This study investigated the effect of the Functional-Notional
Approach (FNA) on students’ Achievement in English Grammar in Owerri North
Local Government Area of Imo State. Five research questions and five null
hypotheses guided the study. The study adopted a non-equivalent control group
quasi-experimental design involving the treatment and control groups. The
sample of this study consisted of 162 Junior Secondary School Two (JSS 2)
students drawn from three secondary schools out of a population of nineteen
(19) government owned secondary schools in Owerri North Local Government Area
of Imo State. The multi-stage sampling technique was used to draw the
respondents. Intact classes were used in each school for the experiments, so
there was no random assignment of the subjects to the treatment and control
groups. The instrument used for data collection was an achievement test on
English Grammar which consisted of 20 multiple choice items. The lesson plan
used for the experimental group was developed using the Indigenous
Communicative Lesson Model, while the lesson plan for the control group was
developed using the Grammar Translation Method (GTM) which is the
conventional-method. The instrument for data collection and the lesson plans
were face-validated by experts to ascertain the clarity and content coverage of
the lesson objectives. A reliability index of the instrument was calculated
using Pearson Product Moment Correlation Co-efficient which yielded a value of
0.84. The internal consistency of the test items was obtained using the
Split-Half method by Spearman-Brown, which yielded a value of 0.95. The method
of data analysis adopted in the study was the mean and standard deviation to
answer the research questions, while Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA) was employed
to test the null hypotheses at 0.05 level of significance. The results showed
that the students who were exposed to teaching English Grammar using the FNA
gained higher mean scores in the achievement test than their counterparts
taught using the conventional method-GTM. The study revealed no significant
mean difference in the achievement of male and female students taught English
Grammar using the FNA. There was a significant mean difference in the
achievement of urban and rural students taught English Grammar using the FNA.
Finally, the study showed no significant interaction effect of treatment and
gender as well as no significant interaction effect of treatment and school
location in the achievement of students taught English Grammar. Some educational
implications were raised which included the fact that teaching English Grammar
with the FNA enhances functional use of grammatical expressions and
communicative competence among the learners. English Language teachers should
also create learning environment as natural as what the child finds while
learning the first language. This will make the language learning process more
effective and speedy. Recommendations were made in the study for the students,
the English Language teachers, authors, curriculum planners and authorities in
teacher training institutions for the improvement of teaching English Grammar
in secondary schools.
Background of the Study
Language is the expression of ideas by means of speech sounds
combined into words. Words are combined into sentences, and this combination
forms ideas into thoughts. Language is also described as a system of arbitrary
vocal symbols by means of which a social group co-operates. Brown (2001)
defines language as an interaction, and interpersonal activity which has a
clear relationship with society. In this light, language study has to look at
the use (function) of language in context; both its linguistic context (what is
uttered before a given piece of discourse) and its social, or situational
context (who is speaking, what their social roles are, why they have to come
together to speak).
Language is so vital in human existence that there is nothing
human beings can do without the function of one form of language or the other.
Block & Trager (2010) opine that every physiologically and mentally normal
person acquires in childhood, the ability to make use, as both speaker and
hearer, of a system of vocal communication that comprises a circumscribed set
of noises resulting from movements of certain organs within his throat and
mouth. By means of these, he is able to impart information, to express feelings
and emotions, to influence the activities of others.
The English Language occupies a unique place in education in
Nigeria because of its significant role and status in national life. This
observation is made by Baldeh (2011). Supporting the view, Ezeude
(2007,p. 211) posits ‘’ It is heartening to recall the
enviable position that Nigeria in her National Policy on Education (2004
Edition) accords to language teaching”. According to him, languages are grouped
under ‘A’ as core subjects made compulsory at both junior and senior secondary
levels. To demonstrate this further, English is made the medium of instruction
in the country from the upper primary level to tertiary level of instruction.
Furthermore, he observes that English is the language of science and
technology; it is the passport to educational advancement and prestigious
employment; it is the language of commerce, trade and administration, and a
means of national and international communication.
