly. The notion of correctness and of wrong use can only be detected and corrected through a sound knowledge of the grammar of English Language. Therefore, a sound knowledge of English grammar and the ability to use the language most effectively in speech and writing is often considered the hallmark of the user’s literacy and competence in the language.
The implication is that when there is a wrong usage, the meaning is lost completely. Students who are learners of English as a second language must be careful with grammar, if they are to succeed in their academics. On the other hand, if literature and non-literature students use these aspects of grammar correctly in spoken form they will be able to transfer that to writing.
Research has shown that the term literature has been defined variously by different authors. Gar (2009) defines literature as those writings that are carefully created from the imagination of a writer for the purpose of telling a story or conveying a feeling.
Akor (2006) sees literature as that work of art that has to do with imagination and focuses on the culture and environment of the people for which it is written, which could be drama, prose or poetry. From the definitions, it is clear that the power of imagination must be present in creating a work of art that is qualified to be identified as a literary work. This may imply that literature students will have the power of imagination to be able to perform well in any examination. Research has shown that reading literary texts assumes a critical role especially in Nigeria, where English is a second language. Oyetunde and Muodumogu (1999) posit that literature reading provides a means for continued learning of English language outside the classroom, and also serves as a demonstration of the language in use. If students actually want to gain proficiency in English language (reading comprehension and grammar), they need to read extensively even if they do not offer Literature-in-English as a core subject in the senior secondary school.
Literature-in-English is very important in the understanding of English Language. Thread (1998) states that, the specific purpose for the study of literature in the second language is that, it promotes language competence, creates awareness and understanding of content, issues, culture and develops creative and critical thinking skills. It is only in Literature-in-English that learners of English Language come in meaningful contact with the language in its real form. Supporting this claim, Ani (2007) identifies literature as the manifestation of language in action; or as creative writing meant for use in developing reading interest, skills, and enriching and extending the cultural horizons of individual learners. The knowledge gained from Literature-in-English may help students to be familiar with figures of speech (simile, metaphor, irony and personification) among others due to their being part of daily language usage. This implies that literature students will transfer knowledge gained from literature-in-English to answer questions in English Language without any difficulty, if they are serious. It is argued that those who read a lot acquire knowledge of words incidentally which may help to enrich their creative writing skills. (Muodumogu, 2009)
It is against this background that the researcher seeks to undertake a comparative study of literature and non-literature students’ performance in grammar and reading comprehension at the senior secondary school in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area of Benue State. This will enable the researcher to ascertain if the mean performance of literature and non-literature students differs significantly in reading comprehension, and grammar of English language. The findings will help the researcher to make some recommendations to address students’ poor performance.
MAX WERTHEIMER’S THEORY OF TRANSPOSITION
This theory was developed by Max Wertheimer and other Gestalt psychologists (1880-1943). According to this theory, transfer of learning occurs because of (a) perceptual similarities between situations form generalization. (b) Insights developed in one learning situation are usable in other situations. (c) Ideas developed in one situation find application or solutions to problems in other situations. (d) Patterns of experience are transposed or formed patterns of configuration which have meaning in other situations.
Mental operations are involved in the process of transposition. (a) there is grouping, re-organization and restructurization of material. (b) process of inner relatedness of form and size (c) inner structure (d) consistent thinking and creativity.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
It appears as if the performance of students in (English Language) reading comprehension and grammar are below the expected standards set by the examination bodies. Research has also shown that parents, teachers and even the general public have continued to complain about the inability of senior secondary school students to possess the required reading comprehension and grammatical skills of English language needed to function properly in the society. The West African Examination Council’s Chief Examiner’s Report 2017/2018 even attests to this poor performance thus: students performed poorly in aspect of English language such as reading comprehension and grammar.
The poor performance of senior secondary school students in English language (reading comprehension and grammar) may be due to inadequate exposure to language in meaningful contexts which is what literature does. What will be the difference in the performance of literature and non-literature students in reading comprehension and grammar?
PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The purpose of this research is to compare the performance of literature and non-literature students in English language (reading comprehension and grammar) at the senior secondary school level in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area of Benue State. The specific objectives of the study are to:
- Find out if the mean academic performance scores of literature students would differ in reading comprehension with non-literature students.
- Establish whether the mean academic performance scores of literature students would differ in grammar with non-literature students.
