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Essay writing is a grammatical element that can make for an effective communication if properly written in any composition or expression. This research reveals the problems of essay writing among Senior Secondary School Students in Ohaukwu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. The inability of students to express themselves effectively in writing gave rise to this study as problems which abound in students essay writing are conspicuously identified and analyzed. The population of the study comprises all the class II Senior Secondary School Students within four (4) selected schools in Ohaukwu L.G.A. thirty (30) students were selected randomly from each of the schools. Balloting method of ranking random sample was used to select the total of one hundred and twenty (120) respondents as the sample size. The instrument used was self-structured questionnaire developed by the researcher. An expert in the Department of Arts and Social Science Education established the validity of the instrument. The data collected were analysed using mean () scores. The reliability of the instrument was established using test re-test method showing co-relation co-efficient of 0.82. The findings showed that the commonest problem encountered by senior Secondary School Students’ in essay writing is the problem of expression and mechanical accuracy and also that lack of adequate qualified teachers’ of English language to teach students’ the skills and mechanics of writing. Some of the classes in Ohaukwu L.G.A are over populated for effective teaching, learning and management. Based on these findings, recommendations and suggestion for further studies were made.
Background to the Study
According to Dadzie, (2004) in Nigeria, English Language started with the arrival of the Portuguese in Benin Kingdom (in the early 15th century). The origin of the use of English dates back to the early 19th century when freed slaves have received a degree of formal education abroad. Although, this language was imported into Nigeria alongside colonialism and commerce, its importance cannot be over-emphasized looking at the ethnic and lingua diversity of Nigeria. Okputu (1989) viewed that there is the potential importance of school shaping and strengthening the course. In line with what Okputu has said English language in modern education in the world has been considered as a vital and veritable instrument for achievement of individual security and personal social well being and development.
According to Kehinde (2006:205), the essay is a “vehicle for expressing a person’s inner thought and deeply felt emotions and all educated people are expected to be able to do this. Human beings have used essays for generations to express their views about a subject or to state their side of a story. As you are expected to be able to do likewise, your essay is expected to be concise without losing facts, detailed without being boring and appealing without being unserious”.
Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary (9th edition) views an essay as a piece of writing usually telling a story, describing a person, place or thing, explaining a situation, an action or occurrence and also intending to convince either in reading or listening audience. Okonkwo (2009), sees essay-writing as a fundamental skill of art. It is a skill which demands that students should organize their thoughts clearly and effectively. Essay-writing constitutes an aspect of the English Language called composition. It is an aspect of writing that has its own peculiarity and distinctly, its own techniques. Essay-writing as a part of English language plays a meaningful role in equipping the students and enabling them to have a good grasp of information about happenings in their daily existence.
According to a famous English essayist Aldous Huxley in his quote defines essay as, “as a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything”. In a similar vein, Ako (2005) contends that an essay is a piece of writing or a short and vivid story. He further said that essay-writing in English language is of immense help to students as it;
a. Affords them the opportunity of creative imaginations and re-awaking of past imagination.
b. Equips them with the opportunity and knowledge of expressing oneself.
c. Helps students to have high memory capability and reduce forgetting.
d. Enables students to be able to pin point main idea and discover clumsiness and rigmarolling.
According to Otagburuagu (2002) The ability to write is an asset as the student is able to keep good records not only of his private readings but also of lectures received. He is able to produce readable, enjoyable and standard texts during examinations, continuous or progress tests and other class exercises in the English class and in his specialist subjects. The benefit of good essay writing is not confined to class or discipline related texts alone but extents to letter essay-writing and non-fiction writing as well.
Ajao (2001) stated that quality of education does not only depend on teachers as reflected in the performance of their duties but also in the effective coordination of the school environment. When students do not perform satisfactorily in examination in any subject or fail to gain enough places in higher institution, their parents are worried. Success means acceptance and affection and breed hopes for future. While, failure, cannot blame, loss of hope and confidence cannot be rejected. Students essay skills are most enhanced if students are exposed to writing or essay writing competition at their early stage, which begins right at home where they are motivated by others; that is parents, older siblings, aunts and uncles to write, sing and tell stories to the child. The question is, can we really see many of such homes in the society today? Our experiences lead us to understand that there is a literacy violence confronting many homes. This includes poor socio-economic status which makes it difficult for parents to take good care of their children.
