The fact that English Language is the most important subject in the secondary school curriculum is incontestable. To understand his or her teachers in all subjects effectively, a secondary school student needs a firm grasp of the English Language; little wonder the subject is referred to as the key to all other subjects. To be eligible for admission to universities and other higher institutions of learning, secondary school students must pass English Language at credit or distinction level. English is the sole medium of communication in our university communities. Given the importance of English Language as a subject, common sense demands that students perform well in it. The statistics of result performance from WAEC however reveal that only a fraction of candidates that sit the exam pass at credit or distinction level annually. This is a shameful and painful revelation that calls for attention. Owing to this ugly situation, departments of English in some colleges of education have established pre-English programmes for the benefit of some of the candidates that could not pass the subject at the ordinary level stage. As a firm believer in ‘cause and effect’, I believe that there are some factors that cause poor performance of students in English Language.
Some so called English Language teachers are not academically qualified to teach it. They do not teach it well, as they are not specialists in the field of study. They are merely graduates of other disciplines like History, Philosophy, Religion, etc. who took to teaching English Language because they could not find teaching appointments in their respective disciplines and they wrongly believe of course that their ability to use high sounding words or expressions makes them good English Language teachers. This set of ‘English teachers’ seems to have forgotten that they are not scientists of the language. They are mostly found in substandard private schools.
Some students are to some extent responsible for the fact that they perform poorly in English Language. Many students do not even practice the habit of speaking simple and correct English always. Students are fond of speaking pidgin English, even when they ask their English Language teachers questions about their lessons. This has in fact landed some of them in trouble with their teachers. There are some students who do not buy the recommended English Language textbooks for their studies and some others who buy theirs do not make effective use of them.
Lastly, many parents and teachers of other subjects who are seen as models by students often discuss with them in wrong English. There are cases of teachers who commit unpardonable grammatical errors when teaching. Some parents who are even university graduates make such mistakes as “stop making noise”, “off the light”, “so therefore”, “superior than”, “more stronger”, etc. when interacting with their children. Students generally take such wrong expressions for correct ones and this phenomenon goes a long way in affecting their performances in English Language examinations.