The following questions were asked to guide the study:
- What would be the difference between the mean academic performance scores of literature and non-literature students in reading comprehension?
- What would be the difference between the mean academic performance scores of literature and non-literature students in grammar?
The following hypotheses were formulated and tested at 0.05 level of significance.
- There is no significant difference between the mean academic performance scores of literature and non-literature students in reading comprehension.
- There is no significant difference between the mean academic performance scores of literature and non-literature students in grammar.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The importance of this study lies in the implication which the findings will have on students in rural and urban schools. It is expected that findings from the study will be useful to school authorities, policy makers, and if the study’s recommendations are implemented, it would certainly improve the students’ performance in writing. It is hoped that this will be of immense significance to the school management and staff, as it will help them to remedy students’ weaknesses. This study is also important in that no similar study has been carried out on Katsina-Ala Local Government Area of Benue State. This study will obviously serve as a mirror or working guide to managers of schools.
It will indeed be of paramount importance to the Ministry of Education, which is a policy maker, to schools and future researchers, who may like to carryout further research on the subject matter.
This study adopted the Ex-Post-facto research design. This is a design in which the independent variables have already occurred and in which the researcher begins with the observation on a dependent variable followed by a retrospective study of possible relationships and effects. The Ex-Post-facto research design is aimed at the discovery of possible causes for behaviour pattern by comparing subjects in whom this pattern is present with similar subjects in whom the behaviour pattern is absent or present to a lesser degree (Emaikwu, 2015).In this design, the subjects are already assigned to or classified into various levels of the variables whose effects are being investigated, hence they cannot be altered. Emaikwu (2015) states that the researcher usually has no control over the variables of interest and therefore, cannot manipulate them as the design seeks to establish cause and effect relationship.
The population of the study consisted of 2,041 (986 male students and 1,055 female students) senior secondary II (SSII) students in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area during the 2018/2019 academic session (Area Education Office, Katsina-Ala).
The sample size was 200 students drawn from four sampled schools using multistage sampling techniques. Stage 1: Two coeducational secondary schools each were selected from both urban and rural areas, using stratified random sampling. Namely College of Education Demonstration, Katsina-Ala, St. Gerard Majella Secondary School, Katsina-Ala, Shitile Community Secondary School Tor-Donga and Mbagena Comprehensive College Shikaan. That is, only coeducational secondary schools were selected to take care of male and female participants. Stage 2: Simple random sampling was used to select one contact class of SS 2 students as participants in each of the four sampled schools.
The instruments used for the study was Reading Comprehension performance Test (RCPT) and Grammar performance Test (GPT). The Reading Comprehension passage was taken from the National Examination Council (NECO, 2017) English Language Question Paper for Senior School Certificate Examination. The Reading Comprehension passage contained 8 items and students were required to read and provide written answers to the questions. Total score for all the items in Reading Comprehension was 50 marks.
Questions 1-20 of Grammar performance Test (GPT) was taken from the National Examination Council (NECO 2017) English Language Question Paper for Senior School Certificate Examination, while questions 21-25 were self-designed. This was multiple choice. This had three sections: A, B and C. Section A consisted of 10 grammatical items on the test of auxiliary verbs and prepositions in sentences; Section B consisted of 9 items to test students’ use of verbs while Section C contained 6 items to test the ability of students to use personal and reflexive pronouns. The total score for grammar performance test was 50 marks. Each item was awarded 2 marks.
Mean scores and standard deviation of the various groups were used to answer 6 research questions, while the 6null hypotheses were tested at 0.05 level of significance using t-test of independent samples. This is because the hypotheses were set to determine the significant difference between the mean academic performance scores of literature and non-literature students in reading comprehension and grammar.
Research Question One: What is the difference between the mean academic performance scores of literature and non-literature students in reading comprehension?
Analysis of data to answer research question one is in table 1.
Table 1: Mean and Standard Deviation of literature and non-literature students scores in reading comprehension
Table 1 shows that, the mean score of literature students was 18.17 while that of non-literature students was 14.57. The mean difference of 3.60 implies that there was a difference between the mean academic performance of literature and non-literature students in reading comprehension in favour of literature students. The standard deviation scores were 7.204 and 9.237 for literature and non-literature students in reading comprehension respectively. This suggests that the scores of literature students were homogeneous compared to those of non-literature students in reading comprehension.
