English Language Performance of Bengali Secondary Students

By: M. Enamul Hoque

It is indeed bitter to notice that even though serious efforts have been made by the government and educationists for improving the state of affairs of English language teaching for the past few decades in Bangladesh, a bad situation is still found to exist in the achievement of English among the students at all levels, especially among the Secondary students. Therefore, it is really imperative to unearth the real reasons behind the poor achievement of the students in English. Before that, it is important to identify the level of achievement by the students in English language skills and the problems they encounter in the process of learning English. Realizing the importance of English, it has been taught compulsorily in the schools, colleges and madrashas as a foreign language in Bangladesh. For long time English has been included as one of the major subjects in madrashas curriculum considering it dominant tool of instruction in higher studies and its role in international communication.
The teaching of English as a foreign language in Alim class aims at;
1) developing abilities of young learner in terms of right expression and apt communication in English,
2)developing appropriateness and fluency in both oral and written expressions,
3)enhancing reading and listening comprehension ability

The researcher studies a good number of works and investigations carried out in the similar fields with a view to supporting and justifying the findings found in the present study.
Chidabaram (2006) carries out a study among the Higher Secondary students in India and identifies some weaknesses of learners in English language skills. His study reveals that 75% students dislike the practice of speaking skill; whereas 77% learners prefer writing practice in the class. Among the students 66% students disclose the fact that they do not practice listening.
Uzpaline's (2004) study reveals that more than 80% under graduate students are either weak or very weak in listening and speaking in Kamal Ataturk University in Turkey.
Anjali Pande (2005) carries out study among the teachers teaching English with the higher secondary students in the Tamil Nadu state and finds that 72% teachers teach English language through the medium of Tamil. 76 % teachers disclose that they emphasize on the writing practice only.The study support the investigation of Katayoon and Tahririan (2006) of Sheikhbahaee University who carried out a research on the students studying at Sheikhbahaee University in Iran who had enrolled in 1st year social studies course and found that 59% students blame the teachers for not encouraging them in speaking English in the class or out side of the class.

The aim of the present study is to identify the level of performance of Alim students in the four skills of English language. It presents an approximate picture of the knowledge and the performance level in English; and finds out some of the learning problems that are usually encountered while learning English.

For the present study, 250 Secondary students have been randomly selected from 20 High Schools. The subjects have already received English instruction for 10 years. 25 English teachers teaching English with the same students are also interviewed through questionnaire.
The data for the study is collected through 2 item questionnaires. The questionnaires are constructed following the model of kenning (2001). The model of Gardner (1985) and Brindely (1984), Nunan and Lamb (1996) and Tang (2002), are also studied for justification, validity and reliability of the questionnaire. The questionnaire comprises two parts; part one is for students and part two for the teachers.
Data Analysis and Interpretation
For Data analysis, the contextual method is followed for the analysis of the data because it is time saving and easily understandable. The questionnaires are intended to get information from the students and the teachers on teaching and learning of the language skills. The respondents are requested to express their views without any hesitation.
The detailed analysis of the findings and necessary interpretations are presented in the succeeding pages.

Item- 1
Student: Do you practice the 4 skills of English language in the class?

The investigation displays that 80% students answer negatively with regard to listening practice in the class; while 20% students reply in the affirmative.
As found in the study 69% students reply that they do not practice speaking; whereas 31% students tick 'yes'. From the above statistics, it is noticed 55% students disclose that reading practice is neglected in the class, though 45% students disagreed with them.
It is found in that 71% students come up with the positive reply with regard to writing practice; on the other hand 29 % students comment that practice of writing skill is avoided in the class.

Item -1
Teacher: Do you arrange the practice of the following skills in the class?

The findings indicate, 64% teachers admit that they do not practice listening in the class; while 36% teachers claim of practicing listening while teaching.
This study finds that 54% teachers reply in the negative regarding speaking practices; whereas 46% teachers confirm of practicing speaking exercises in the class.
As shown in the table 65% teachers answer that reading exercises are done; and also 90% teachers affirm of doing practice of writing in the class.

A large number of teachers (64%) and students (80%) comment that listening practice is neglected in the class. The statistics also confirm that the maximum teachers (54%) and students (69%) disclose that speaking practice is avoided in the class.
The study further displays that priority is given on the reading and writing in the classroom. The teachers agree to the opinion of the students to a large extent with regard to reading and writing practice.

Item- 2
Student: Evaluate your different skills in English.

The results of the study discloses learners' lacks in language performance is reflected on a five grade scale. A grim reality of learning a foreign language is revealed by the students themselves.

Surprisingly, 44% learners evaluate themselves as weak; while 32% consider them very weak in listening. On the other hand, the highest, 41% students assess themselves as weak and 23% term them very weak in speaking. Regarding reading skill, 41% learners, the highest number claim that their reading skill is medium. With regard to writing capability, 37% and 24% students evaluate themselves as medium and good respectively.

Teacher: Evaluate your students' different skills in English?

It displays the learners' strength and weakness in the five grade scale. The highest percentage, 40 % teachers suggest that their students are weak in listening, while, 30% teachers, the second highest number, consider their students very weak.

On speaking skill, 50% teachers, which is the highest percentage, reveal that students are very weak in speaking English, whereas 42% teachers evaluate the students as weak in speaking.

With regard to reading skill, 30% teachers reveal that students are medium in reading performances; while, 24% teachers which is the second highest percentage feel that their students are good in reading English.

To evaluate students writing skill the maximum 28% teachers find their students medium, while 24% teachers evaluate them as good.

It is important to comment on the listening and speaking skills in both tables, which show that more than 70% students are either weak or very weak in listening and speaking.
Both tables show that students are comparatively good in reading and writing. It is also observed that there is high correlation between the responses of teachers and those of students.

This correlation also strongly agrees to the investigation of Kennings (2001) which reveals that 42% students are good in reading, while 38% students are medium in writing skill.
The finings sketch picture of English language teaching and learning at the Alim level in the madrashas in Bangladesh.

On the basis of the findings the following remedies are recommended which can eradicate or at least minimize the problems encountered by the learners in the process of learning English as a foreign language.

1) Listening and speaking practice should be emphasised on writing practice only.

2) Students should be given sufficient task to practice in communicative way of teaching.

3) Different types of conversational discourse may be taught, and the students should be given enough time for the development of conversational discourse in the school hours.

4) To avoid errors in writings, students may be practiced of writing stories, and the errors in the written items may be indicated to the students.

5) Easy and simple vocabulary items should be used in reading materials. Further, the hard and unknown vocabulary should be introduced in familiar contexts of the students. If it is unfamiliar context, both the context and unknown vocabulary may push them in trouble. So, use of unknown and hard words in familiar context to the students will increase the understanding ability of the students.

6) Teaching of reading comprehension has to be introduced, that is, how to read, how to understand a text and how to understand contextual as well as literal meaning of words

7)Teaching listening comprehension should not be ignored. It may be taught in the following manner: How to understand a context, how to deduce meaning of unknown vocabulary in a context, and how to understand the contextual / situational meanings of words.

8)The tape recorded dialogues may be played before the students so that they can practice listening as well as can give answers to the questions on the basis of listening. This type of practice will help the students' understanding capacity as well as the communicative competence.

9) Watching TV programs and films and listening to radio programs will certainly help the
students understand how the native and non-native speakers use English language.

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