It is against this background that the need for the educational
system in the country to keep abreast of the times in lanaguge teaching has
been emphasized by Ezeude (2007). In the same vein, Baldeh (2011) further notes
that an educational failure is primarily a linguistic failure, so a good
educational system requires that the products of the system communicate their
thoughts, ideas, emotions, and attitudes unambiguously and coherently.
Consequently, the essential use of language as the mot
remarkable tool for man is stated by Uzoegwu (2005). According to her, man’s
invention of language has been used for various purposes such as communication,
social interaction, learning, storing information, maintenance and transfer of
culture. Therefore it is a means of social control and an instrument that
enables man to communicate his thoughts. The English Language, according to
Uzoegwu, empowers learners to live a fulfilled life, especially in Nigeria.To
buttress its pride of place in the educational system in Nigeria, Olajire
(2004) observes that a good pass (credit and above) has become mandatory for
transition from primary to Junior Secondary School (JSS), and for admission to
all levels of higher education in the country.
From the foregoing, the researcher having been in the system and
taught English as a subject for a number of years, has observed a steady
decline in students’ performance in the subject. As a result, the researcher
sees the need to make a contribution in the area of using the
Functional-Notional Approach for improving the teaching method in order to
enhance students’ performance and achievement in communicative skills in
English Grammar. The new teaching method in this study, which is the
Functional-Notional Approach (FNA), is designed to help students acquire useful
skills for the functional use of the language both for social interaction and
for creditable performance in internal and external examinations. Essentially,
the Functional-Notional Approach is an embodiment of the Communicative Language
Teaching (CLT) method. The goal of the CLT is to inculcate communicative
competence into the language learner while the FNA actually applies the real
communicative approach and techniques to teach the learner the practical use of
language skills both in classroom situations and in his social environment. The
FNA engages the learner to use language functions such as participating in a
dialogue, making requests, asking for information and the like. Consequently,
communicative competence is achieved by the learner.
However, some research and documentary evidences in Nigeria
prove the fact that students’ performance in English Grammar has been poor over
the past decades. For instance, in a seminar organised for chief examiners of
English Language by WAEC (2010), the Chief Examiners were of the view that the
most reliable measurement of language achievement and competence is in Paper 1,
and the possible performance in the other papers (2 and 3) should be closely
related to it.
To substantiate this view, Uzoegwu (2005) identifies that the
poor performance of students in essay writing affects their achievement in
English Language because essay writing normally has the highest score in
English Language examination. Similarly, in a resumé of the Reports of the
Chief Examiners November/December (2008), the Report lamented the fact that
candidates exhibited poor knowledge of the rules of grammar which hindered good
essay. The Report further cited the following examples of wrong grammar samples
in candidates’ scripts:
a. Wrong concord: e.g.
(i) This days
(ii) The boys quickly runs for sticks.
b. Wrong tense usage: e.g. Since we leave school.
c. Wrong constructions after the verbs make, allow, enable, etc.
(i) He made me to learn a trade.
(ii) This will enable me (‘to’ omitted) process my admission.
d. Other wrong constructions, e.g.
She married lately (late).
e. Wrong expressions: e.g.
(i) You must have to face your studies. (either ‘must’ or ‘have
to’, but not both).
(ii) If you are illiterate, you cannot be able to succeed in
business (cannot and “be able’’ only one).
The Report (May/June 2006, p.6) identifies part of the problem
as poor teaching techniques, and proffers a possible solution thus: ‘’ In order
to remedy these problems, teachers at the senior secondary level should expose
the candidates to speech, vocabulary development, as well as lexis and
structure….. If the students are not adequately exposed to the skills of
writing, they will continue to have problems.’’
In the same vein, the National Examination Council (NECO)
syllabus for JSS 1-3 Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE), states
This new examination syllabus is designed to test level of
mastery of basic knowledge, skills and abilities in communicative competence
which the candidate is expected to have acquired in the course of 9 year basic
education….how well the candidate has been equipped to communicate effectively
in the context of the different kinds of everyday situations…. (NECO 2007,
Also expressing a deep concern over the fallen standards of
English, Eyisi (2006, p. 9) states:
The problem is made explicit as one engages in conversations with students in
secondary schools and even higher institutions of learning. The grammatical
statements which they utter in sheer boldness send shudders to one’s spine.