Research Question Two: What is the difference between the mean performance scores of literature and non-literature students in grammar?
Analysis of data to answer research question two is in Table 2.
Table 2: Mean and Standard Deviation of literature and non-literature students scores in grammar.
Table 2 shows that, the mean score of literature students was 30.74 while those of non-literature students were 24.48. The mean difference of 6.26 implies that there was a difference between the mean academic performance of literature and non-literature students in grammar. The standard deviation scores were 8.92 and 10.87 for literature and non-literature students in grammar respectively. This suggests that the scores of literature students were homogeneous compared to those of non-literature students in grammar.
TEST OF HYPOTHESES
H01: There is no significant difference between the mean academic performance scores of literature and non-literature students in reading comprehension.
Table 3: Independent samples t-test results of literature and non-literature students in reading comprehension.
Table 3 shows that, the independent samples t-cal value was 3.091. The value was selected using the equal variance not assumed method since the Levene’s test for Equality of Variance was less than 0.05. The result based on 2-tailed test and 198 degrees of freedom (df) was significant at 0.05 level (p, 0.002<0.05). This suggests that, the null hypothesis was not accepted. The null hypothesis which states that there is no significant difference between the mean academic performance of literature and non-literature students in comprehension was therefore not accepted as there exist a statistically significant difference between the mean academic performance of literature and non-literature students in reading comprehension.
H02: There is no significant difference between the mean academic performance of literature and non-literature students in grammar.
Table 4: Independent samples t-test results of literature and non-literature students in grammar.
Table 4 shows that, the independent samples t-cal value was 4.48. The value was selected using the equal variances, not assumed method since the Levene’s test for equality of variances was less than 0.05. The result based on a 2-tailed test and 198 degrees of freedom (df) was significant at 0.05 level (P, 0.000<0.05). This suggests that the null hypothesis was not accepted. The null hypothesis which states that there is no significant difference between the mean academic performance of literature and non-literature students in grammar was therefore, not accepted since there is exist a significant difference between the mean academic performance of literature and non-literature students in grammar in favour of literature students.
DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS
The study compared literature and non-literature students’ performance in reading comprehension and grammar of English language. It also compared male and female literature and non-literature students’ performance in reading comprehension and grammar. The discussion of the findings is based on the variables (Literature and Non-literature students) of the study which was guided by the research questions and hypotheses.
The findings of this study revealed that, there exists a significant difference between the mean academic performance of literature students and non-literature students in reading comprehension in favour of literature students. This significant difference may be as a result of the impact of Literature-in-English on the students who read literary texts, which made it possible for them to perform better than non-literature students in reading comprehension. This result corroborates earlier researches which found that literature-in-English has a positive effect on students’ performance in reading comprehension (Aondover 2009, Eze 2015). In another study, Muodumogu and Yisa (2013) report that, those who read extensively acquire knowledge of words incidentally and that Literature-in-English would equally enhance the performance of students in reading comprehension.
Findings further showed that literature students performed better than non-literature students in grammar. This superior performance by literature students in grammar, may be as a result of extensive reading of literary works, which enabled them to acquire knowledge of words incidentally and use such words correctly in sentences, thus observing the rules of grammar of English when language is used. Opega (2005) reports that, the correct application of the rules of grammar, produces well-formed and acceptable sentences. This study is also consistent with Eze (2015), Aondover (2009) and Agada (2008) who found that literature students performed better than non-literature students in grammar.
The study considered the effects of school location on the students’ performance in essay writing in Senior Secondary Schools in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area, Benue State. Available literature was reviewed on writing and school location. Data were collected and analyzed based on the variables of the study.
Based on the data collected, analyzed and interpreted, Literature-in-English has been found to be very useful in enhancing both Literature and non-literature students’ performance in reading comprehension and grammar of English language.
Based on the findings of the study, it was therefore, recommended that:
- Students in Senior Secondary (SS) classes should include Literature-in-English in their list of selected subjects or read literary texts. This will help to broaden their knowledge since it is argued that those who read extensively acquire knowledge of words incidentally.
- Parents should provide literary textbooks to their children. This will help them to have reading materials.
- School administrators should organize inter-class and inter-school quiz competitions on literary texts. This will encourage students to read and acquire more knowledge of English language.
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