Background Of The Study
Primary education is the earliest level of formal education. It is the education provided to children aged six to eleven plus in institutions. This level of education aims to instill a lifelong love of literacy and numeracy, as well as the ability to communicate effectively (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004). At this level of education, communication is conducted in the immediate environment’s language. Trager (2001) defines language as a system of arbitrary vocal symbols that a social group uses to communicate.
Nigeria recognizes the value of language as a means of fostering social interaction, fostering national unity, and preserving cultures (FRN, 2004). This is why it is prioritized in both the primary education goals and curriculum. Language is the most critical component of all forms of learning. It is a medium of transmitting and receiving information, as well as concealing and distorting it (Ogbuchi 2003). In light of the foregoing, the Federal Government of Nigeria recommends in the National Policy on Education (FRN, 2004) that the mother tongue or first language (Li) be the language of instruction at the pre-primary and junior primary levels, with English as the language of instruction at the senior primary level. English as a medium of instruction beginning in senior primary school has a detrimental effect on the teaching and learning environment. Children are now expected to communicate, read, write, study, and think in a foreign language.
The implication is that vocabulary knowledge and word recognition are problematic for the Nigerian primary school child. These are critical components of reading development because without the ability to recognize written words, children will be unable to extract meaning from them. As second language readers, Nigerian primary school children acquire a bilingual second language and undergo a complex process involving two languages, one of which is typically foreign to their natural speech habits, home background, and culture (Alyousef, 2006).
Additionally, reading is a type of communication that children must learn beginning in their early years. It is an activity that every child participates in, beginning with their pre-primary years and continuing through their years of primary, secondary, and tertiary education. Alyousef (2006) defined reading simply as the act of extracting information from a text. It is a multifaceted process that includes interaction or negotiation between the reader and the text, resulting in fluency or autonomy. Additionally, Vacca & Vacca (2002) see reading as a discussion, a two-way street between the reader and the text. Reading, in this definition, is a meaning-searching and meaning-getting activity that includes both the reader and the text, resulting in academic and non-academic achievement.
Children are expected to read text to learn in today’s information era. The ability to read examination questions is required for all texts and exams. Clearly, academic progress in general is inextricably linked to children’s reading ability.
However, reading teaching in our primary schools and kids’ performance on public tests have apparently been quite low. Thus, between 2006 and 2010, children’ performance in primary school exams in Osisioma Local Government Area of Abia State demonstrated an average level of success in the English language, which might be linked to pupils’ frustrated reading. This demonstrates that only a small percentage of children are able to read effectively and react to their reading. Additionally, a study done by Idogo (2005) and Alegbeleye (2004) found that reading is a significant difficulty at all levels of education in Nigeria. Additionally, these researchers discovered that a high proportion of primary school pupils lack literacy skills, particularly reading, that they need in both official and informal learning environments. Some pupils struggle to read and comprehend, while others have a relaxed attitude toward reading (Adeniyi, 2010). Scholars such as Idogo (2005) and Ajayi (2004) have linked the problem of reading skills to the inadequate foundation that primary level pupils have in reading.
Unfortunately, the majority of teachers do not understand the distinction between teaching English and teaching reading. Reading is done to practice and improve one’s command of the English language (grammar and vocabulary), not to improve one’s reading ability. Today, the spelling method and whole language are widely used to teach reading in the majority of Nigerian schools. According to the Universal Basic Education Commission (2010), the spelling method is a method for teaching children to read by first spelling them. To begin, they are taught to recognize and master individual letters of the alphabet, as well as to sing them out in order to recall all 26 individually (Uche, 2009). Following that, they are taught to construct words through spelling. This method is still widely used in a large number of schools in Nigeria. Among the method’s disadvantages is that it forces children to memorize the spelling of all words in their endeavor to read, even much later in life. When this becomes ingrained in the culture, children are essentially slowed down.
Second, the whole language method introduces learners to related words and sentences. Children are not taught to identify individual letters initially; rather, words and brief phrases are given as language units, prompting pupils to express their meaning. They are never taught to spell properly. They are then instructed to practice writing the name by imitating what they see on the chalkboard or cardboard. Following that, whole phrases are presented. This method teaches children how to read “sight words,” which are words that do not have the sounds associated with their meaning.
