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  • background to the Study

Language is considered as an important instrument for communication. Particularly, different types of communicating ideas are needed in target language for learning language. It requires an important communication in the target language in which speaker’s communication is not relevant to the speech but is related to the understanding of communication message and perception (Mathema, & Bista, 2006). Language is a spoken activity for human beings and it is known as self-expression of humans. Language has the primary importance because people generate their personal languages in the development of language that has long life results (UNESCO, 2012). English language is a language that is considered as Lingua Franca (Crystal, 2003). Tarafder (2007) stated that the English language has become the world most useful language for international communication in these days. The speaking and writing ability in English produces different types of opportunities in the modern professional world. In these days, English language is not only useful for native speakers but also for non-native speakers who use it as a second language. The four languages skills which must be acquired to make one perfect in a language include speaking, listening, reading and writing. Of these four language skills writing is a must neglected but more complex of these skills.

Writing performs different communicative functions in the society and in school settings. The relevance of writing and knowledge of writing skills for academic performance, social and professional activities in this era of information and communication technology cannot be over-emphasized. Anyebe (2017) opined that in view of the role writing plays in people’s academic, vocational and personal lives, the development of students’ ability to write is the main priority in Nigeria where English is studied as a second language and composition writing is an integral part of the language curriculum. According to Carman (2000), educators can use writing in general and composition writing in particular to stimulate students’ higher order thinking skills such as the ability to make logical connections, to compare and contrast solutions to problems and to adequately support arguments and conclusions. In addition, in the school situation, both teacher and students can use writing to grasp more fully new vocabulary structures and organisation techniques. The teacher uses the students’ writing to gauge how much progress the students are making, what area needs further work and which strengths of the students can be built on (Aliyu, 2010). In the opinion of Oyetunde and Muodumogu (1999), school writing should be encouraged since it plays a critical role in children’s literacy development. According to them, it develops students’ comprehension and composition skills and promotes their spelling and decoding skills.

Aside the critical role of writing enumerated above, the minimum of a credit pass (C6) in English languageis one of the requirements for admission into Nigerian universities and proficiency in English has remained a condition for job placement. Any child that falls short of this requirement is bound to remain at home for many years without admission. Besides, English is the official language of administration, the judiciary/ legislature and all other areas that require official communication including Nigeria’s links to the outside world (Ofuokwu, 2010).

By nature, writing is often a solitary activity done silently, involving physical effort and taking a lot of time. This might not make it attractive to students or teachers as a classroom activity. Besides, writing is difficult because there are linguistic, psychological and cognitive problems involved. Consequently, when students write, they find themselves confused over the choice of words, use of grammar, and the generation and organisation of ideas. Many of them struggle to construct correct sentences and some write without paragraphing. This makes them see the writing class as intimidating, frustrating and boring. Consequently, many students lack the necessary skills to tackle writing tasks. One of the central issues responsible for mass failure in English in general and in writing in particular at the secondary school level in Nigeria is the pedagogical nature. As students are being taught to write, their teachers do not provide adequate guides because they “test” writing instead of teaching it (National Teachers’ Institute, 2009).

The poor performance of students in English has led to public outcry in the media and become a concern for many parents since many Nigerian students are denied admission into higher institutions because they are unable to achieve a credit (C6) which is the minimum requirement in English language for entry into the institutions (Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board brochure 2013). Many educationists, parents, other stakeholders, and examination bodies have acknowledged that urgent measures have to be taken to check the decline in the standard of education in general and that of English in particular. One of such measures was the “National Examination Summit” organised in 2011 by the then Minister of Education, Professor Rukayatu Rufai. In addition, writing, as a language skill, is too important to be overlooked and its effective teaching at the primary and secondary schools, where the foundation of all types of writing is laid, cannot be neglected.

There is a general perception that rural schools are inferior to the urban schools in English language education (Selchang, 2016). This perception goes further to imply that there are rural-urban differences in students’ achievement levels in English. These rural-urban differences in academic achievement in English extend to many other socially desirable outcomes such as aptitude, intelligence, interest and aspiration. This concern about potential rural-urban differences in English language appears to be global and has become a topic of debate among researchers. The conjecture that students in rural areas receive an inferior education compared to their urban counterparts can be described as ‘deficit model’ of rural community and life style (Fan & Chen, 1999). A few factors may be considered as potential reasons for the reported rural-urban differences in students’ performance in English language. These include family characteristics (Ramos, Duque & Nieto, 2012), the availability of resources and technology, differences in socio-economic status, and quality of teachers (Gaviria& Barrientos, 2001).

