This study has thrown an insight into the impact of mother tongue in the speaking skills of English language.
The impact: of "mother tongue" was noticed in the section of
grammar and sentence structure and this affected their dialect and their
grammar and sentences structure.
Students'' background in all the four language skills listening, speaking, reading and writing was extremely woeful.
Poor still was their timidity towards speaking of English
Language, Some of the teachers did not hide their interest regarding
their zeal in teaching thesubject.
1.1 Background to the Study
The importance of English language acquisition as a stepping-stone
for proficiency in other school subjects cannot be over emphasized.
The.'' knowledge is important both for educational, economical and
national development of a country.
The importance of English language as a school subject derives mainly
from its utilitarian value to the larger Nigerian society, English is
the officia1 language of administration and commerce, It is major
language of science. Above all, Salami (2002) had emphasized the
importance of tile USC of English language in improving communication
among, the various ethnic groups in, Nigeria, He further highlighted the
need for improving the quality of spoken and written English .language
among school children.
However, one of the current educational problems of
public interest is that of poor level of achievement especially in
public examinations (Kolawole1998) Kolawole and Dele 2002). This problem
of underachievement among school children has persisted in many subject
areas such as Mathematics, English and Science (Ivowi, Okebukola, and
Oladorun, 1992; Falayajo, 1997). This poor level of achievement in many
subject areas may -be due to poor foundation in English Language at the
primary school level. There are also several research reports, which
support the view, that language inefficiency invariably leads to poor
academic performance (Ayodele, 1988; Falayajo, 1997). No wonder why
today, according to Iroegbu (2006) much emphasis is placed on the
passing of English language at credit or distinction Level in addition
to other subjects to enable any candidate gain admission into any
Nigerian Higher Institution of learning or be placed well in a good
white collar job.
In recognition of the importance of English language for enhancing
educational attainment as well as for improving communication ability of
citizens, the government had made the subject a core subject (FGN,
2004). It is also compulsory for students to have credit in English
language before entering the university. This also explains why many
parents go off their way to see that their children pass at credit level
or above in English language.
The importance of English language as a school subject derives mainly
from, its utilitarian value to the larger Nigerian society. English is
the official language of administration and commerce. It is major
language of science. Above all, Salami (2002) had emphasized the
importance of the use of English language in improving communication
among the various ethnic groups in Nigeria. He further highlighted the
need for improving the quality of spoken and written English language
among school children.
However one of the current educational problems of public interest is
that of poor level of achievement especially in public examinations
(Kolawole .1998, Kolawole and Dele 2002). This problem of
underachievement among school children has persisted in
many subject areas such as Mathematics, English and Science (Akpan,
Ivowi, Okebukola, and Oladotun, 1992; Falayajo, 1997). This poor level
of achievement in many subject areas may be due to poor foundation in
English language at the primary school level. There are also several
research reports, which support ·the view that
languageinefficiency invariably leads to poor academic performance
(Oluikpe, 1979; Ayodele, 1988 Falayajo, 19.97 Onukaogu and Arua, 1997;
Okoro (2000) has stated that the problem of poor level of achievement
of primary school. children was a serious one in Nigeria and this was
in spite of the fact that Nigeria had set up goals for increasing
minimum level of learning by 1995. The author had observed that ample
evidences of poor performance were still observed as the pupils move up
the system. Attempt was therefore made to find out the extent to which
Okoro''s (2000) observation applies to primary school English. Language
beyond the year 2000.
Perhaps the way English language is taught in schools and colleges
may be blamed for some of the observed lapses in English language
achievement and skills of learners. Ubahakwe (1991), Ohia (1997) and
Duff (1997) had criticized the traditional teaching strategy for use in
English language classrooms. Kolawole (1991,1998) had blamed the Use
of traditional teaching strategy for lack of good grasp of basic skills
in writing. Williams (1990) had described this teaching strategy as a
hit and miss affair. Oglan (1997) had criticized the domineering nature
of traditional teaching strategy which renders learners passive in
class. He therefore recommended an activity classroom where learners
especially at the primary school level, can make learning a fun: Such
learning activities may include learning with objects, things,
photographs, films etc.
