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Background of the Study

In Nigeria, English language is the medium of instruction in schools, medium for government administration, mass media, commerce, law and politics. Apart from being a core subject in the school curriculum, the Federal Republic of Nigeria National Policy on education (2004) has it that all school instructions from upper primary (4-6) to tertiary level will be carried out in English language.

The policy states:

  1. for primary school, which lasts six years, each child must study two languages, namely his mother tongue (if available for study) or indigenous language of wider communication in his area of domicile and English language.
  2. For junior secondary school (JSS) which is for three years’ duration, the child must study three languages viz:
  3. his mother tongue (where it has orthography and literature) or and indigenous language of wider communication in his area of domicile,
  4. English language, and
  • Anyone of the three major indigenous languages in the country, namely, Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba provided the language chosen is distinct from the child’s mother tongue.
  1. In Senior Secondary School (SSS), which lasts three years, the child must study two languages; viz:
  2. An indigenous language, and
  3. English language

Of all the subjects which Senior Secondary School students and other candidates take in West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), English has remained a core subject both in Junior and Senior Secondary classes. It is a subject which candidates must pass if their overall success in the examination is to have any value. Considering different universities’ departmental requirements, a candidate who has „A’ grade pas in all subjects he/she offered in WASSCE but fails English language cannot gain admission into any university. A pass at credit level is an essential requirement for admission into any higher Institution of learning irrespective of the course of study. (JAMB 2009/2010 Brochure).

Judging from the above, therefore, English language learning in Nigeria is a matter of ensuring that students have a complete mastery of the language. The Nigeria students’ use of the English language in schools has numerous learning problems. Many students come from homes and environments in which English is not used. The students, therefore, have a lot of difficulties mastering the language. The students need to be proficient in English in order to benefit from entrance into tertiary institution or gain employment. This proficiency calls for reading, comprehension, structural competence and a large stock of vocabulary for the students to understand and produce utterance on various topics. According to Akabogu (2002), a student who does not have enough vocabulary can neither understand comprehension passages nor construct sentences to express himself/herself freely on various topics.

Reading and comprehension are specialized activities which are very important in a person’s educational pursuit. Effective compression helps the reader to read, extract meaning and generate ideas from the information got from the text (Akpama, Egong and Akwa, 2005). Reading and comprehension have to operate as one concept due to their synonymous relationship. Comprehension is a by-product of reading. It does not occur in the absence of reading neither is reading interesting or meaningful without understanding. For whatever reason a student decides to read, comprehension is aimed at, and a reader does not continue to read if he does not comprehend the material.

Effective comprehension for students in the context areas is important. Akpama et al (2005) assert that the comprehension questions which students answer in examination expose their level of understanding of various aspects of the language, that is, the grammar, vocabulary, and content level. This shows that lack of competence in any of these affects the general performance of students in English language, adversely.

For a long period of time, the Government, the Universities, the general public and the West African Examination Council have to express disappointment at the annual poor performance of candidates especially in

English language. Onukaogu, (1993), found out that over 70% of candidates failed because of their performance in the comprehension and summary sections of English language paper 1 (English Paper 1). According to him over 40% of those who failed in this section scored less than 10% because their inability to understand a passage makes it difficult for them to summarize it. All these are indications that most of the students are not exposed to the written word. They were not only not well prepared, but have a very limited vocabulary and lacked the necessary techniques of answering comprehension questions. Instead of reading and understanding and then stating the answers to particular questions in their own words, most of the students would copy out portions of the passages, thereby manifesting their inability to generate the ideas of the passage in their own words (Onukaogu 1993). Also as a result of poor exposure to extensive reading, many students perform badly in vocabulary test. This is seen in the nature of words students give as synonyms for the words set in vocabulary tests.

Reading is more than recognition of words. It is a meaningful interpretation of words, phrases and sentences, requiring all types of thinking (Eyisi, 2005). Reading is the bedrock of formal education and so, no one can neglect it and still find learning in a formal situation easy. In agreement with this statement, Wilkins (1972), states that it is only through massive exposure to language that vocabulary meaning could be acquired, and this acquisition, he believes, can probably be achieved only through extensive reading. Similarly,

Chukwuma and Otaburuagu (1997) also observe that the more one reads a material extensively; one becomes more proficient in the language. Being more proficient in English assumes that one could confidently and correctly manipulate the grammatical structures, use words adequately in speech and writing and above all, one’s communication becomes more effective.

