AUGUSTINE AYOM GWAZA
Department of General Studies Education,
College of Education, Katsina-Ala.
E-mail: [email protected]
This study looks at the effects of school location on the academic performance of students in essay writing in senior secondary schools in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area of Benue State. One research question and hypothesis guided the study. The study adopted the Ex-post-facto research design. The population of the study consisted of 2000 senior secondary II students. A sample of 200 students was drawn from four sampled schools. Stratified random sampling was used to select two schools each from urban and rural areas while simple random sampling was used to select one contact class of SSII student to form participants in each of the four sampled schools. Data were collected using writing performance test. Mean and standard deviation were used to answer research question while t-test was used to test the hypothesis at 0.05 level of significance. Findings revealed that students in urban schools outperformed their counterparts in rural schools in writing (0.00<0.05). Based on the findings, it was recommended that experienced and qualified teachers should be posted to schools in rural areas to boost the teaching of writing skills. Students should be motivated towards effective writing by giving them regular assessmentpractice, marking and returning same to students with encouraging comments; government should provide social amenities in the rural areas to attract teachers posted to such areas as well asteaching/learning materials, to ease the teaching/learning of writing skills.
Keywords: School location, writing, performance.
BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Writing is a very essential activity that one cannot get away from because of its relevance. We must write letters, reports, speeches, memos and proposals. Students benefit most from writing, when it provides them with a sense of how what they write can be connected to the world outside the classroom. Students use writing maximally to learn, share ideas, opinions, doubts, disagreement, beliefs and feelings with others. (Muodumogu, 2010). According to Nordquist (2014), writing makes an exact man. It helps students to think critically and creatively, engage more deeply in their learning, transfer what they have learnt from course to course, from context to context. It is also argued that the skills of expressing ones thoughts, and communicating ideas and views to others is developed through writing (Pillai, 2014). This makes good writing skills important and critical to academic success. Since writing offers individuals a unique and formal way of expressing thoughts and communicating ideas and views to others, it has become an indispensable tool for academic success. Oyetunde and Muodumogu, (1999) posit that writing is a very essential part of the learning process, and by extension the most important way that educated learners communicate their ideas. This also explains why writing is said to be the visible indicator of an educated person worldwide.
Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC, 2007a) observes that students who cannot communicate effectively in writing, usually have their intellectual and social activities impaired. This calls for meaningful teaching of writing, since it is connected to intellectual growth and social operation of learners. Moreover, one of the objectives of teaching English Language at the junior secondary school level is to develop in students, the ability to express and communicate effectively in writing, as they would, or should, in speech (NERDC, 2007b). From the foregoing, it can be pointed out that students’ writing achievement is a key determinant of their success in academics and in life.
However, students’ performance in writing seems to be poor, as teachers, parents and the general public continue to complain about this issue. One may have relevant ideas but if not well written, the essence will be defeated. For example, grammatical mistakes, misspelt words, incorrect punctuation and poorly structured sentences can make the content confusing, if not utterly unreadable (Brookhart, 2007). In Nigeria, most students often score poorly in writing tasks, tests and examinations because they are unable to write critically. This may be due to school location which requires urgent attention as it is practically difficult, if not impossible, to succeed without writing skills.
Agada (2008) found out that school location has a significant effect on students achievement in reading comprehension and grammar. Owoeye (2011) states that students in urban location have a very great advantage in learning which apparently enriches their academic knowledge, despite the apparent disadvantage, as it were, of having to learn in large classes. The author states further that distribution of teachers in rural schools is not comparable with the urban schools. The population of teachers in rural schools is usually low because teachers do not readily accept postings to rural areas. Besides, rural communities are characterized by low population, monotonous and burdensome life. Most teachers prefer to stay in the schools in urban areas because of the benefits and comfort of the city, which include good roads, satisfactory means of communication, availability of books and teaching materials. Highly qualified teachers also prefer to stay in urban schools. The implication of this is that schools in rural areas will have few and inexperienced teachers which may negatively affect the academic performance of students in rural schools.
It is against this background that the researcher undertakes a study on the effects of school location on students’ performance in essay writing in secondary schools in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area of Benue State.
Writing: Writing is a basic language skill that is not naturally acquired, but learned. It is learned because of its numerous benefits. It enhances how much students learn; and at work, it is a gateway for employment and promotion, especially in salaried positions (Graham, 2008). In fact, many scholars see writing as an indispensable tool for communicating ideas, thoughts, feelings and emotion (Aliyu, 2010, Muodumogu, 2010). The National Teachers’ Institute (2000) conceives writing as a way of presenting ideas in print. It further posits that if we have no ideas, we cannot write anything. Supporting this claim, Muodumogu& Yisa (2013) states that students who lack sufficient background on a topic do not have ability to relate on that topic and would find it difficult to write about it. This implies that teachers in rural and urban schools should be aware of the various ways of making learners to get the ideas to write about, since they are motivated to write, once they have ideas to write (NTI, 2000).