Kolawole (2002) also confirmed that the performance of the primary
school pupils in English language was very poor. They stressed further
that the standard was poor due to a number of other .reasons such as:
1. The use of tribal language in the lower classes of the primary school;
2. Some pupils do not understand the grammar because their teachers themselves do not know it; and
3. In most cases English language teachers in
the senior primary schools resort to these of mother tongue to teach and
explain the English language even up to the secondary school level.
These researchers are of the opinion that there should be a review in
the language policy on education. The review according to them should
contain recommendations that will make pupils to have exposure to the
subject quite early from the primary school'' irrespective of the
advantages of mother tongue, They further suggested that teaching and
learning of English should be more practical in our schools, and also
the number of years of study and. teaching periods should ''be increased.
Finally, materials for learning the subject should be supplied.
This will be the time when the problem of failure in the subject will
hopefully be overcome. So a firm foundation in English language is very
important for better performance.
Ogunsanwo (2003) has a different view on the use of English language
in the early years of the primary school. He opined that the use of
mother tongue .in the process of teaching and learning in the early
years helps, not only to preserve and value ones culture but also to
develop it lexically. According to the author, the use of English
language in the early primary school makes the average primary school
child unable to be sufficiently literary in either the mother tongue or
He felt that to use English language at that level will lead to
the children having a mental translation of a1l concepts presented in
English language to their mother tongue in order to gain sufficient
meaning of the concepts presented. The researcher believes that a
citizen that is literate even only in the mother tongue will be
sufficiently equipped to live a useful life in the fast changing world.
So if permanent literacy is to be promoted in the primary schools the
use of the mother tongue as the medium of instruction in schools ought
to be encouraged.
Harker (2000) investigated gender differences in achievement of boys
and girls in schools in New Zealand. The study which employed a large
sample of 5300 pupils showed that the achievement of girls in English
language was significantly higher than that of boys both in terms of
mean curriculum coverage and examination learning outcomes. The results
however showed.that boys achieved significantly better results than
girls in Mathematics. The result further revealed that there were
no significant difference in the achievement of boys and girls in
Science (Okeke, 2004). Iyowi, Okebukola, Oludotun and Akpan (1992)
showed that English language and literature achievements by Nigerian
Junior Secondary School Students is very poor (Ivowi, et al, 1992;
Okoro, 2000). Primary schoolchildren in the age range of (6-1lyrs) need
to improve level of their achievement or at least the number achieving
minimum standard. This target has not been met (Okoro, 2000).
Although English language retains its dominant position in the
education. Delivery system in Nigeria, the thrust of our educational
language policy is the use of the. Mother tongue or the language
of the immediate community in pre-primary and primary education.
Interestingly, private educational entrepreneurs provide pre-primary
education exclusively through the medium of English language. The mother
tongue medium education at the primary school level is provided in less
than twenty Nigerian languages throughout the country. English is the
exclusive medium of instruction at the junior and senior levels of
secondary school education.
It was in recognition of the importance and contributions of mother
tongue to education that made the, Federal Ministry of Education in
Collaboration with other educational statutory agencies include in the
National Policy on Education published in 1977, revised in 1981, the use
of mother tongue as a medium of educating pupils at the pre-primary and
primary level throughout the country.
According to the National Policy on education published in 1977
revised in 1981, Section 2(u) which stated that “Government will ensure
that the medium of instruction will be principally the mother tongue or
the language of the immediate community” also in section 3 of the same
National Policy on Education stated that:
“Government will see to it that the medium of instruction in the
primary school is initially the mother tongue of the immediate community
and at a later stage English”.
The importance of Nigerian language in the educational process is stated in section.
“In addition to appreciating the importance of language in
educational process, and as a means of preserving peoples’ culture, the
government considers it In the best interest of national unity that each
child should be encouraged to learn one of the three major languages
other than his mother tongue”.