It is with the above discussion in mind that this study seeks to make a comparative analysis of students’ descriptive writing in urban and rural areas in Barkin-Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Students in urban and rural areas of Barkin-Ladi Local Government Area exhibit significant differences in their descriptive writing abilities. Urban students tend to demonstrate stronger writing skills, while rural students struggle to convey their thoughts effectively in written form. These disparities in writing proficiency have a direct impact on their academic performance and future opportunities.

The concern arises from the belief that these writing disparities may have long-term consequences for the educational and socio-economic prospects of students in Barkin-Ladi. It is crucial to investigate the root causes of these differences and explore potential interventions to ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to excel academically and in their future endeavors.

While prior studies have examined educational disparities between urban and rural areas, few have specifically focused on the nuanced issue of descriptive writing skills. Existing research tends to generalize without providing a detailed understanding of the specific challenges faced by students in Barkin-Ladi. This study aims to bridge this knowledge gap by conducting a comprehensive analysis of the factors contributing to differences in descriptive writing abilities among students in urban and rural settings within the local government area.

It is due to these compelling reasons that this research seeks to address the disparity in descriptive writing skills among students in urban and rural areas of Barkin-Ladi Local Government Area. By identifying the root causes and potential solutions, this study aims to contribute to the development of targeted educational strategies that will empower all students to excel academically and achieve their full potential, regardless of their geographical location.

1.3 Purpose of the Study

            This study is designed to make a comparative analysis of Senior Secondary School students’ performance in descriptive writing in urban and rural areas in Barkin-Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State. Other specific objectives of the study are to:

  1. determine the performances of students in descriptive writing in rural areas.
  2. examine the performances of students in descriptive writing in urban areas.
  • find out the difference in the performance of the students in rural areas and those in the urban areas.

1.4. Research Questions

            The following research questions guided the study:

  1. What are the performances of students in descriptive writing in rural areas?
  2. What are the performances of students in descriptive writing in urban areas?
  • What is the difference in the performance of the students in rural areas and those in the urban areas?

1.5 Hypotheses

The following hypothesis is tested at a 0.05 level of significance:

H0: There is no significant difference in the performance of the rural and urban students in descriptive writing.

1.6 Significance of the Study

The following stakeholders: students, teachers of English, school authorities, the government of Nigeria and its ministries of Education (state and federal), publishers, library users and parents would benefit from the study. It is therefore expected that the findings of research of this nature, which aims at establishing the difference in the performance of urban and rural students in descriptive writing skill would be most effective in the Nigerian context.

It will help students to develop writing skills needed to write comprehensible essays which will in turn improve their performance in internal and external examinations that require composition writing skills/abilities. It will also provide students with transferable skills with which to tackle a vast range of writings.

For English language teachers, it is hoped that the result of this study will help identify the most effective method of teaching writing skills in the secondary school. This is because it has been established by various reports on students’ writing and in WAEC Chief Examiners’ Reports from year to year that many students who sit for external examinations that involve essay writing are  ill prepared.

Furthermore, it is hoped that the findings of this study will serve as a framework for secondary school administrators such as principals, the state and federal ministries of Education and their inspectorate divisions. It aids them to organise refresher courses, seminars and workshops for English language teachers in secondary schools, especially when they want English teachers to be exposed to modern methods of teaching English writing at the secondary school level. Furthermore, English language curriculum planners will be enriched if they have access to the findings of this research as they will be able to structure curriculum for urban and rural learners of English language.

Besides, the findings of this research, it is hoped, will be very useful to textbook writers and publishers who will now see the need to include in their publications the necessary writing skills to be developed in students and the steps and activities for teaching them. This will in turn make the teachers’ and students’ task easy when engaging in writing activities. It is also hoped that the findings of this research will be beneficial to users of the schools library. They will find the results useful as they will be exposed to the literature review on various aspects of the performance of students in urban and rural areas in descriptive writing discussed which hitherto were not known to them.

Finally, the Nigerian government will benefit from the results of this study in the sense that the general dissatisfaction with students’ performance in education and English language in particular will be reduced as teachers, students and other stakeholders take informed decisions on methods to adopt for classroom composition-writing instruction.

1.7 Delimitations of the Study

The researchers is aware of other problems in learning English as a second language in secondary schools. However, this study covered a comparative analysis of students’ performance in descriptive writing in urban and rural areas. The study is restricted to selected secondary schools two (SS II) in Barkin-Ladi Local Government Area (5 schools from urban areas and 5 schools from rural areas). It is important to note that the findings of this study will be applicable to other parts of the state and the country as a whole.

comparative analsysis of students’ descriptive writing in urban and rural areas in Barkin-Ladi Local Government Area

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