THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND THE USE OF ENGLISH TEXTS IN THE NIGERIAN UNIVERSITIES: A CASE OF CONFLICTING INTERESTS
The status of the English language in Nigeria has not engendered a commensurate development of the language, especially in the school system. That the youths, especially, do not have adequate functional competence in the language is attested to by the rate of failure in the terminal senior secondary school examinations and the low level of performance in the General English/Use of English programmes in the tertiary institutions in Nigeria, to mention just two instances. This study therefore investigates the potential contributions of materials to the maximum involvement of the learners in the English language programmes.
The study evaluates the Use of English (USE) textbooks in eight randomly selected tertiary institutions in Nigeria with a view to determining the extent to which the textbooks are designed to enhance the involvement of the learners in the USE programmes.
It was thus revealed that the learner-centredness concern of the texts is very remote. The goals of the materials appear to be subject and money-centred, rather than exposing the learners to the relevant language skills that should facilitate their studies in the institutions.
The paper therefore suggests a more learner-centred and humanistic ‘USE’ materials so that adequate learning tasks and activities will be available for the learners to be maximally involved in the Use of English programmes, thereby ensuring that they are adequately equipped with the English language skills for their courses and professions.
The status of the English language in the higher institutions in Nigeria as the language of instruction, and that of the Use of English as a service course needs no further enunciation. However, the low level of competence demonstrated by the students in and out of school continues to draw attention to the ineffectiveness and the inefficiency in the presentation of this all important service course in the higher institutions in Nigeria.
This situation compels various stake holders, especially experts in this case, to keep asking such questions that will continue to draw attention to the irregularities in the presentation of the Use of English (USE) or the English for Academic Purposes (EAP) programme in the higher institutions. Questions such as the following are pertinent: 1. What do USE teachers do with their students?
2. What do the learners do with USE?
3. What are the real goals of USE teaching in EAP?
4. What should be the goals and how can the goals be achieved? 5. What are the factors influencing curriculum planning? 6. What are the humanist and affective ends in the supposed communicative teaching of USE in the institutions? 7. What are the real sources of input for the learners in the USE class (teachers, course books, other students, etc)? 8. What is the extent of intake from the available input? Or to what extent are the learners able to have intake from the input sources? It is possible to examine most, if not all of these questions by asking the following question: What is the context of teaching USE/EAP in the higher institutions in Nigeria?
Babatunde (2001:1-9) examines the context of teaching USE courses in the tertiary institutions in Nigeria. Using a model which presents the contextual factors as a semiotic wheel, (see figure 1), Babatunde submits that the socio-cultural, psychological, linguistic, educational, infrastructural and administrative contexts of teaching USE are not utilized effectively. He concludes that,
The percentage of failure recorded every year in the two USE/EAP courses in the University of Ilorin, the low level of competence in English language skills demonstrated by students even after taking and passing the courses also attest to the ineffectiveness of the presentation of the programme...
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