The mother tongue therefore, is a part of the Nigerian culture; it
conveys or transmits culture and itself in subjects to culturally
conditioned attitudes and beliefs (Awoniyi, 1975). The positive results
of the experiment in Mother Tongue Medium in Yoruba carried out at the
then University of Ife empirically demonstrated the great advantages, of
mother tongue in primary education for scholastic attainment (Bamgbose,
1984) and even in the successful mastery of English as a second
At this juncture, it is very imperative to look at whether mother
tongue has bearing on the English language stage among the secondary
school students. It is important to draw attention to the presence of
the problems and on the basis of what will be found out recommend what
could be doneto reduce them if they cannot be totally eradicated.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The study is designed to examine the influence of mother tongue on
Students performance in English language in Junior School
CertificateExamination. The study investigated if mother tongue is
solely the cause of the student’s woeful performance in English
Language, in Junior School certificate Examination or if there are other
Several scholars have addressed the core problems of communicative
competence in the use of English language as L2 and its use as the main
language of instruction in Nigeria''s education delivery process. It is
unfortunate that most school leavers (apart from the products of elite
private schools) do not possess the required competence in the four
language skills for both cognitive and communicative functions.
Statistics released by the West African Examination Council, which
conducts the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination, show
that less than ten percent of secondary school leaver passes in English
language at credit level. At the tertiary level of education students
have so much difficult with their communicative skills In English that
they cannot function effectively in the academic use of English (Okoro,
There is no doubt that there is a great diversity of varieties and
functions of English in Nigeria. For example, it is extensively used in
both the electronicand the print media, in the judiciary, the police,
the armed forces, the legislative, etc. and as a lingua franca in
political mobilization, ethical orientation and population education.
This confirms the entrenchment of English as the dominant official
language of Nigeria. The nagging problem however concerns the quality of
English that is taught and used in the system. The concern being
expressed in informed educational circles is .the extent to which the
variety and quality of English being learned and usedthe school system
can serve in achieving Nigeria''s educational goals and the objectives.
It is therefore generally accepted that in teaching .and learning
processes the mother tongue of the child is of utmost importance. For
one thing, it categorizes a large part of the child''s environment, that
is, it has names for most of the objects, actions, ideas, attributes and
so on that are so important to him, as well as to any society. In many
developing countries today, this is either local language or the
language of the previous colorizing power. The mother tongue.is the
child''s environment and is the natural basis on which verbal skills can
be built, children learn through communicating in a language, which they
understood, hence the need for this study: Impact of mother tongue on
students’ performance In English Language.
1.3 Research Questions
The following research questions will be used in:
(i) Is there any way that teachers can motivate students to speak English in the school?
(ii) Are there adequate teaching materials for teachers to teach the students?
(iii) Is there sufficient period to teach the subject on the school time-table?
(iv) Are there specialized teaches to teach the subject?
(v) Are there anyway students are exposed to correct pronunciation of words?
HO1:There is no significant relationship between mother tongue and students'' performance in English Language.
H02: There is significant relationship between mother tongue and students'' performance in ''English Language.
HO3: There is no significance difference in male student performance and female students'' performance in English Language.
1.5 Significance or the Study.
This study would provide a thresholds for proper understanding of the
impacts of mother tongue on students'' performance in English Language.
It will also serve as a rich source of data for consultation by teachers
and students on how to improve the performance of students in English
Language. The project will form an invaluable material for the academia
and the public in general.
1.6 Delimitation or the Study
The study essentially covers Nigerian secondary schools but with
specific reference to secondary schools in Okota/lsolo Local Government
Area. This choice is made to cover both private and public schools. The
schools were selected randomly based on students’ population and
enrolment strength. Also the presence of a WAEC marking centre within
the Okota Secondary Schools Complex makes for easy access to data, hence
the choice of Okota.
1.7 Limitations of the study
The chief limitation faced by the researcher was the inability to
reach the target audience to conduct interview as well as to administer
the questionnaires amongst teachers of the target secondary schools. To
mitigate this and other shortcomings, the researcher had to rely much on
mail questionnaire as well as the few people that could be interviewed
and those who willingly completed the questionnaires to corroborate her
personal experience in the industry.