The advantages of the entire language method are self-evident. To begin, it teaches children to write at an early age. Second, it engages students with linked text rather than allowing them to focus on individual letters for extended periods of time before joining them to make words. A clear disadvantage of this method is that children never develop a complete phonic foundation. That is, they are unable to interpret foreign words completely. Despite these efforts, Carle (2005) believes that a significant number of pupils continue to struggle to develop into proficient readers at the primary school level of education. There is consequently a need to use a phonics-based reading approach to determine whether or not primary school children’s reading abilities will develop.
The phonics method helps children to begin reading by teaching their ears to detect the sounds of letters and linking these sounds and letters with the written form of the letters. This, of course, extends to the identification of letters and sounds with the particular words they acquire along the process. According to the Manual for the Training of Federal Teachers Scheme (2010), the phonic method is a method of teaching children to language sounds via the use of words that correspond to those sounds. Children are taught to “sound out” new words using the phonic method. Typically, kids first learn the meaning of a letter and then correlate the sound and letter with particular words. According to Moat (2000), Tompskin (2003), and Vacca (2004), the literature suggests that the phonics method of teaching reading may be employed to help early learners grasp reading skills (1998). Many of these works of literature are foreign. Nigerians live in a unique environment and culture. Additionally, there is a dearth of literature demonstrating that such a study on the impact of phonics has been conducted within our cultural setting, particularly in Abia State’s Osisioma Ngwa Local Government Area.
Additionally, location may have a role in children’s development of reading skills. According to Okoye (2009), a school’s location has a substantial impact on a kid’s ability to study and perform at a level anticipated of the child. According to Abidogun (2005), rural regions have higher educational development obstacles than metropolitan areas do, owing to rural areas’ unique socioeconomic and institutional systems. According to Okoye (2009), the majority of rural schools in Nigeria lack sufficient qualified teachers, are under-equipped, and lack basic amenities, all of which act as impediments to academic performance. Clearly, the level of interest and motivation a child receives from his learning environment has an effect on his performance.
The gender of pupils has been associated with early measures of language and learning. Gender has been used to refer to the expected behavior of an individual based on their birth as a male or female (Mboto and Bassey 2004). Generally, girls outperform boys in the early stages of vocabulary development (Tamis, Le Monda, and Rodriguez, 2008). On the other hand, Okeke (1999) argues that certain sociocultural impediments, such as role stereotyping and the belief that reading is a male-gender subject, impede female pupils’ reading participation. On the other hand, Gambell and Hunter (2000) assert that boys perform worse in reading than girls, almost regardless of the assessment criteria used.
Word recognition is the foundation of the reading process for the primary school child; this explains why words are the building blocks of comprehension (Gough, 1985). While it is true that the main objective of reading is comprehension, this goal cannot be attained without the ability to properly detect words in continuous text (Oyetunde and Muodumogu, 1999).
Additionally, the Universal Basic Education Commission (2010) stated that the field of phonics, which is closely related to the ability to read effectively and speak intelligibly, has received insufficient attention. As a result of the above, this study will examine the effect of the phonetic method of reading on the academic development of primary school pupils.Additionally, the Universal Basic Education Commission (2010) stated that the field of phonics, which is closely related to the ability to read effectively and speak intelligibly, has received insufficient attention. As a result of the above, this study will examine the effect of the phonetic method of reading on the academic development of primary school pupils.
Statement Of The Problem
Reading is important for children because it serves as a doorway to learning about the larger world and its surroundings. Reading is only significant if it is comprehended. As a consequence, every reading activity offered to children must make sense in print (Udoka, 2011). For children, the form of words will have significance only if they are familiar with the words used in speech. The capacity of a reader to identify words is critical for first-language (L1) readers to achieve reading competency (Remdia, 2009). Due to the fact that Nigerian primary school children are second-language readers, vocabulary and word recognition are significant concerns. Additionally, evidence abounds that many children, particularly those in primary school, read at a frustrated level (Sadolu, 2015). Additionally, observation has shown that the majority of pupils, even at the conclusion of their primary education, continue to struggle with fundamental reading abilities. This shortcoming has been attributed to a variety of issues, most notably ineffective teaching practices in which teachers often place a greater emphasis on what is taught than on the learners (Medila, 2009, Ekumere, 2013, and Wildario, 2012).
