Academic journal article Reading & Writing

An Assessment of the Reading Motivation Skills of Nigerian Primary School Teachers: Implications for Language and Science Education

Academic journal article Reading & Writing

An Assessment of the Reading Motivation Skills of Nigerian Primary School Teachers: Implications for Language and Science Education

Article excerpt

Introduction

There is little debate amongst researchers, policymakers and educational stakeholders that reading achievement amongst African students is an important issue. There is also no contending the fact that improvement of literacy levels in schools throughout Africa poses a serious challenge requiring urgent intervention (Abel 2003; Bamhare 1999; Okebukola 2007; Warwick 1999). Onukaogu (2001) provides an excellent overview of the poor state of literacy in African schools. He identifies the following hindrances to the reading empowerment of the average African primary school child:

* Minimal experience of print immersion compared with children in the developed world.

* Lack of collaboration between the home, the community and the school in the provision of reading empowerment of the child.

* The current trend of having untrained and incompetent teachers in the teaching of reading in our schools.

Okebukola (2008) notes that most African elementary schools have no formalised reading programmes. Reading is subsumed in the English language lesson and taught by the language teacher. Thus, largely, reading is taught as a tool to reinforce other language skills rather than as a discipline. Warwick (1999), berating the worrisome situation, notes that African children lack opportunities for catching up to the rest of the world in terms of satisfying employment and political choices as a result of their low literacy levels and limited horizons. This situation may persist well into the 21st century, unless there are massive changes.

Several scholars have contributed greatly to the research literature on matters pertaining to African students and reading. Their recommendations are for better teachers, better textbooks, smaller classes, reformed curricula, better teacher remuneration, new political visions or changed attitudes (Abel 2003; Okebukola 2008; Warwick, 1999). As noted by Warwick (1999), all of these solutions have their place but most are impractical in the short run. They cost too much or they depend on social or political change, which will take generations to bring out. Africans need practical solutions and research continues to play a contributory role.

The discussion of the motivation skills of African primary school teachers and reading problems of students has also focused on the development of the English language as the national and educational language in most cases. This has been attributed to the lack of development of indigenous languages, which hardly ever have official or national functions. Thus, misgivings about students' level of proficiency in a medium of education other than their mother tongue have been internationally acknowledged (Mesthrie 2009). As noted by Okebukola (2012), this problem is carried over and persists even in higher education. Consequently, higher institutions across Africa prescribe courses in the medium of instruction for all students. For instance, in Nairobi and Addis Ababa, students are required to attend English proficiency classes. There is a communication skills centre at the University of Zimbabwe, a language and study skills unit at Nairobi University and a communication skills unit at the University of Dar es Salaam (Rugemalira 2007). In Nigeria, all higher institutions offer a General English course, a remedial programme to take care of deficiencies carried over from the lower levels of education.

Researchers have established links between the attitudes that children hold towards reading and the scores they obtain on reading tests (Gambrell, Hughes, Calvert, Malloy & Igo 2011; Twist et al. 2007, cited in Okebukola 2012). They have long recognised that motivation is at the heart of many of the pervasive problems we face in teaching young children to read (Guthrie 1996; Okebukola 2005). Highly motivated readers are self-determining and generate their own reading opportunities. They want to read and choose to read for a wide range of personal reasons such as curiosity, involvement, social interchange and emotional satisfaction. …

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