They only possess a loose grasp of the Grammatical Structure of English .
Eyisi observes further that the sad situation depicts to a large
extent why adequate attention should be given to teaching and learning of
English grammar in schools.
In fact, the need for teaching of grammar in schools has been
emphasised by language scholars including Anyanwu (2007) who offers about four
(4) reasons why grammar should be taught in schools, namely:-
Languages differ and grammar is part of every language;
Languages are formally taught;
Grammar is a mental discipline;
There is a heuristic intent to guide the learner.
As a mental discipline, Anyanwu explains that grammar helps to
expand the frontiers of knowledge, to increase our repertoire of choices among
its numerous paradigms and to sharpen our perception of the relatedness of
grammar as a whole and grammar to the real world in which we live. Since
grammar causes the mind to grow and the learner has come to feed his mind on
knowledge, he must be given the best of the knowledge of grammar through
informed, sustained and adequate teaching of the discipline.
There are two broad types of grammar which Anyanwu (2007)
posits. They are (a) prescriptive grammar and (b) descriptive grammar.
Prescriptive grammar, according to Anyanwu, emerged as a result of rules and
prescription which dominated the English Language reforms. Under that
arrangement, every attempt was made to reduce English to rules which users were
expected to memorize and use. Anyanwu (2007) regards prescriptivists as
mentalists, traditionalists, diachronic grammarians, and so on. However, they
have to their credit the elaborate structured discipline which language
learning enjoys today.
On the other hand, descriptive grammar aims at identifying the
language functions before the description. A language has structures which must
be identified from the morphemic layer to the clause and sentence layer.
Descriptive grammarians, like their prescriptive counterparts have also been
regarded as functionalists, behaviourists, synchronic grammarians, and so on.
Anyanwu (2007) therefore recommends the descriptive grammar because of its
communicative and functional tendencies. However, he advises that the
prescriptiveness be applied when all description has been said and done. The
role of the teacher in this regard is crucial and decisive. He is the captain
and the model. He must be competent and knowledgeable. Incompetent teachers do
not only induce errors, they reinforce them.
In language learning, it has come to be appreciated
that mastery of grammar can no longer be relegated to the background. Okwor
(2007) observes that grammar is an integral feature of English Language
teaching and learning in varying degrees from primary to tertiary levels of our
educational system. In the same vein, Eyisi (2006) adds that every game has a
set of rules that govern its modus operandi. To be successful,
players must not only acquaint themselves with these rules, but must also
endeavour to apply them in the course of playing. In the same vein, human
language is a rule-governed behaviour. For one to use it effectively, one must
not only be familiar with its rules but must also be able to apply them
correctly during usage. On a somewhat concluding note, Baldeh
(2011) reaffirms that it would be a great disservice to the education system if
the teaching of grammar is abandoned in the system for any reason. Thus, if the
eager Nigerian youth must forge ahead in the liberal arts, social sciences and
science and technology, and display responsible roles in the country, then they
desperately need effective communication skills.
From the foregoing, the researcher in this study is taking a
stand with the functionalists and focusing the study on the need to produce
language users who will be able to use the English Language to perform academic
functions as well as social and interactional functions in given situations.
This approach is quite opposed to the Grammar Based method which produces only
users of’ bookish’ English.
