English Language as a Vital Tool to Boost the Standard of Education in Nigeria - February 8th, 2017

The multi-ethnic and multi-lingual nature of Nigeria as a nation underscores the pride of place which the English language enjoys in our country. English serves as a binding force and a bond of unity for the diverse ethnic and linguistic groups which make up the country. The English language as a medium of interaction, intra- and inter-tribal and ethnic communication has facilitated national unity, mutual co-operation and understanding. The English language by historical accident, has come to be used as the yardstick for assessing the standard of education in Nigeria. It is widely believed by many that the standard of education in Nigeria has fallen so deeply; parents chant it, our government worry about it and the teachers concede it. Just like a concerned parent who knows that the standard of education has fallen would readily lament, ‘My child can neither speak nor write in simple correct English’. It doesn't actually matter to the parent whether his child is able to develop a nuclear energy for Nigeria or invent a mechanical or computer device that could revolutionalise the way of life in our society. As long as the child cannot speak the English language with the golden voice of Nnamdi Azikiwe , write with the pugnancy of Chinua Achebe, or overwhelm the audience with the oratory of Martin Luther King or inspire with the rhythm of Thomas Jefferson, he is considered uneducated in the Nigerian context.

Equating proficiency in the English language with literacy is a feeling not exclusive to parents alone. University lecturers all over the country have had one litany of complaints, which is the poor quality of the writing of their graduates. It seems insufferable that the nation should tolerate people who not only cannot write nor speak well, but also are not humble enough to learn how to contribute to the development of the country.

One university is even suggesting remedial courses in English and writing for graduates. Our graduates according to the university, are half-illiterates because they write and speak poorly. It is clear that the yardstick for admission into the class of the educated in Nigeria is ones performance in the English language. It means that the bastion for education, at least as it is seen by the public, is the development of students in a high-level of English competence. To do this, one has to internalize the structures of the language to the point of automacity.

It is of no use blaming the teachers in the school, the student or the system for the relative poor performance of the students because, if such students were provided with the necessary equipment, facilities and conducive learning environment; if the teachers were well paid and sufficiently motivated, the standard of education will definitely improve. In consideration of the fact that textbooks in nearly all courses, professions and areas of specialization are written in English, coupled with the fact that the English language is a medium of instruction in almost all levels of education in the country, more emphasis should be placed on effective teaching and learning of the language in schools, colleges and universities.

To this end, government at all levels should ensure that teaching aids, well equipped laboratories, necessary gadgets and facilities are provided in all educational institutions to boost the teaching and learning of the language. Furthermore, lecturers and teachers should be highly motivated to put in their best in the various levels of education. In addition, the National Universities Commission (NUC) should consider extending the compulsory Use of English courses under the general courses for the first two years of students' undergraduateship rather than the usual one year. Finally, both teachers and students need reasonable financial, material, infrastructural, environmental, societal and psychological motivation to perform well, not only in English language, but also in raising the overall standard of education in the country

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