The first obvious observation is that the course objectives as stated in the NCCE minimum standard are broad and general statements. There are no specific objectives stated for the teaching of communicative skills.
Each general studies unit is thus left to make use of its discretion in stating objectives for the teaching of the language and communication skills course (general English). This situation will lead to discrepancies and inconsistencies in the objectives and what is taught in the different Colleges of Education.
This problem is due in part to the fact that in designing the minimum standard, the opinion of the actual teachers was not sought. Even in situations where they are invited to make input, their contributions one way or the other find their way into the waste basket or are just left lying there.
Another obvious shortcoming is the repetition of course content that runs through the four semesters, especially in the area of writing, listening, and reading. This gives room for monotony.
Adequate emphasis is not paid to the teaching and acquisition of oral skills, and much is not said about the vowel and consonant sounds of English. Students must acquire this knowledge to enable them to eliminate at least in part – some of the pronunciation errors inherent in their spoken English.
Thus, the NCCE minimum standard did not consider the problem of interference. However, the two sessions allocated to the teaching of communicative skills are highly adequate.
Coupled with the above deficiencies in the minimum standard are the problems arising from poor implementation.
However, there is even indication that some of the identified discrepancies will soon be a thing of the past since the NCCE is making an effort to effect some review of the minimum standard, especially in the area of course content.
Problems affecting teaching/learning of the communicative skills
Despite the laudable objectives of the language and communication skills course, the spoken and written English of a good number of students in Colleges of Education has remained inexplicably poor.
This could be attributed in part to the myriad of problems confronting teachers and students in the teaching and learning of the course.
High increase in population
First and foremost is the problem of population. The number of students in a language and communication skills class is usually overwhelming even after they have been divided into tutorial groups.
This situation defeats the philosophy of communicative language teaching. As a result of this, it becomes an arduous task to give and mark students’ written exercises.
Lack of teaching and infrastructural materials
Equally frustrating is the lack of teaching and infrastructural materials. There are usually no venues and the available ones are grossly inadequate. Most of the time, students stand through the lectures and make noise, and this results in students not paying attention.
Apart from the problem of infrastructure, there is also the problem of lack of facilities like the language laboratory equipped with the relevant control gadgets for the teaching of reading and listening.
The classroom environment is not conducive to giving students the necessary individual attention required. Equally frustrating is the fact that the members of staff involved in the actual teaching are not equipped with adequate teaching materials students’ negative attitude worsens the situation.
Placement of the language and communication course
Also important is the controversial issue of placement of the language and communication skills course. Where the course should be placed?
The NCCE minimum standard states that the GNS/GSE (General Studies Education) under which language and communication skills is placed should be a full-fledged department with its staff.
However, this is not the case in some colleges it has remained like that in some; it is a unit in the school of education with the lecturers drawn from the English language department and the college library.
Given the above inadequacies and problems, this article makes the following recommendations:
- There should be an amendment or a review of the present NCCE minimum standard to effect the correction of the observed inadequacies and inconsistencies to achieve enhanced communicative skill on the part of students in colleges of education.
- The NCCE minimum standard stipulation in terms of the placement of the GSE in the appropriate department with its full staff force should be complied with.
- It is also recommended that the number of students in each tutorial group should be between 30 and 40.
- Students especially in their last year of this program should be introduced to varieties of writing tasks that would be appropriate for use in their different disciplines. As a result, tutorial groupings should be done based on students’ language (English) ability and course of study.
- Instructional and infrastructural facilities such as language laboratories, adequate and conducive classrooms, public releases system, teaching materials, etc should be provided.
- Efforts should be general towards adopting a more integrative and communicative approach to the teaching of General English to meet the academic needs of every student irrespective of the area of study.
- It is also the recommendation of this article that all students irrespective of course of study should have a credit pass in the English Language as a pre-requisite for admission into colleges of education.
From the foregoing, this article has been able to appraise the NCCE minimum standard in terms of its appropriateness and adequacy of the content of the General English Studies. Certain deficiencies were identified.
In addition, some of the problems of teaching the course were highlighted and recommendations were made to further enhance students’ acquisition of effective communication skills that would enable them to carry out effective academic activities in their different disciplines.
It is also observed that the present effort by NCCE to review the existing minimum standard would be a giant step in the right direction towards enriching the GES (English) course content as well as alleviating some of the identified problems.
Enhancing the communicative English Language skills of students in colleges of education will help to improve the poor performance of students in English at the primary and secondary levels of education since it is believed that no nation can rise above the quality of its teachers.