Academic journal article Nebula

ESL Curriculum in Secondary Schools in Nigeria: Issues and Challenges towards Communicative Competence

Academic journal article Nebula

ESL Curriculum in Secondary Schools in Nigeria: Issues and Challenges towards Communicative Competence

Article excerpt


Determining the success or otherwise of the English curriculum aims, goals, objectives, methods and materials, which bother on the mass and accumulation of the four language skills [listening, speaking, reading and writing] as well as different language levels [phonetics and phonology, morphology, syntax, lexis and semantics] is an inevitable task. Most ESL curriculum reforms over the years have sought to strike meaningful balance between linguistic competence and communicative competence. Contrary to this expectation, communicative competence is regrettably lacking in several students that pass through the Nigerian secondary schools annually. ESL coursebooks, methods and contents are often mentioned as the most sources of the problems for unachieved ESL curriculum aims, goals and objectives at the secondary school level in Nigeria. This paper, therefore, critically looks at some issues and challenges in ESL curriculum towards achieving communicative competence and come up with a recommendation of providing enrichment materials, which newspapers and other media resources can suitably provide.


Most curriculum reforms over the years have sought to make a thorough re-examination of the aims, goals, objectives, methods, and materials involved in the effective implementation of the English curriculum. One school of curriculum theory, in fact, states that the achieved curriculum is the effective one. However, before this feat in curriculum is achieved, there are two other perspectives from which curriculum could be looked at: prescription (intended curriculum) and practice (implemented curriculum).

According to Obanya (2002:204), "in ideal situations there would be a perfect match between what is prescribed, what is practised, and consequently what is achieved (outcome)". One would expect English as a Second Language [ESL] learners in the Nigerian context after nine (or twelve years for those who opt for "going straight for English") solid years of learning English and using it for instruction at the primary and secondary levels to be academically, linguistically and communicatively competent in social contexts beyond the school system, which is the ultimate goal of the prescribed English Language curriculum at the secondary school level. The socio-linguistic realities, according to Obanya (2002:207), are however different in that English is really a restricted code language in the Nigerian setting, even in school premises. Therefore, the challenge posed in this situation has become one of the greatest areas of concern in our educational system in recent times, particularly in secondary and tertiary institutions, which witness remarkable decline in both communicative and linguistic competence of the learners of English. The situation at the secondary school level is that in which the motivation is to pass English and not to master it. However, in the real sense of communicative situation, the ability to understand a language and to produce it in actual communication is not the same as meeting a descriptive standard which examination-oriented English curriculum emphasizes. This is because actual language use involves many varieties of knowledge, which no one has ever attempted to squeeze into textbooks or grammars.

Obanya (2002:208) says that interaction, which should be in form of multi-way and multi-media exchanges (verbal and non-verbal) in the conduct of classroom teaching and learning activities, is significantly absent. He concludes that what obtains in the classroom English language teaching and learning process, according to research and anecdotal evidence, is frontal teaching characterized by:

* a heavy reliance on the textbook as the exclusive teaching learning materials;

* reading aloud by the teacher followed by recitation and imitation reading round the class by pupils (learners);

* very little respect accorded to the primacy of oracy in language teaching and learning;

* an undue rush to finish the textbooks, a sign of also "covering the syllabus"; and

* devotion of a considerable amount of time to practising exam -type skill

The situation that arises from the problems above is inimical to the perceived or intended curriculum outcome of ESL in Nigerian secondary schools and even beyond the academic purpose in the larger society. …

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