THE EFFECT OF ENVIRONMENT ON THE PERFORMANCE OF SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE
English language occupies a prominent place in the Nigerian school curriculum. The English language is one of the legacies to bequeathed Nigerians by the British which will be difficult to do away with. This is because it is the major medium of instruction in our schools, of business transactions, of communication both nationally and internationally. It is equally the language of industry since science and technology are "sine qua non" for development. It is the language of mass communication and propaganda in mass media. In literature and Arts, it is the language of novels, poems, short stories, music and drama. In social occasions, English language is used for conversation and interpersonal relationship. It is also the key to educational advancement. The life-wire of all activities in all works of life and key for better job opportunities.
It is our official language and therefore imperative that every Nigerian should be able to read, write and communicate in good simple English. This is important if Nigeria should overcome its health, economic, political and social problems. For instance, health for all in the year 2020 will be unrealizable if citizens cannot read simple prescriptions in English; transfer of technology will also be unrealizable if many Nigerians cannot read and understand relevant books which are written in English.
The language is gradually losing its standard. This is because the multiplicity of languages in Nigeria has some influence on the English spoken by Nigerians. One is again baffled to notice that secondary school students perform badly in West African School Certificate in English language Examination. In view of this, teaching and the use of English language should be given prominent attention in secondary schools as the majority of Nigerian parents are illiterates and cannot provide a conducive home environment for language acquisition nor afford good schools for their children's education Azikiwe (1985). The environment will always affect the language used.
The need for mastery of English at the child's early stages in life is far reaching because it makes for effective communication, better understanding and academic performance as the child moves from one level of education to another. A child with a solid knowledge of English language at the primary school will encounter less problems in reading and understanding books and materials on science and technology which are to a large extent positively correlated with social and economic development. There is need therefore for much more concern about effective teaching and learning of English language in our secondary schools and about products of our secondary schools not being able to meaningfully express themselves in English.
From the foregoing, the English language is very important now that the country is geared towards technological, social, economic and political development. A solid foundation in English should be laid for the children, right from the start as the much-talked about transfer of technology will be meaningless if the majority of Nigerians are poor at English as most materials on science and technology are written in English. Lack of understanding of these materials and poor communication with experts will definitely hamper our move for national development in all spheres of life. Moreover, for success in the campaign on rural development currently going on which advocates literacy and awareness for rural dwellers, English should be given a premier position in education of the rural dwellers for them to be able to contribute effectively to the improvement and development of their families, communities and the entire nation.
Teachers of English have a role to play to lay a solid foundation for the teaching of English as a subject. The researcher therefore sought to find out from teachers of English in secondary schools as well as senior secondary students, the influence of environment on performance of students in English.
However, the English language is not an indigenous language to this country. Time was, when no word of English was spoken in Nigeria. It was about the middle of the 18th century when the English language started making appearance in the linguistic map of the country. The language came from Britons. Before the English language, other European languages exited, such as the Portuguese language. As far back as the 16th century, they came around the Niger Delta and Lagos. Trade was an important factor to the coming of the English language in Nigeria. The pattern of trade was cocoa in exchange for gun-powder, clothing materials with the system of trade known as trade by barter.
The trade took another dimension of slave trade which is known as the trans-Atlantic and trans-Saharan trades called "the triangular slave trade" (1879). The slaves carried to America learnt English there. Apart from the slave trade and explorers, the first deliberate effort to implant the English language was through the missionaries. We first had the Church Missionary Society also known as (C.M.S) which settled in Badagry. After them were the Presbyterians, the Methodists and the Baptists, before the Catholic came. They came to evangelize to preach and educate people about the evils of slave trade. The factors that contributed to the spread of the learning of English was that these missionaries needed people who would be educated in English to help in reading the Bible (lay readers) and in its translation into native language. Consequently, schools were established to train lay readers Catechist etc. There were clergymen like Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther who aided the spread of the language