The Functional-Notional Approach lays emphasis on communicative
competence in language teaching. It employs the application of language
functions to teach the real communication in the classroom. The teacher focuses
on inculcating the social aspects of the language in the learner, as well as
the roles of the individual leaners in language interaction. In essence, Communicative
Language Teaching is the broad view of the Functional-Notional Approach. It
applies the communicative techniques in language teaching. Therefore, the
language class is one of more student-talk, less teacher-talk. The purposes and
processes of verbal interaction are expressed through role-play, group
activity, seeking and getting information, and non-verbal stimuli including
visuals, gesture and mime. These techniques place certain demands on the
teacher for their preparation and execution. In practice, the
Functional-Notional syllabus does not invent new language to teach, rather it
selects the language which the learner is familiar with, by making use of a set
of criteria. A very important characteristics of the Functional-Notional
Approach is the fact that it takes into consideration the individual needs of
the language learner by the different types of interaction and communication
the learner may be involved in.
In this study, the researcher has applied the methods of verbal
interaction, simulation, conversation and dialogue to expose students to the
language functions of asking for permission, making requests, expressing
necessities and obligations with the appropriate Modal Auxiliaries.The method
is in line with the view expressed by Opeibi (2004, p.387), where he observes
that it is not just enough to teach the rules of grammar which is
referred to as ‘’ a bottom-up approach’’, it is as well important
to employ the pragmatic methods of looking at language as a tool for communicative
purposes. The bottom-up approach as explained by Opeibi ( 2004 ) is an
approach which focuses on the formal language system, often in isolated
sentences without showing how that system operates in context. It divides
communication into discrete levels which can be dealt with separately. The
“top- bottom approach,’’ on the other hand, regards all the levels of a
language as a whole, working together to achieve a specific goal, such as
The tendency in the approach is to supplement the narrow grammatical
perspective restricted to phonology and syntax, with an analysis
and teaching of the pragmatic and communicative functions of English in verbal
interactions. For instance, in order to achieve the objectives of the functionalist,
the teacher should integrate, in the same lesson units, mastery of language
structures through drills with a freer use of the same structures in
communicative practice exercises.
The approach is described as functional because it emphasises
the point of using language for communicative purposes more than just using
language forms correctly. According to Agbedo (2007), the context in which
language is used is extremely relevant to linguistic interaction between groups
In the same vein, this study is based on the stand-point of
socio-linguistics that is, using language to meet the societal needs of the
learner, so that he, the learner, can interact meaningfully in his social
environment using the appropriate and acceptable language forms. According to
Williams (1999), the Functional-Notional Approach puts the spot-light on the
learner as a social person. It views language as primarily intended for use in
society. Williams records that the Functional-Notional Approach (FNA) was
the outcome of a project to prepare teaching materials for adult
‘guest-workers’ who would need to communicate in the language of their host
countries. The project was carried out by representatives of the Council of
Europe Modern Language Project. It set up a list of language functions which
could form the nucleus of a teaching syllabus. One of the major publications of
the project, Threshold Levels English, Pergamon (1980), specifies
situations in which adults may be expected to use a foreign language with
regard to roles, settings and topics (Williams 1999,p. 60).
Furthermore, the Functional- Notional Approach to language
teaching is a material-oriented approach which emphasises syllabus content as
well as method of teaching. It is material-oriented in the sense that the
teacher deliberately selects and prepares instructional materials to suit the
lesson content. Syllabus content is developed with reference to functions and
notions in language. This approach is very much in line with the general
emphasis on communication in the classroom, and it integrates concern for the
social aspects of the language with concern for the role of the individual in
language interactions. Materials for the syllabus consist of language functions
which are identified by Williams (1999, p. 54) as ‘’speech acts’’, and not on
the traditional units of grammar. Typical of the new trend is the title of a
lesson unit such as ‘’ Asking for Information’’. Other units may have titles
such as “Asking for Direction’’, ‘’Apologising to Someone’’ Expressing an
Opinion’’, Interacting Socially’’ and so on. Williams stresses that those
lesson titles represent a departure from titles such as ‘The Present Continuous
Tense’, Countable and Uncountable Nouns’, ‘Masculine and Feminine Pronouns’ and
‘Transitive and Intransitive Verbs’.What communicative competence aims to do is
to help the learner turn his considerable dormant grammatical competence into a
real mastery of the language, being in such everyday activities as buying
stamps, going to the supermarket, asking the way, visiting the dentist, asking
the time, and the like.