Odejide (2001) opined that poor socio-economic status of parents account for their inability to read or encourage reading. We can understand from the above that it is impossible for someone who cannot read to write. While the literate parents in the higher strata of the society cannot afford to spend quality time with their children because of materialistic pursuit. Thus, while the home has been identified in the society to play the major role in learning to write. Schins-Mchleidt, (1990) observed that the school seems to be tasked with that responsibility in Nigeria. In this study, the factors of interest are:
v Students lack of interest in writing.
v The teacher’s subject mastery and lack of adequate learning environment.
According to Hsui, (2000). Talking to and reading to a child will have a big effect on how well the child is able to communicate later. Children who are seldom spoken to or read to usually learn to talk and write later than other children of their age. At the infant age, they can be taught writing using matching item, rhyming words, letter writing skills, direction, motor skills and concepts of prints. It is generally accepted that teachers constitutes the pivot of any school system. This is because the success of any system of education depends to a large extent on the number of teachers; their quality, and their devotion to duty and their effectiveness on the job.
According to Mkpa, (1987), “Trained teachers are: someone who went through and completed, in a formal teacher training institution, a planned programme of training, among other areas in the principles and practice of education, and was exposed to an observed period of internship either after or part of the period of training”. This implies that: competent teacher must possess knowledge and method that could bring about change, he must possess the willingness and ability to change human behaviour. This ability will consist of the knowledge, skills, techniques, attitude and methods, which the teachers acquires, in one way or the other through training. Another serious mark of a competent teacher is certification and acceptability in terms of age and other human consideration to the body officially charged with the responsibility of looking into the art of teaching in all official, formal and non-formal settings in the country. As a result of training and proper pre-service exposure to the theories, principles and practice of education, the subject specialist is confident and some of his classroom practices.
Several researches have been carried out on the problem areas of teaching and learning of English language in Ohaukwu Local Government Area, these researchers designed out so many problems; pointed the weakness and proffered several solutions. This work however, shifted from the existing tradition by taking a proper look at essay writing and the problems students encounter in it. That is, problems of essay-writing among senior secondary school students in Ohaukwu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.
Statement of the Problem
Eguridu (2015), Maintained that out of 1593442 candidates who sat for the May/June 2015 West African senior secondary school certificate Examination (WASSCE) in Nigeria, it was only 38.68% that obtained credits in five subjects and above including English language. According to him, the major poor performance in English language was in the aspect of essay-writing.
The report above indicates, that there has been an increasingly poor performance of students in English language over the years. The West African Examination Council (WAEC) has attributed the poor performance of students in (WASSCE) especially in English Language and other external examinations in the country, to shallow knowledge of the subject matter, disregard for rubrics and incorrect interpretation of questions.
Purpose of the Study
The general aim of this study is to investigate the problems of essay- writing among Senior Secondary School Students in Ohaukwu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. This study is specifically to find out:
i. The problems students’ of senior secondary school encounter in essay writing.
ii. How teacher qualification affects students’ performance in essay-writing.
iii. How the problem of poor essay-writing by students can be solved.
Significance of the Study
Findings of this study will point out the problems of essay-writing among Senior Secondary School Students will be both theoretically and practically important to teachers especially to the English language teachers that are interested in passing quality knowledge to the learning population.
It will also be of great significance to the school administration, school inspectors and the ministry of education in the country. Theoretically, it will help to contribute to the existing knowledge of students’ performance in essay-writing in our secondary schools. The findings will help the ministry of education to realize the fact that the provisions of adequate and qualified English language teachers are a pre-requisite or pre-condition for students’ good performance in the subject. Again, the findings will also help English language teachers to constantly re-appraise their teaching methods, make the subject livelier so as to encourage and stimulate students’ interest in the subject. Practically, the findings of this study will serve as a source of information to the WACE, GCE and NECO officers to find solution to students’ poor performance in school certificate in English Language.
Scope of the Study
The study focuses mainly on the problems of essay writing among senior Secondary School Students in Ohaukwu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. In order to make the study a success, it has been limited to the teachers and Students in Senior Secondary School in Ohaukwu Local Government Area.
The study will be guided by the following research questions:
i. What problems do students of senior secondary school encounter in essay writing?
ii. How does teacher qualification affects students’ performance in essay writing?
iii. How can the problem of poor essay-writing by senior secondary students be solved?
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