Writing is not just an orderly sequence of discrete activities but a process that is interconnected and interrelated. It involves observation, brainstorming or finding ideas, thinking about ways of organizing them, revising/editing and producing a final copy (Aliyu, 2010); Muodumogu, 2010). This suggests that writing does not happen at once. This implies that writing is fluid and recursive. This explains why Oyetunde (2014) reiterates that writing should be seen as a process and must be taught as such.
The writing process clarifies and presents the writer’s unique way of thinking. This helps bring into consciousness normal human thought processes (Bechani, 2014). In fact, writing starts with observation, it involves thinking, descriptive (using concrete details), explanation, inferences, synthesis, selection and focuses. NTI (2000) buttresses this in its definition of writing as thinking made visible. It is worthy of note here that everyone writes for a purpose. Olatoye (2010) states that the purpose of writing is to express, inform, persuade, deceive, entertain, inspire and condemn. This explains why writing appears in different forms: letters, personal notes, memoranda and a description, instruction, biography, meditation/prayer or personal profile (Aliyu, 2010). Aliyu states that writing compels the writer to reflect on the objective, think about the audience and the function, and determine the form which the writing may take so as to achieve his purpose. A careful look at the foregoing clearly reveals that writing requires planning or preparation.
Writing is a task that involves many processes. Trustee of Dartmouth College (2014) views writing as a three-step process: invention (prewriting) composition (writing) and revision. Bechani (2014) sees writing as a five-step or sub-skills process: drafting, editing, revising, organizing and re-writing. Although, there is disparity in the number of steps involved in writing, as postulated by the scholars, it is certain that every writer goes through different processes of acquiring ideas which are used in his writing. NTI (2000) states that the ideas are acquired from reading, practical experiences, excursions among others before such ideas are sorted out in a coherent manner for the writing exercise.
The implication of the foregoing is that writing is a series of steps to help one to put down ideas, impressions or statements or declarations concisely, meaningfully and logically (Aliyu, 2010). The crucial stages involved in the writing process as identified by writing scholars are: prewriting, first draft, evaluating, revising, editing and final draft.
The prewriting stage is otherwise called the preparatory stage and is the stage of idea incubation and development. It involves brainstorming, organizing an outline and developing a writing plan. This stage identifies what will form the core of the subject matter and the angle of the topic which includes introduction, the body and conclusion. Besides, the writer identifies the expected scope of the writing task, focuses on the style and language and interlinks all the different stages to be involved in the writing process (Aliyu, 2010). It is worthy to note here that the success or failure of any writing begins at the prewriting stage. Therefore, if someone lacks expressional ability and ideas which can be used to develop his composition, he cannot write.
To minimize students’ frustration and failure, Oyetunde and Muodumogu (1999) state that prewriting should involve thinking about and organizing ideas. Teachers should provide exciting displays in the classroom, read regularly to students and they should be given opportunities to react to, and talk about what they have listened to; and develop in students’ positive attitudes to writing – encouraging them to share ideas in class and by accepting and praising their contributions. For students to master the prewriting skills, the scholars reiterate that the writing teacher should model this process using his own topic for the students to follow as this will promote them to write.
Writing the first draft is the step where what is conceived at the prewriting stage is implemented. This practice promotes a positive attitude to revision and the objective/purpose of writing is captured with a selected number of words and sentences that form the introduction (Oyetunde & Muodumogu, 1999). These processes equally mark the beginning of writing and when this is done in a sustained manner, Olatoye (2010) posits that it grows into paragraphs that make up a composition. In building up the body of one’s writing, Aliyu (2010) proposes that arguments and counter arguments be raised with each argument in an argumentative writing, but if it is a descriptive or narrative, the writer should identify the main issues and possible solutions. A conclusion is always reached, based on the points/ideas presented. The writer reflects on the issues raised and reiterates such observations that are reorganized to be relevant.
Evaluating, revising and editing stage has to do with a careful re-reading of one’s writing or first draft, for improvements. All errors – grammar, paragraph indentation, spelling and punctuation are corrected; unrelated ideas are deleted, new ones are added, while some are restructured for consciences, clarity, coherence and logicality. Students therefore, should learn to edit their writing as if it were the work of others. This will enable the students to discover that words have been wrongly used or omitted, meaning is distorted, or that mistakes in spelling or punctuation have affected the style of presentation. This stage usually marks the end of the writing process, under examination or test condition.