An appropriate scheme suitable for the Functional- Notional
syllabus is prescribed by Williams (1999,p.52) as stated below:
An example of dialogue involving the formulas, structures and
lexical items for expressing the roles of a customer and a bank clerk.
Customer: Excuse me please.
Bank Clerk: Yes, can I help you?
Customer: Certainly, I want to find out how much money I have in
Bank Clerk: What’s your account number?
Customer: I’ve forgotten it. Can I just write my name instead?
Bank Clerk: I suppose so. Could you sign here please?
Customer: Alright. Thank you.
In addition, what informs the use of modal auxiliaries as
language functions in the study is that they form the speech acts used in
expressions of social interactions, making polite requests, expressing
necessities, obligations, intentions and capabilities to others. The practice
of these language functions offers users the opportunity to learn more accurate
words to use in social interactions, which is the principal focus of the FNA.
The concept of communicative competence is described by Agbedo (2007) as the
knowledge needed by a speaker or hearer to use linguistic forms appropriately.
According to him:
The goal of a student of language should be to account for the
fact that a normal child acquires knowledge of sentences not only as
grammatical, but also as appropriate. He acquires competence as to when to
speak, when not, and as to what to talk about with whom, when, where, in what
manner…. It is this type of linguistic knowledge that characterises the
objectives of the functionalist approach to Language Teaching (LT). (Agbedo,
Identifying the objectives of communicative language teaching,
Williams (1999) reports that it can be specified with reference to the social
purposes of language. The concerns would thus be:
appropriateness of usage ;
transactional usage; and
The principles of the Communicative Language Teaching have a
broad view on the goals of language teaching which include how learners learn a
language, the kinds of classroom activities that best facilitate learning, and
the roles of the teacher and learner in the classroom. The principles recognise
communication as a social interaction. Communication also has a purpose, in
which case, communicative activities should be geared towards some functional
objective, such as asking for direction or giving information. Broadly speaking
therefore, communicative competence is the goal of the Functional-Notional
Approach. The approach emphasises on syllabus content and organises learning
materials around the specific needs of the learner as well as specific
classroom situations for specific communicative purposes.
At this point, the study took an overview of certain traditional approaches to
language teaching, their merits and demerits, as well as their similarities and
relationship to the Functional-Notional Approach. Specifically, the traditional
methods that were reviewed in relation to the FNA were the Grammar Translation
Method (GTM), the Direct Method and the Audio Lingual Method.
One of the earliest methods in language teaching is the Grammar
Translation Method originated by Johann Valentine Meidinger in Prussia, Germany
at the end of the 18th Century. It is based on the
premise that language is rule-governed. Some of the characteristics of Grammar
Translation Method include: memorisation of vocabulary items with their native
language equivalents often in isolation (rote method), and little or no
systematic practice of pronunciation as speech is not emphasised. According to
Odo (2007), a quick evaluation of the method shows that it is useful and
economical when rules are stated and explained. Translation too can be an
effective technique in second language teaching. But the neglect of aural and
oral skills (listening and speaking) as well as communicative competence is a
serious defect of the method since language is largely speech – a means of communication.
The principle underlying the Grammar Translation Method is the fact that it
emphasises the study of the form of language rather than the communicative use
The defects in the Grammar Translation Method are based on the
fact that it neglects the activities for developing communicative competence in
the language class. It also has the tendency of selecting literary and
artificial forms of language, with the primary aim of exemplifying grammatical
rules. The result is that the teacher does much talking, denying the students
the active participation that is so vital in second language teaching.
Therefore, the Functional-Notional Approach has a number of advantages over the
old Grammar Translation Method because it emphsises on teaching language to
achieve communicative competence; it sees the learner as a social person who
needs language for social interaction, so it gives the learner room for
participation in the language classroom.
