Ghana being an anglophone nation has adopted the English Language as her lingua Franca for all formal or official communications. Consequently, English is taught as a core subject in all ghanaian schools and every pupil or student is expected to attain a certain appreciable level of proficiency in the usage of English. Indeed every student aiming to get to the next level of the education ladder in Ghana is required to pass the English Language paper. This is because it is one of the requirements for entering the Senior High School from the Junior High School as well as entering the tertiary from the Senior High School. This is what makes English a very important subject and the reason why its teaching must be done with all the skill and seriousness that can be mustered.
However, the teaching of English has not always payed off in terms of due recognition and appreciation for the Ghanaian teacher of English. This is so because English has not exactly been a subject students excel in at examinations in the country and the reasons for this state of affairs are not difficult to decipher. The point has to be made succinctly clear though that students inability to perform well in the English Language cannot be solely attributed to the teacher of English. The truth of the matter is that there are a myriad of factors that militate against the acquisition and mastery of the language.
Language acquisition goes beyond mere imbibition of facts or information. Language acquisition is a much more complex process. This makes its teaching much more delicate and complicated than other subjects such as economics, social studies or integrated science for instance. This explains one of the reasons why students in Ghana- and in Africa as a whole- I am inclined to believe, do not normally fare well in English Language.
Sadly, the Ghanaian teacher of English has always solely had to bear the brunts of students' continued poor performance in the English Language paper. It has always been erroneously asserted that teachers of other subjects do better with their students in terms of output and results. However what we are mistakingly overlooking is the fact that English Language cannot be put on the same pedestal with the other subjects offered in our schools. We offer English Language in our schools simply because as a necessity, Ghanaian students must attain some level of skillfulness in the usage of the language to be able to fit well functionally into the formal or official circles. Other than that, English Language must be viewed as it is - A LANGUAGE- and not merely as a subject like the others.
Language essentially, is acquired over time. We may want to just cast our minds back to when we were growing up and how long it took us to pick up the rudimentary structures or basic patterns of even our own mother tongue. Due to the nuances and intricacies involved, language acquisition is more complex and takes time to acquire. Whilst for instance one can use two years to study economics and pass appreciably well in the WASSCE, same cannot be said for English Language.
It is thus extremely unfair for people to have such unreasonable expectations from the teacher of English to as it were literally conjour magic with students who, more often than not, are hugely disadvantaged and handicapped when it comes to the English Language. It is unfortunate that the inability to appreciate this point of view, makes people have such unrealistic expectations from teachers of English in the country.
Apart from the student's need to surmount the hurdle of the impediment imposed by the mother tongue as a second language learner of English, several other factors hinder his efforts to attain mastry of the language. A close look at one of such factors will suffice.
One key hindrance that lie in the path of the Ghanaian student seeking to acquire the English Language is the negative influence of teachers in general. Although this assertion might come as a shocking revelation, I can say unequivocally that there is no contesting this fact. All of us growing up held our teachers in the highest of esteems and saw them as some infallible set of professoinals who were the very repository of knowledge and wisdom. For this reason we accepted everything and anything coming from them without question.
The reality on the ground however is that most of the teachers in our first and second cycle schools are themselves somewhat deficient when it comes to the usage of English. I believe you are now probably getting the direction of my drift. A vast majority of our growing band of literate hopefuls especially those at the lower levels have had their English Language skills systematically corrupted by teachers over a period of time. This inexorably compounds the problem for teachers of the language rendering the workload ahead of them such an enormous uphill task to execute.
It is absolutely unfair in the light of the foregoing to always be in a haste to blame the teacher of English for the poor results of students. This is because as we can see, the problem is beyond the purview of the teacher alone. There is the need for a wholistic approach and a concerted effort from all stakeholders including the MOE, the GES, teachers and parents, if any lasting solution is to be found to this canker - or is it a cancer -that is eating gradually away at the very core of our quest to attaining some mastery of the the English Language in particular and our educational endeavour in general.
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