Writing the final draft is the stage of preparation which follows editing. The draft is proofread and rewritten to ensure that errors are corrected. When the writer is satisfied with the content and organization, he rewrites the draft to have a final copy. At the stage of the final draft, all the grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, punctuation errors in the initial drafts are carefully eliminated, to convey the writer’s intended meaning and purpose. (Tarafder, 2007). Writers are to ensure that their final drafts are free of misspellings, omitted lines and inaccurate information as this will prevent confusion and misunderstanding of one’s writing. Final drafts are therefore, characterized by ideas that are clearly presented with details, facts, examples and anecdotes that follow the conventions of written English. Students and writers need to learn the skills or writing technicalities, to be able to write effectively. Otherwise Williams (2004) posits that writing will be a hit-or-miss affair since it is not acquired naturally.
School location: School location is the environmental condition around a school. It is seen in terms of urban and rural areas. Series of studies have investigated the impact of school location in learning outcomes. School location can affect students’ learning outcomes either positively or negatively (Owoeye & Yara, 2011). Location is key in determining the academic performance of students. Alokan and Arijusuyo (2013) reiterate the prevalence of a comparative inferiority of rural schools. This implies that there exist differences in students’ academic performance according to location. Alokan and Arijusuyo (2013) posits that rural and urban school differences extend to other desirable outcomes such as aptitude and intelligence. Equally, Uzoamaka and Ajiwoju (2015) confirm the existence of rural and urban school differential and further testify that some of the few factors that contribute to the rural and urban school students’ performance gap are availability of resources, rural/urban difference in socio-economic status and less parental and community involvement in education.
Like other issues in education, research comparing students in rural schools with their urban counterparts in academic performance, has yielded inconsistent findings. While Ramo, Duque & Nieto (2012) found no significant differences in the performance of students in urban and rural schools, Opoku-Asare and Siawos (2015) revealed that students’ performance in rural schools was lower than that of students in urban schools.
This implies that researches have not produced definite results on the comparison between the academic performance of students in urban and rural schools. Alokan and Arijusuyo (2013); Ramo, Duque and Nieto (2012) postulate reasons for such performance gaps ranging from migration of more educated people to urban areas, non-availability of resources (books, computers), to lack of materials to enhance the study of many subjects. Educational institutions are unevenly distributed in urban and rural areas. Many scholars establish the point that academic performance varies similarly (Iweka & Odiase, 2010; Owoeye & Yara, 2011). Thus, it has been established that environment favours students differently. Owoeye and Yara (2011) affirm that many Nigerian schools in rural areas are disadvantaged when compared with their urban counterparts, because they lack adequate facilities and good environment. Akombo (2013) agrees with this view and posits that this makes rural schools inferior to those in urban areas.
Many scholars (Ezeudu & Obi, 2013; Owoeye & Yara, 2011; Ramo, Duque & Nieto 2012) have studied the differential problems associated with schools located in urban and rural areas. While some establish a positive correlation between location of schools and their students’ academic performance, some others report that location of schools has little or no effect on students’ academic performance. (Iweka & Odiase, 2010).
Conversely, Owoeye and Yara (2011) found that students in urban schools performed better academically than their rural counterparts. Similarly, Adepoju and Oluchukwu (2011) established in their study that students’ performance in Mathematics and English language were higher in urbans schools than what was obtained in rural schools. Such disparity, according to Adepoju and Oluchukwu (2011) are not connected with location/distribution of schools in some areas without adequate consideration of the essential parameters such as population, structure, school-age, home-school distance, concentrating qualified teachers in the urban schools, inadequate provision of learning facilities among others. The researcher believes that since the school is a social system, there should be an interaction between the school and its environment. The extent to which an environment (rural/urban) affects the academic performance of students, as reported by various studies reviewed is not conclusive yet. Based on the foregoing observations, this work is aimed at investigating school location as it affects students’ performance in writing.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
It would appear as if the performances of students in public examinations are below the expected standard set by the examination bodies. The general public has continued to complain about the dwindling performance of students in public examinations. The West African Examinations Council Chief Examiner’s Report (WAEC, 2018) also attests to this poor performance. Thus, students performed poorly in English language as many compositions were seriously marred by poor spellings, poor punctuations and faulty grammar. Majority of students were ignorant of the basic components needed in an essay topic such as content, organization, expression and mechanical accuracy. These and similar problems triggered the research and of course, form the focus of this study of school location as it affects students’ performance in writing in secondary schools in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area of Benue State. What will be the performance of students in urban and rural schools in writing? Unless a comparison is made, it will be difficult to know where the poor performance is coming from.
PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The specific objective of the study is to: find out if the mean academic performance of students in urban schools would differ with that of students in rural schools, in writing.
- What would be the difference between the mean academic performance of students in rural and urban schools in writing?
There is no significant difference between the mean academic performance of students in rural and urban schools, in writing.
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.
The study adopted the Ex-post-facto research design because the independent variables (urban and rural schools) have already occurred. The Ex-post-facto research design is aimed at the discovery of possible causes of 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 (Emaikwe, 2015).