Another method is the Direct Method, which is said to have
evolved as a reaction or alternative to Grammar Translation. It ruled out
translation in teaching foreign languages and is based on the theory that
language learning is a natural process. Its objective was to make learners
think in the language they are learning. So listening and speaking the language
took precedence over reading and writing. The method does not recognise the
explicit formulation and teaching of grammatical rules, rather learners are
encouraged to acquire grammatical structures inductively by practising with
complete and meaningful utterances. The method was one of those that emphasised
actual communication, so it received overwhelming approval in the field of
language teaching. However, it was faulted by scholars like Odo (2007) for
forcing learners too early to communicate in the foreign language, resulting in
inaccurate fluency and for being unrealistic in teaching a foreign or second
language because of its unstructured procedure.. The method is mostly used at
the primary and secondary levels of education. At the tertiary level, it is
used in teaching foreign languages. The method is useful because it encourages
exciting learning experience. Learner participation is high. However,
dissatisfaction with the less structured aspects of the method has led to its
modification which is the Graded Direct Method. The modified method tries to
bring in some grammatical explanation and occasional translation. It is a kind
of eclectic approach which makes it more in keeping with the Functional-Notional
Approach, and it is useful in second language teaching and learning in the
Next is the Audio-Lingual or Aural Oral Method. It is a method
based on structural linguistics and the theory of behavioural psychology.
According to Odo (2007), structural linguistics based on the idea that language
is made up of structural units which are used in pattern practice as in
substitution, addition, combination of structural items and transformational
drills.With this method, language items are not contextualised, but learnt
through practice and repetition, mimicking and memorisation. Some of the basic
principles of the Audio-Lingual Method as pointed out by Odo (2007) include the
points that language is speech not writing; here emphasis is laid on listening
and speaking before reading and writing. Language is a set of habits, so
manipulative drills are used to teach the language so that learners form
correct habits. A major defect is that communicative activities come after
along process of rigid drills and exercises. On the other hand, the new method,
Functional-Notional Approach, uses communicative functions like dialogues,
simulation and drills to achieve communicative competence in the learner. The
new approach (FNA) essentially sees language as a vehicle for the realisation
of interpersonal relations and for the performance of social transactions
The teaching methods discussed have their strengths and
weaknesses and contributions to language teaching. This study therefore is in
keeping with the view that Englsh Language teachers should make use
of the innovations as well as apply ecclectism in language teaching in order to
flow with the tide of times, and observe the swing of the pendulum to the
functional method for effective communication.
The study also investigated whether the Functional-Notional
Approach will be effective in determining the gender disparity in English
Language Teaching. Research efforts concerning the issues of gender in academic
achievement appear to have attracted the attention of many educational
researchers in recent times. One of the major reasons for tenacious interest in
gender issues in terms of academic achievement has been ascribed to the
possible relationship between achievement and academic opportunities. In
effect, the level of linguistic achievement of a learner, determines to a great
extent, the opportunities open to him to succeed in other areas of academic
The findings of research in gender differences have long
established that the measured cognitive abilities of populations of girls and
boys differ a little, if at all, in contrast within given populations (Murphy,
2002). However, there is a whole array of processes in operation from earliest
childhood onwards whereby a particular view of masculinity and femininity holds
sway. Schools are actively involved in determining this dorminant perspective.
Despite the best efforts of schools, there are still inequalities in the
aspirations, achievements and expectations of boys and girls.
Some research findings show that male under-achievement
dominates much educational debate. Paula (2012) reports that a chart of
GCSE results from 1962 to 2006 shows that boys are lagging behind in most
subjects, except English, and girls are dominating the examination leagues in
all phases and subjects, and are more likely to go to the university than
their male counterparts. Similarly, the issue of under-achievement of
boys in Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) has been pointed out by Offorma (2005).
Apart from enumerating the reasons for the low achievement of boys, the book
recommended many useful language techniques for motivating boys such as
target-setting, use of ICT materials, use of interesting topics, making
learning fun, and single-sex modern language teaching which will promote the
learning achievement of boys in MFL.
