Tanzania secondary school language III text readability versus comprehension competence and implication for the curriculum

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Date
1983
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Publisher
University of Dar es Salaam
Abstract
Previous studies on the problems related to the teaching and learning of the English language in Tanzanian secondary schools, reported on the prevailing slow learner achievement in the mastery of the target language and recommended measures to improve the situation. They have concerned themselves mainly with the language aspect of the course. Following the changes in the curriculum which took place in the early 1970’s, however, the learning of English in Tanzanian schools became the learning of the English language cum literature in English. The present study looked into the problems related to the learning of the literature component of the Tanzanian secondary school English language syllabus, namely Language Three (languages III or Literature III). The point of departure for the presents study was the problem: given the observed low learner achievement in the mastery of the code which is the English language in Tanzanian secondary schools, are the set Language III texts readable to the addressee learners? The hypothesis was that the set texts will not be readable to many of the learners at the level required by the curriculum developers. To arrive at a characterisation of the situation, first a sample of the set secondary school language III texts were examined for their relative syntactic and semantic complexity in order to get some idea of their gradability for readability on those counts. Then Reading Comprehension tests based on the texts studied were administered to a sample of two hundred and thirty two secondary school learners in Form III and Form IV. These were drawn from three secondary schools in Ruvuma Region. Techniques were employed to interpret the scoring on the comprehension tests for readability ratings of the texts and for the learners’ comprehension competence or proficiency in the target language. The texts appear to be gauged at more or less the same level of difficulty. On the one hand the curriculum demands of the Tanzanian learners that they display advanced reading skills characteristic of readers who are capable of responding to the challenges posed by the readings. It requires them to actually verbalise their responses in examination situations and the forums of our national reconstruction. This is the linchpin of the Language III programme. On the other hand, however according to this study, most of the learners in Form Three found to be at the frustration level: the set texts are too difficult for their present proficiency in the target language. They need basic interaction in English before they can be expected to usefully read serious Literature. Most of the learners in Form IV were found to be at the instructional level: they cannot understand the set text on their own i.e. without the assistance of an instructor. They need serious instruction in the code which is the English language before attempting to study serious Literature in the code. The alternative hypothesis stands. Very few learners have reached the independent level, a sine quanon condition if the language III programme is to succeed at all at the level of the desideratum of the curriculum. The implication of the study for the curriculum in Tanzania is that the study of Literature in English in our schools, itself a compulsory component, connot begin with the study of language Three nor can it begin in Form III. It has to begin with the mastery of the code, which is the English Language hence from the time the learner is introduced to the target language. Secondly it has to begin with the learners’ mastery of the ability, the advanced skills and the will to read: first and foremost in KISWAHILI and then only in other languages like English. Therefore while the previous studies mentioned above have recommended measures to arrest the problem of low learner achievement in the English Language in our secondary schools they have generally overlooked an aspect that forms the core of the recommendations put forward by the present study. It is worth ‘clipping’ the end and fronting it here, for this study concludes that, in the final analysis reading must be brought to the language course. This way we shall be setting a ‘virtuous circle’ the more the reading, the more the language learning and the more the language learning the more the readiness for reading; the more the readiness for reading the more the success of programmes such as Language III, the greater the opportunity for life-long education and the more the chances that our school graduands will be well ‘armed’ to participate as ‘fighters’ ( a la Nyerere) in building the type of society that Tanzania has resolved to build. The study has been presented in three parts. Part One (Chapters One to Three) provides the background: Language III (what and why); review of literature; a statement of the problem. Part two (Chapters Four and Five) details the research procedures and records the findings and their analysis. In Part three (Chapters Six) a general discussion of the findings is presented, implications for the curriculum are drawn and recommendations put forward. It ends with a statement on the limitations of the present study as the basis for suggestions for further research in the area.
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Keywords
English language, Study and teaching, Students, Education, Tanzania
Citation
Kapinga, M. K. (1983) Tanzania secondary school language III text readability versus comprehension competence and implication for the curriculum, Masters dissertation, University of Dar es Salaam. Available at http://41.86.178.3/internetserver3.1.2/detail.aspx