The population of the study consisted of 2,041: 986 male and 1055 female students) senior secondary II (SS2) students in Katsina-Ala Local Government Area of Benue State. 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 urban and rural areas, using stratified random sampling: College of Education Demonstration Secondary School Katsina-Ala, St. Gerard Majella Secondary School Katsina-Ala, Shitile Community Secondary School Katsina-Ala and Mbagena Comprehensive College, Shikaan. Only coeducational schools were selected, to take care of male and female participants. Stage 2: simple random sampling was used to select one contact class of SS2 students as participants in each of the four sampled schools.
One research tool for data collection was used namely the writing performance test (WPT) made up of five questions from National Examination Council (NECO, 2017) Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination. Mean and standard deviation of the various groups were used to answer the research question, while the hypothesis was tested at 0.05 level of significance using t-test of independent samples.
Research Question One:
What would be the difference between the mean academic performance scores of students in rural and urban schools in writing?
Analysis of data to answer research questions one is in Table 1.
Table 1: Mean and Standard Deviation of students in rural and urban schools in writing.
|Students in urban schools||90||18.09||8.129|
|Students in rural schools||110||13.86||8.574|
Table 1 shows that the mean score of students in urban schools was 18.09 while those of students in rural schools was 13.86. The mean difference of 4.23 implies that there was a difference between the mean academic performance of students in urban schools and students in rural schools in writing in favour of students in urban schools. The standard deviation scores were 8.129 and 8.574 for students in urban and rural schools respectively. This suggests that the scores of students in urban schoolswere homogeneous compared to those of rural schools.
Test of Hypothesis
There is no significant difference between the mean academic performance of students in rural and urban schools in writing.
Table 2: Independent samples t-test results of students in rural and urban schools in writing.
|Studs. in urban sch.||90||18.09|
|Studs. in rural sch.||110||13.86||3.58||198||0.05||0.000||Significant|
Table 2 shows that, the independent samples t-cal value was 3.58. 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 2-tailed test and 198 degrees of freedom (df) was significant at 0.05 level (0.00<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 students in rural and urban schools in writing was therefore, not accepted since there exists a statistically significant difference between the mean academic performance of students in rural and urban schools in writing, in favour of students in urban schools.
DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS
The study looked at school location as it affects students’ performance in writing. The discussion of findings is based on the variables of the study which was guided by one research question and a hypothesis.
The findings of the study revealed that students in urban schools performed better than their counterparts in rural schools. This implies that the students in urban schools were well grounded and that enabled them to have vast ideas as to what writing is all about. The National Teachers Institute (2000) reports that if we have no ideas, we cannot write anything. Students in urban schools have greater advantage in learning which apparently enriches their academic knowledge. Again, rural schools are inferior and lacking in facilities and suffer from lack of continuity in their curriculum and are staffed by young beginning and often inexperienced staff who regrettably would not conform to socio-cultural ethics and above all, offer a restricted curriculum, especially to secondary school students. Lack of adequate incentives in schools located in rural areas, would not encourage their teachers to remain in their duty post and put in their best, to enable their students to perform better compared to their urban counterparts.
Also, Owoeye& Yara (2011) asserts that distribution of teachers in rural schools is not comparable with the schools in urban areas. The population of teachers in rural schools is low because teachers do not accept transfer to rural areas. Most teachers prefer to stay in the schools in urban centres because of availability of social amenities such as electricity, good roads, means of communication, availability of teaching materials. Among these teachers, are highly qualified and experienced ones. This therefore, affects the academic performance of students in rural schools negatively and by extension, means schools in urban centres are generally given much more attention than those located in rural areas. In some urban schools, one would find enough teachers of English Language while in some rural schools, one hardly finds even one graduate of English Language on the staff list. This finding is consistent with Agada (2008), Onovughe (2011), Unwaha (2012) and Eze (2015) who found out that students in urban schools performed better than those in rural schools in writing. This implies that school location can affect the academic performance of students, either positively or negatively.
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 findings from this research, one can conclude that there exists a poor performance of students at public examinations as put forward by the general public and attested toby the West Africa Examination Council’s Chief Examiner’s Report (2018). Specifically, the poor performance is from students in schools located in rural areas. However, if this issue is well managed, and resolved, the performance of the schools located in rural areas will improve.
In view of the findings drawn by the researcher, the following recommendations have been made:
- Experienced and qualified teachers should be posted to schools in rural areas, to boost the teaching of writing skills. This will help the students to improve in their writing practices.
- Teachers should motivate their students towards effective writing by giving encouraging comments to students’ writing practices.
- Regular writing assessment practices should be given to students and immediate feedback should be given to them.
- Government should provide social amenities in the rural areas to attract teachers who are posted to such schools located there.
- Schools management should make their schools attractive by providing teaching/learning materials.
- Story books should be provided for general reading or as general reading texts.
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