In the same vein, observations have been made on the area of
language impairment. Lyons (2010) observes that Specific Language Impairment
(SLI), is one of the most robust risk factors for many speech and language
problems that have to do with a person’s sex. Clinicians have long noted the
greater numbers of males in their case loads. According to Lyons (2010),
several studies have shown that SLI is more common in males than females. (SLI
is a developmental language disorder which has challenged speech-language
pathologists for decades and in recent years has become the subject of study).
He discovered that among the children with language impairment in some of his
studies, there was a 2:1 ratio of males to females. A common outcome for the
elevated rates of SLI in males has been that males in general have poorer
verbal skills than females.
The import of the study on gender variable is to recommend and
enforce an effective communicative approach to language learning which will
enable the female folk in the educational system to improve on their language
proficiency in order to take their pride of place and bridge the existing gap
in the scheme of things.
In terms of school location, the study investigated whether the
Functional-Notional Approach will determine a significant difference in the
language achievement of students in urban and rural locations. Research
in this area of study has shown that the quality of the language environment is
of paramount importance to success in learning a new language. As defined by
Dulay & Krashen (2008), the language environment encompasses everything the
language learner hears and sees in the new language. It may include a wide
variety of situations- conversations with friends, watching television, reading
street signs and newspapers, as well as classroom activities; or it may be very
sparse, including only language books and records. According to them, teaching
a second language means creating for students a part of their entire new
language environment, and the entire responsibility of creating the language
environment falls on the teacher who is teaching a language that is not used in
In addition, findings have proved that a child growing up in the first two or
three years requires interaction with other language users in order to bring
the ‘language faculty’ into operation with a particular language such as
English. Therefore, Yule (2007,p. 175) opines that a child who does not hear, or
is not allowed to use language will learn no language. Hence the importance of
social interaction, meaning that the language a child learns is not genetically
inherited, but it is acquired in a particular language-using environment.
Yule (2007, p.176) also points out the issue of ‘innateness’ as
propounded by Noam Chomsky. His theory of innateness states that every normal
child is born with some innate tendencies to acquire language. This is what he
describes as L.A.D. (Language Acquisition Device). Chomsky proposed that
language development should be described as “language growth’’ because the
‘’language organ’’ simply grows like any other body organ. The crucial
requirement, Yule concludes, is the opportunity the child has to interact with
others via language. That opportunity equips him to use language functionally
in his social environment.
In this part of the study, the researcher has highlighted
the influence which the language environment of a child can have on his entire
developmental process, especially in his functional language achievement.
Statement of the Problem
The steady decline in the performance of secondary school
students in English Language internal and external examinations, has been of
much concern to educationists in the country. This situation is because most of
the students are deficient in the use of grammar. They have not acquired the
basic knowledge of grammatical structures and expressions to enable them
articulate their thoughts meaningfully in written medium. Paper 1 of the English
Language in SSCE ( WAEC & NECO) requires the skill of continuous writing in
Section A (Essay Writing), Section B (Comprehension), and Section C (Summary).
Basically, Paper 1 constitutes 60% of the total scores in English Language
examinations. Candidates’ scores are rather relatively higher in Papers 2 and 3
which are Lexis & Structure and Test of Orals respectively, and these two
papers are in multiple choice forms such that the chances to guess are high. In
spite of the relative high scores in Papers 2 and 3, the overall performance
Notably, poor teaching method has been identified as a major
factor contributing to the low performance of candidates in external
examinations. Therefore, the recommendation by the WAEC Chief Examiners (2010),
supported by the International Awards and Examiners Appointment Committee
(2012), is that teachers should adopt better methods and strategies of teaching
the language more effectively. It is for this reason that the present study is
focused on the application of the Functional-Notional Approach which applies
the Communicative Language Teaching Method to inculcate communicative
competence into the learner. The need to help students acquire the basic
writing skills is imperative, so that they will be able to achieve the set
objectives by the examination bodies (WAEC & NECO), as well as perform
their social communicative functions effectively. This will put them in the
right footing to achieve the expected goals in education.
The problem of this study, therefore, put in a question form is:
what is the effect of the Functional-Notional Approach to English Language
teaching on students’ achievement in Grammatical Structures at the secondary