Materials for extensive reading are divided into literary and non-literary works. Under literary works are novel, plays, poems, short stories and tales. Daily newspapers, weekly or monthly magazines, biographies, autobiographies and social commentaries are group under non- literary works. For student at senor secondary level, exposure to literary works through the study of literature in English may enhance their proficiency in the English language. Literature according to encyclopedia Americana is an imaginative form of expression whose major feature is seen essentially as a form of art whose distinguishing trait is functionality, creative imagination and uses words as its instruments. It is a sure way of cultivating reading culture in students and bringing them in contact with the language as it is. Creating a clearer picture of the role of literature in effective communication and information, Ossisonwa (1997) maintains that a creative prose writer has a number of tools at his disposal which include the use of lexical items, syntactic patterning, semantic field and special semantic usage (idioms and figures of speech). Considering the above statement these linguistic instruments, when properly formed in the mind of the readers, make them acquire proficiency both in written and oral speech. It goes a long way in improving their comprehension of a passage.

The interrelatedness of literature and language cannot be overemphasized. Interrelationship between literature and language tends to explain that language is not separable from literature. None has and or should have an edge over the other because they are complementary. Azikwe (2007) brings it to the fore when she states that to learn a language is to develop skills; to learn the literature written in that language is to understand it. In learning the English language, the students are taught different aspects of language but in literature in English student see the language in use. Hence the study of literature may enhance the mastery of the language. The West African Examination Council’s objective for the teaching of literature in English in Secondary School and their objectives in examining English Paper 1 (Essay, Comprehension and Summary) bring out clearly the complementary nature of the two subjects. One of the objectives of teaching literature is to aid the learning of the language in which the literary work is composed as well as develop the reader’s creative and thinking ability, (WAEC syllabus, 200 9-2012 session). Also the objectives of examining English paper 1, as enumerated in the syllabus and WAEC marking scheme include testing the student’s ability to communicate in writing, reading and understand different kinds of English prose; and to summarize the whole or part of a passage.

Examining the objectives of the two schools subjects critically, one can see that the study of literature in English may be an aid to the mastery of the English language. It may go a long way in improving the achievements of students in reading comprehension and the English language, generally.

Literary art does not only help in mastering the skills for communication but also hold the key for the understanding of other subjects. Within and within (2000), stress the role of literature in understanding of other subjects when they state that writing and talking are the ways that learners can make their mathematical thinking visible and that both writing and talking are tools for collaboration, discovery, and reflection. Palmer (1998) also asserts that Literature is an application of linguistic science which is not science itself. He sees Literature as the history and practice of the written forms of a language which has become classic. Furthermore, William (1999), also speaking on the role of literature in the understanding of other subjects said that knowledge of humanities and science can be gained from literature.

The knowledge of literature forms the foundation upon which the child’s proficiency in English is built. Stressing the supremacy of literature in the area of communication, Vincent (1998) argues that English is important but Literature is one sure way of transmitting and developing communication ability in children and adult. English as an International language is, among other things, the language of science and technology. In the view of Igiligi (2006), scientist or technologist or mathematician whose hobby is reading Literature-in English such as novels or other genres or literary works usually develops a good reading culture and has a better command of English than his counterpart who reads only materials or works that are directly related to his area of specialization.

Consequently, it is also not off point to state that literature has helped readers to develop the ability to discover specific facts, infer meaning of unknown words from the contexts, acquire reading habit, respond to opinion expressed by the writer, especially in his interaction with a short prose composition such as short stories or comprehension. In addition, literature helps the readers to develop the spirit of creativity and to reflect on the knowledge acquired from literature in real life situations.

Modern literature has a lot of lessons to teach us. Fictional prose has the functions of educating, entertaining, cultural transmission and preservation. Igiligi and Ogenyi (2002), state that “the classical function of literature is to delight or please and to teach or instruct”. Literature, whether fiction, poetry, or drama educates its readers. Literature is not only aesthetic but also didactic in literary works. From what happens to the major and minor characters in a novel, for example, the reader can learn one or two lessons and thus becomes wiser. For instance, from Chinua Achebe’s ‘No Longer at Ease’, it is learnt that dreams and realities are as far apart as theories and practices in a corrupt society. Also from IsidoreOkphewho’s ‘The Last Duty’, one learns that war is not good and should be avoided.

Literature assists in the function of cultural transmission and preservation. Culture is a way of life. It is the way people live. Cultures are transmitted from generation to generation, otherwise they become extinct. For example, Achebe’s early novels and those of his contemporaries tell the world how the Igbo people lived before and after the coming of the white man. Some rich Igbo proverbs are being preserved in those works which also tell the yardstick for measuring greatness, social status, and personal achievements among the Igbo then. Additionally, reading works of art with different cultural and geographical setting from ours enables one to tolerate other people’s cultures and views.

However, though literature contributes a lot to language learning, there are other variables that can influence the learning of English language. One of such correlates has been found to be the location of schools. School location refers to the site of the school, either in the urban centre or in the rural area. Difference in location of schools simply means existence of differences in the language environment and the school tone. Language environment refers to where a language learner is surrounded by those who frequently speak and communicate with the learner using a wide vocabulary. The learner has plenty opportunity to communicate with others using appropriate language. In the opinion of Lawal (2001), the future of the child whether in urban or rural area is invariably linked to the quality of his or her environment. The environment of the learner determines what takes place in the learner. Environment refers to conditions in which a person lives or operates/in which a particular activity is carried on. This is so because the environment of the School constitutes facilities in the school such as the school buildings, instructional materials and staff.