Although there is a wealth of literature on the use of phonics as a successful strategy for teaching young learners to read, there is no evidence that such a study has been conducted in our cultural setting, particularly in Abia State’s Osisioma Ngwa Local Government Area. As a result, this study is focused on teaching primary school pupils word recognition via the use of a phonics reading strategy.
Objectives Of The Study
The overall aim of this study is to critically examine the impact of phonetics method of reading on the academic development of primary school pupils. Hence, the study will be channeled to the following specific objectives;
1. Determine the extent to which primary school pupils are deficient of basic reading skills in Osisioma Ngwa LGA of Abia State.
2. Ascertain whether phonetics method of reading enhances the comprehension ability of pupils.
3. Ascertain whether phonetics method of reading helps to improve pupils’ academic performance.
4. Determine whether school location affects pupils achievement in word recognition using phonics method of reading.
The following hypothetical statements will be validated in the course of this study;
H01: The extent to which primary school pupils are deficient of basic reading skills in Osisioma Ngwa LGA of Abia State is low.
H02: Phonetics method of reading does not enhance the comprehension ability of pupils in primary.
H03: Phonetics method of reading does not help to improve pupils’ academic performance.
H04: School location does not affect pupils achievement in word recognition using phonics method of reading.
Significance Of The Study
The primary school has a critical role to play in laying the foundation on which other levels of education must build. This implies that the foundation of school subjects must be solidly laid at the primary school level. Nigerian primary school children are second language readers hence vocabulary knowledge and word recognition are both important, the findings of this study will benefit to primary school teachers, pupils, curriculum planners and the government.
Findings of this study would be of immense benefit to primary school teachers as this would enhance their enthusiasm for the use of phonics towards the achievement of pupils’ word recognition skills. Profound understanding on phonics reading strategy on pupil’s academic achievement would spur teachers on the need to update their knowledge, skills and abilities through seminars and capacity building workshops. It would also be beneficial to pupils as it would enhance pupils’ interest in reading and also make them to be phonemically aware by engaging them in activities that would help in building their vocabulary and word recognition skills.
Curriculum planners on the other hand would benefit from the findings of this study as they need to have profound understanding of phonics reading strategy on pupil’s academic achievement. Such understanding will be utilized in the planning of the curriculum and budgetary provisions of facilities and staff development on training and retraining of teachers in order to facilitate teaching and learning within and outside the classroom. Finally, this study will be beneficial to government. It will serve as a useful intervention for them. It will in turn necessitate the organization and training programmes for new primary school teachers and lecturing of old teachers on the techniques needed for effective use of phonics reading strategy.
Scope Of The Study
This study is structured to generally examine the impact of phonetics method of reading on the academic development of primary school pupils. However, the study will further determine the extent to which primary school pupils are deficient of basic reading skills in Osisioma Ngwa LGA of Abia State, ascertain whether phonetics method of reading enhances the comprehension ability of pupils, ascertain whether phonetics method of reading helps to improve pupils’ academic performance, and determine whether school location affects pupils achievement in word recognition using phonics method of reading.
The study will be carried out across 5 selected primary schools in Osisioma Ngwa LGA of Abia State.
Limitation Of The Study
Like in every human endeavour, the researcher encountered slight constraints while carrying out the study. Insufficient funds tend to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature, or information and in the process of data collection, which is why the researcher resorted to a limited choice of sample size. More so, the researcher simultaneously engaged in this study with other academic work. As a result, the amount of time spent on research will be reduced.
Definition Of Terms
Reading: This is as a meaning structure process in which the readers must actively construct meaning and work towards fitting new information into the knowledge they already have.
Word Recognition: This is defined as an awareness that spoken words match to printed words in the reading of a text.