English Language and the contemporary Nigerian education, by Adama Yerima Balla

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Adama Yerima Balla
Adama Yerima Balla

The last time I wrote something like a prose was in 2007 that is more than decade ago, and of course a lot of water has gone down the bridge but like the saying goes ‘old soldier never dies’ so this means my ink never goes dry; got a lot to write about but people nowadays got so little time to read because people have completely lost the reading habit.

That notwithstanding I will write on variety of topics ranging from education, inclusiveness, relationship (did I see the girls giggle and the boys smirk) wink, yes! Relationship be it marriage, in-laws, office mates, neighbours, and what have you. First and foremost I will start with education because it is what is bothering all of us; that is the dwindling standard of education in Nigeria. Therefore I title this topic ‘English language and the Nigerian education now’.

Education is basically to acquire knowledge and develop skills for individual and societal growth and development. Good quality is the heart of education, preparing learners for life, not just for testing and certification. But paper qualification has unfortunately become the order of the day in Nigeria. Without the instrumentality of language, there can hardly be success in any human endeavour.

English is the approved language of education in Nigeria. Proficiency in English is the barometer to measure the quality and quantity of education someone possesses. In fact, one’s triumph in the learning of English is the triumph of education as school subjects are written, taught and examined in English. So, a total failure in English is invariably a total failure in education. The standard of education has fallen abysmally in Nigeria and would continue to fall if something is not done about it. This fall is attributable to students’ poor performance in English evident in their inability to speak or write simple but correct English as they have not internalized the language to the point of automaticity. This makes Eyisi (2015:263) to say: “Your triumph in the learning of English is the triumph of education”.

Quoting the Guardian, Eyisi (2015:391) states: “Since all other subjects are taught and examined in the English language, students with a limited understanding of English cannot possibly perform as well as they ought to in any examination. The English language is as important as the air we breathe when it comes to education in Nigeria. It is the springboard to academic success and career opportunities (Odeh, 2016). Let us look into the key words of this paper:

The word “contemporary” simply means “the present time”, “modern-day or current”. This implies that the falling standard of formal education in Nigeria is extant. Education is the fulcrum of Nigeria’s development. It is the foundation upon which all other sectors are built. But unfortunately, it has experienced earthquake and free and quality education has become a mirage.

Based on the World Bank’s study with a report in the Guardian news of February 19th 2001, the falling standard of education has been witnessed about fifteen years. One may say that the gradual fall of the standard of education has taken place from 25 to 30 years old in this country.

A “fall” is a “reduction”, “drop”, “decrease”, “lowering” etc. Gone are the days of quality of education. The standard of education in this country falls down year by year. Duze links the falling standard of education to the lost glories of traditional education which inculcates among other things the very important values of hard-work, diligence, integrity and high productivity. The educational fall is experienced in all levels of our educational system. According to Duze, a “Mal-nourished” primary level would breed a “kwashiokored” secondary that culminates into a “mansramused” tertiary level”

The English Language is both a language for communication and a discipline of study. It is an Intra-national and International language. It is a native language in the UK, USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and parts of South Africa. English is also the second language in all the former British and American colonies: India, Nigeria, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Ghana, Gambia, Sierra Leone, etc. It is equally a foreign language used exclusively for international communication. English is a global language and the window to the world.

A “standard” is a level of quality or attainment that is normal, usual, and acceptable and used as a criterion or measure for comparative evaluations. The quality of education is dwindling speedily at all levels of the Nigerian educational system and in all walks of life. In fact, our schools and colleges only produce wishy-washy or “textbook” graduates who do not have anything upstairs but only consult textbooks for every little explanation in their courses of study. Graduates of nowadays cannot be compared with graduates of the 1980’s. Our tertiary institutions will produce engineers that will build collapsing buildings and bridges, medical doctors that may cause loss of lives instead of saving lives.

Education is “a social science that encompasses teaching and learning specific knowledge, beliefs and skills” (Singh 2010:50). It is all about the impartation and acquisition or reception of knowledge and skills to solve human problems and to effect a positive change in the learner. The educator/teacher imparts knowledge while the educatee/learner acquires or receives the knowledge.

Although we have already identified poor performance in English and the ICT and other social media as the causes of the dwindling standard of education in Nigeria, some other factors account for the general fall of education standard in this country and these are: corruption, examination malpractices, cultism, inadequate facilities, idleness on the part of students, poverty, government policy, parents, poor teaching methods, the crave for paper qualification, poor infrastructure, quality of teachers, shortage of qualified teachers, poor remuneration of teachers, lack of commitment on the part of teachers, drug abuse, the crave for material wealth and the low priority given to education, (Abe, 2011:5-11, Okosun, 2015:17-29, Emudianghe, 2011:1-2, 60-62, Uwameiye, 2014) etc.

The standard of education has drastically fallen and so many factors account for the fall. Education is the bedrock of societal development. The fall of the standard of education bedevils the development and progress of Nigeria. The falling standard of education is, indeed, the fall in living condition of Nigerians. English is the language of education in Nigeria and the triumph in its learning is the triumph of education. Nigerian students at all levels of education are poor in English evident in their inability to express themselves effectively in the spoken and written forms of the language, inability to write simple error-free letters and essays and poor performances in internal and external examinations. To be educated is to be versed in English and one’s level of English is an eloquent testimony of one’s level of education and personality. Being educated is synonymous with reading, writing and speaking good English. Your level of English in your application letters speaks for you. It can make or mar you. It is an important factor in the prospective employer’s decision to consider you for the job applied for.

Mrs Balla wrote from Maiduguri and can be reached at adamaballa195@gmail.com

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