The language environment of a language learner has a lot to contribute because the learner learns from what he or she hears or sees. It has been observed that some schools in urban areas have some instructional materials such as radio, television, standard library and computers. These are absent in rural schools. Ezema (2002) states that electronic teaching aids are very facilitative in second language learning but they cannot be used in rural schools where there is no electricity. The differences in school location result in differences in the level of acquisition of the skills of the second language by the students. This study, therefore, seeks to find out to what extent the location of school affects the achievement of senior students in English language.

Apart from location of school, linguistic performance is said to differ according to gender. Gender here refers to whether the learner is a male or a female. It is a general belief that girls are better than boys in linguistic skills of oracy, writing and grammar whereas boys excel in science and mathematics as well as any field that involves logical reasoning and problem solving. In line with this view, Nash in Akabogu (2002), states that females tend to do better in tests of “verbal ability” including such components as fluency, reading, comprehension, analogies and creative writing. Some scholars are of the opinion that there will be no significant difference in the performance of male and female students if they are exposed to the same language environment. This study also seeks to establish whether gender affects the performance of students in English language.

Statement of the Problem

The English language is the instrument for acquiring education at all levels in Nigeria as well as a yardstick for measuring who is educated or not. Despite its relevance, West African School Certificate result continues to reveal a general poor performance of secondary school students in English language examinations. Different factors may be responsible for the poor performance. Some English language teachers are not qualified to teach it well so the students cannot perform above what they are taught. In addition, literature in English, which can be used to enhance the learning of the language, is not taught well. Despite the relatedness of language and literature, teachers teach the subjects separately. There is no integration in the teaching of English language and literature rather literature in English is seen as a subject to be studied by students who are not good in sciences. The problem of this study, therefore, is; how will the study of literature in English, gender and environment influence the achievement of senior secondary school students in English language.

Purpose of the Study

The general purpose of the study is to identify the influence of literature in English on senior secondary school students’ achievement in Englishlanguage. To be able to do this, the study, specifically, sets out to do the following:

  1. To find out the influence of literature in English on the students’ achievement in English language.
  2. To determine the influence of gender on students’ achievement in English language of male and female students who studied literature in English.
  3. Determine the influence of location of schools on the achievement of students in English language of male and female who studied literature in English.

Significance of the Study

The result of this study will be of benefit to the students, the teachers of English language, the authors of literary texts, curriculum planners as well as add to knowledge base.

The secondary school students will benefit from the result of this study as it will help them discover the need to study literature in English along with the language in which the texts are written. This will increase their vocabularies and help them express themselves better.

The study will also be beneficial to the teachers of English language in secondary schools. It will help the teachers to integrate English language teaching with literature in English, despite the fact that; they are two separate subjects in the syllabus. As the teachers use different genres of literature, it makes the development of different language skills in the students easier.

Authors of different literary texts for secondary school students will also identify the need to choose suitable vocabulary bearing in mind the age and academic level of the students who will study the texts. This will reduce the situations whereby a recommended text contains words that are either too high for the students’ linguistic level or do not add any comprehensible input to the students’ knowledge.

Equally, the study will enable the curriculum planners to realize the need to make the study of literature in English compulsory for all senior secondary school students, arts or science class notwithstanding. This is because literature in English will help in enhancing their overall achievement in English language. The curriculum planners will also realize the need to select literature texts that are written in appropriate and standard vocabulary.

The study will add to knowledge base of existing research and clarify the misconception that literature in English is for those who cannot do well in the sciences.

Scope of the Study

The study will be conducted in secondary schools in Nsukka Local Government Area in Enugu State. It involves the West African school certificate result in English language of students who studied literature in English and those who did not.

The content of the study will be limited to the influence of literature in English on the performance of students in English language generally. It will also include the influence of gender on students’ achievement in Englishlanguage and the influence of location of school (urban or rural) on achievementof students in English language.

Research Questions

The study will be guided by these questions

  1. What is the influence of literature in English on the achievement ofstudents in English language?
  2. What is the influence of location of schools on the achievement ofstudents who studied literature English in English language?
  3. What is the influence of gender on students’ achievement in Englishlanguage of male and female students who studied literature in English.


  1. There is no significant difference between the mean achievement scoresin English language of the students who studied Literature in English and those who did not.
  2. There is no significant difference between the mean achievement scoresin English language of students who studied literature in urban schools and those who studied it in the rural schools.
  3. There is no significant difference in the mean achievement scores inEnglish language of male and female students who studied literature in English.

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